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America's Founding Fathers

Season 1
In collaboration with Smithsonian, The Great Courses presents a deep dive into the creation of the US Constitution as it actually happened. Using the Founding Fathers as a lens through which to examine the early political history of the United States, you’ll better understand both the document under which Americans live and the people who brought it into being.
201736 episodes
TV-PG
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Episodes

  1. S1 E1 - George Washington's Doubts
    March 30, 2017
    31min
    TV-PG
    Could the American experiment succeed? George Washington, one of the most iconic Founders, had strong doubts. After explaining the importance of getting a well-rounded understanding of the Founders, Professor Guelzo explores Washington's fears about post-Revolutionary America and his concerns about how people could administer their own affairs. #History
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  2. S1 E2 - Thomas Mifflin's Congress
    March 30, 2017
    26min
    TV-PG
    Before the ratification of the Constitution, there were presidents not of the United States but of the Congress created by the Articles of Confederation. As you'll discover, the failures of one president, Thomas Mifflin, offer a window into the potent problems facing the United States of America in 1783.
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  3. S1 E3 - Robert Morris's Money
    March 30, 2017
    28min
    TV-PG
    Money issues abounded in the new United States. Why was the abundance of land (and the lack of hard coin) such a problem? What compelled states to print so much of their own unsecure paper money? How did Robert Morris attempt to restore the links between commerce, agriculture, and government finances?
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  4. S1 E4 - Benjamin Franklin's Leather Apron
    March 30, 2017
    27min
    TV-PG
    No one in the 1780s defined the idea of an "American" as much as Benjamin Franklin. Here, explore the many roles Franklin played in the formative years of the republic: as independent printer, public "gentleman," nobleman of nature, and tradesman cynical of the wealthy and powerful.
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  5. S1 E5 - Thomas Jefferson's Books
    March 30, 2017
    31min
    TV-PG
    Explore how books by Enlightenment thinkers like John Locke and Adam Smith influenced Thomas Jefferson's political philosophy. Also, consider Jefferson's fierce critiques of religion and commerce, and the ways he nevertheless betrayed (as a large-scale slave owner) the Enlightenment principles he held so dear.
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  6. S1 E6 - Daniel Shays's Misbehavior
    March 30, 2017
    27min
    TV-PG
    Shays's Rebellion would spark unease not just about tax increases and their impact on landowners but on the entire Confederation. As you follow this dramatic insurgency and its fascinating leader, you'll learn how Shays's Rebellion prompted many to consider a strong government as essential to liberty and property.
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  7. S1 E7 - Alexander Hamilton's Republic
    March 30, 2017
    29min
    TV-PG
    Professor Guelzo takes you inside Alexander Hamilton's views about the American Republic: the fictions of hierarchy and aristocracy; the voluntary compact between rulers and ruled; the division of power into small packets; and his suspicions of the behavior of the Confederation Congress.
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  8. S1 E8 - James Madison's Conference
    March 30, 2017
    27min
    TV-PG
    How did James Madison become the prime mover of the United States Constitution? The key, it turns out, is a 1786 conference he organized between several states. Originally intended to discuss commercial regulations, the assembly would transform into a deliberation over how to put the Confederation out of business.
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  9. S1 E9 - Patrick Henry's Religion
    March 30, 2017
    30min
    TV-PG
    Come to see Patrick Henry in a new light: as the most self-contradictory (and most often defeated) Founder. Topics include the influence on Henry of the Reverend Samuel Davies, how the Awakeners shaped his brilliant oratorical skills, the public funding of Christianity, and his unremarkable accomplishments as governor of Virginia.
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  10. S1 E10 - James Madison's Vices
    March 30, 2017
    32min
    TV-PG
    In a private study, James Madison detailed what he called "the vices of the political system of the United States." Here, explore these vices, including state failure to comply with constitutional requisitions and the provincial nature of state legislatures. Also, examine his most important suggestions for a new frame of government.
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  11. S1 E11 - Edmund Randolph's Plan
    March 30, 2017
    29min
    TV-PG
    Go inside the start of the Constitutional Convention, where you'll learn how and why the Founders assembled to craft a new, improved system of government. Central to this was the plan set out by Edmund Randolph, which aimed at stopping a jealous Congress or greedy state legislatures from destroying it.
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  12. S1 E12 - William Paterson's Dissent
    March 30, 2017
    30min
    TV-PG
    One speech by William Paterson, a member of the New Jersey delegation, halted the Randolph Plan from sailing smoothly to adoption. What were Paterson's arguments? Why did he support a simple amendment to the Articles of Confederation instead of a rewrite? What did his alternative plan look like?
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  13. S1 E13 - Roger Sherman's Compromise
    March 30, 2017
    30min
    TV-PG
    Turn to a moment of great exhaustion at the Constitutional Convention: a deadlock between the New Jersey and Virginia plans for a national government. Roger Sherman's compromise of two branches of government (one equal, one proportional) would play an important role in moving the debate forward.
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  14. S1 E14 - Elbridge Gerry's Committee
    March 30, 2017
    29min
    TV-PG
