What is an American?
Four Saturdays, January 20 - February 10
10:30AM -12:30PM Pacific Time
Corte Madera Store - $325 (book included)
Who is an American? That is a question raging in our body politic today. Do we believe in citizenship as a birthright? Is the United States a “Christian” country? Why do some Americans fear they are being replaced by immigrants?
At the founding of our republic, America was an idea, not a reality. People considered themselves “New Yorkers” or “Virginians” rather than “Americans.” It would take decades before our identity as Americans took root.
By the 1830’s, there were competing ideas of American national identity. Jacksonian populists argued that only white Christians could be American, while Daniel Webster and Lincoln believed that it was the Constitution that made us Americans.
This class is about these competing ideas of American identity in the nineteenth century, how they shaped events leading to the Civil War, and the disturbing echoes of that debate in our own time.
* No prior knowledge of law or legal history is required. Reading material will be provided.
* The book Indivisible: Daniel Webster and the Birth of American Nationalism, by Joel Richard Paul is included in the class price.
Joel Richard Paul is the Hon. Raymond Sullivan Professor at the University of California Law School, San Francisco where he teaches constitutional law and history. He has also taught on the law faculties of Berkeley, Yale, the University of Connecticut, Leiden University (Netherlands), and American University. His most recent books are INDIVISIBLE: Daniel Webster and the Birth of American Nationalism, WITHOUT PRECEDENT: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times, and UNLIKELY ALLIES: How a Merchant, a Playwright and a Spy Saved the American Revolution, which was named one of the best books of 2009 by The Washington Post.