10317 Idea and Practice: Thomas Jefferson and the Making of American Federalism: 1780-1820 1

Credits: 6 advanced credits in Modern History

Prerequisites: 36 credits, including one course in Modern History,2 and one course in Political Science or International Relations.3 Students must also fulfill all English requirements and take bibliographic instruction in the Library.

The course is based on a reader edited by Giora Kulka, and on an anthology of a selection of Thomas Jeffersons letters, translated into Hebrew by Giora Kulka.

Thomas Jefferson was 33 years old when he wrote the draft of the Declaration of Independence of the United States. In the 50 years that followed, until his death in 1826, he was involved in the process of the creation of the American federal democracy. His involvement ranged from intensive direct participation to detached insightful observation. On occasion, he was involved indirectly and from afar, when he was, for instance, ambassador to France; and on other occasions, from the very center of events, when he served as Secretary of State, Vice President and President. His opinions, reactions, initiatives, praise and criticism concerning every aspect of the republics development process were recorded in detail, profoundly thought out and succinctly formulated in a huge corpus of letters that he wrote throughout his life.

The American Revolution, the shaping of a constitutional regime whose main objective was the individuals liberty and security, and the establishment of a federal union in the United States, may be considered the most impressive achievements of the age of revolutions throughout the world. They are certainly the most enduring achievements which this era bequeathed to history.

This course tells the story of the first five decades of the American republic through authentic documents, including Jeffersons formal and private letters. Through these documents, students learn to analyze phenomena and to understand processes which illustrate how constitutional theories and revolutionary ideas became political reality in a new independent State, a State governed by a completely new set of constitutional principles.


1Students may write a seminar paper in this course, although it is not required. Students who write a seminar paper in this course may not write one in Individual Liberties and Constitutional Structure in a Federal Democracy (10336).

2or any course in History, for those who took it before Fall 2009.

3Students who took The Age of Revolution: 1760-1830 (10217) before Fall 2008 are exempt from a course in Political Science or International Relations.