    Discover how the report by the Convention's Grand Committee, chaired by Elbridge Gerry, ended the first great battle over the US Constitution. As you'll find out, it settled for good what the American Congress would look like, but it also raised an issue that would soon dominate the debates: slavery.
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  15. S1 E15 - James Wilson's Executive
    March 30, 2017
    30min
    TV-PG
    Turn now to the next great issue facing the Convention: the shape of the new national executive. After pondering some of the concerns and fears the delegates had about executive power, you'll focus on James Wilson's argument for the need of an executive chosen not by Congress but by national election.
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  16. S1 E16 - John Rutledge's Committee
    March 30, 2017
    29min
    TV-PG
    John Rutledge's Committee of Detail answered the call to help answer unresolved questions about the role of the national executive. Here, learn how "Dictator John" helped develop a working document that included a number of features now seen as the cornerstone of American constitutionalism.
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  17. S1 E17 - Rufus King's Slaves
    March 30, 2017
    30min
    TV-PG
    It was Rufus King who, at the debates, questioned the admission of slaves into the rule of representation. First, explore the dissonance between liberty and slavery in the new United States. Then, come to see how Rufus King predicted the angry tiger slavery would become in America.
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  18. S1 E18 - David Brearley's Postponed Parts
    March 30, 2017
    31min
    TV-PG
    The Committee on Postponed Parts, headed by David Brearley, was the Convention's most effective committee. Its business, as you'll learn, was to reconcile demands about the shape of the new national president. You'll also learn about the Committee on Style, whose sole task was to wordsmith the Convention's agreements into a single document.
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  19. S1 E19 - John Dunlap and David Claypoole's Broadside
    March 30, 2017
    31min
    TV-PG
    One day after the Constitutional Convention ended, the document was printed in 500 copies by John Dunlap and David Claypoole and shared with the general public. What happened next? How did George Washington use a cover letter to mitigate shock? How did the Founders brace themselves for the inevitable state conventions?
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  20. S1 E20 - Alexander Hamilton's Papers
    March 30, 2017
    30min
    TV-PG
    Chief Justice John Marshall would call the Federalist Papers the "complete commentary on our constitution." Here, Professor Guelzo explains the daring act of aggression these landmark political writings were, and outlines the six themes Hamilton (under the pseudonym "Publius") believed would demonstrate the indispensability of the new constitution.
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  21. S1 E21 - Patrick Henry's Convention
    March 30, 2017
    30min
    TV-PG
    The fate of the new constitution depended on the state ratifying conventions. And because Virginia's consent was necessary to make the overall ratification process work, neutralizing Patrick Henry was the Federalists' most important task. Go inside the battleground of the ratifying convention at Richmond on June 2, 1788.
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  22. S1 E22 - George Washington's Inaugural
    March 30, 2017
    31min
    TV-PG
    First, examine hurdles to electing George Washington as the first president of the United States. Then, follow the story of how the Constitution finally got its Bill of Rights, and how this task was undertaken by the one man who most vehemently opposed such a bill: James Madison.
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  23. S1 E23 - Alexander Hamilton's Reports
    March 30, 2017
    32min
    TV-PG
    As the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton had the responsibility of handling the new nation's foreign, state, and domestic debts. In this episode, learn how Hamilton saw debt not as a problem but an asset, and discover how he argued for the establishment of a national bank.
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  24. S1 E24 - Thomas Jefferson's Party
    March 30, 2017
    29min
    TV-PG
    In the past, Thomas Jefferson denounced political parties. Now, after the ratification of the Constitution, he began to form the nation's first political party. Discover how he did this by assembling allies, appealing to selected individuals to run for Congress, and playing for control of the media.
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  25. S1 E25 - Willian Findley's Whiskey
    March 30, 2017
    30min
    TV-PG
    Whiskey, on the frontier of the early Republic, was a major business. So when the national government proposed an excise tax on whiskey, it led to the Whiskey Rebellion. Go back to the summer of 1794 and meet William Findley, a self-styled republican who saw Republican societies as vehicles for political strategy.
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Show all 36 episodes

Extras

Bonus

America's Founding Fathers
America's Founding Fathers
2minTV-PG
In collaboration with Smithsonian, The Great Courses presents a deep dive into the creation of the US Constitution as it actually happened. Using the Founding Fathers as a lens through which to examine the early political history of the United States, you’ll better understand both the document under which Americans live and the people who brought it into being.
In collaboration with Smithsonian, The Great Courses presents a deep dive into the creation of the US Constitution as it actually happened. Using the Founding Fathers as a lens through which to examine the early political history of the United States, you’ll better understand both the document under which Americans live and the people who brought it into being.
In collaboration with Smithsonian, The Great Courses presents a deep dive into the creation of the US Constitution as it actually happened. Using the Founding Fathers as a lens through which to examine the early political history of the United States, you’ll better understand both the document under which Americans live and the people who brought it into being.

Details

More info

Audio languages
English
Subtitles
English [CC]
Producers
The Great Courses
Starring
Allen Guelzo
Studio
The Great Courses
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