New Hampshire

“We the People”: The Constitution Then and Now

Dive deep into the Constitution, one of America’s most important documents, to learn how it was created, amended and challenged, and how its interpretation impacts the U.S. today.
Program No. 24113RJ
6 days
Starts at

At a Glance

In a time when we’re seeing more and more controversial issues being decided by the courts, a deeper understanding of our Constitution provides key insight into modern politics. Alongside experts, learn the origins of this ground-breaking document and discover how it’s been tested and praised over the last 250 years. Delve into what it takes to amend the Constitution and the limitations of our branches of government while learning how the interpretation of this historic paper impacts future generations.
Activity Level
On Your Feet
Getting in/out of a motor coach, walking at historic sites.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Listen to fascinating lectures from local experts on topics like colonial America, The Federalist Papers, the power of the president and the First Amendment.
  • Take your learning to the field as you explore historic landmarks linked to the American Revolution such as locations linked to Shay’s Rebellion of the Massachusetts’s Bay Colony.
  • Learn how this 250-year-old document impacts modern politics while studying healthcare, the judicial review process and more.
Featured Expert
All Experts
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Eric Boyer
Eric Boyer is an associate political science professor at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, N.H., where he focuses his research and teaching on the intersection of politics, philosophy, history and popular culture. In 2012, Eric was the recipient of the Outstanding Teacher in Postsecondary Education award by the N.H. College and University Council. Eric’s research has been published in a variety of academic journals, including “The Journal of Popular Culture,” “The Historian,” “The Heathwood Journal of Critical Theory” and the “University of Maryland’s Icons Project.”

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

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Eric Boyer
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Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Shay’s Rebellion, The Making of an Agrarian Insurrection
by David Szatmary
A solid study of the rebellion focusing on the economic basis of the divergent interests of the eastern merchants (who needed hard currency for trade with Britain) and the westren subsistence farmers (who operated largely on a barter system and could not provide the hard money the merchants demanded to settle their debts.
The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787
by Gordon Wood
One of the half dozen most important books ever written about the American Revolution.--New York Times Book Review "During the nearly two decades since its publication, this book has set the pace, furnished benchmarks, and afforded targets for many subsequent studies. If ever a work of history merited the appellation 'modern classic,' this is surely one.--William and Mary Quarterly "[A] brilliant and sweeping interpretation of political culture in the Revolutionary generation.--New England Quarterly "This is an admirable, thoughtful, and penetrating study of one of the most important chapters in American history.--Wesley Frank Craven
James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights
by Richard Labunski
Today we hold the Constitution in such high regard that we can hardly imagine how hotly contested was its adoption. Now Richard Labunski offers a dramatic account of a time when the entire American experiment hung in the balance, only to be saved by the most unlikely of heroes--the diminutive and exceedingly shy James Madison. Here is a vividly written account of not one but several major political struggles which changed the course of American history. Labunski takes us inside the sweltering converted theater in Richmond, where for three grueling weeks, the soft-spoken Madison and the charismatic Patrick Henry fought over whether Virginia should ratify the Constitution. Madison won the day by a handful of votes, mollifying Anti-Federalist fears by promising to add a bill of rights to the Constitution. To do this, Madison would have to win a seat in the First Congress, which he did by a tiny margin, allowing him to attend the First Congress and sponsor the Bill of Rights. Packed with colorful details about life in early America, this compelling and important narrative is the first serious book about Madison written in many years. It will return this under-appreciated patriot to his rightful place among the Founding Fathers and shed new light on a key turning point in our nation's history.
The Origins of the American Constitution: A Documentary History
by Michael Kammen
The complete story of the American Constitution, told in the words of those who created it. Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Michael Kammen has gathered together the fundamental documents needed to understand the genesis and evolution of the United States Constitution—from the exploratory notions concerning the nature of constitutions in 1776, the Articles of Confederation in 1777, and various constitutional plans proposed at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787, to the advocacy position of “Publius” in the 21 most important Federalist papers and contrasting views offered by leading Anti-Federalist dissenters. Kammen also includes private correspondence that passed between prominent founders during the crucial years 1787 to 1789 (58 revealing letters), along with the Judiciary Act of 1789 and the Bill of Rights, which completed the basic structure of government and provided essential security for its citizens.
The Framers’ Coup: The Making of the United States Constitution
by Michael Klarman
Americans revere their Constitution. However, most of us are unaware how tumultuous and improbable the drafting and ratification processes were. As Benjamin Franklin keenly observed, any assembly of men bring with them "all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views." One need not deny that the Framers had good intentions in order to believe that they also had interests. Based on prodigious research and told largely through the voices of the participants, Michael Klarman's The Framers' Coup narrates how the Framers' clashing interests shaped the Constitution--and American history itself. The Philadelphia convention could easily have been a failure, and the risk of collapse was always present. Had the convention dissolved, any number of adverse outcomes could have resulted, including civil war or a reversion to monarchy. Not only does Klarman capture the knife's-edge atmosphere of the convention, he populates his narrative with riveting and colorful stories. Ultimately, both the Constitution's content and its ratification process raise troubling questions about democratic legitimacy. The Federalists were eager to avoid full-fledged democratic deliberation over the Constitution, and the document that was ratified was stacked in favor of their preferences. In terms of substance, the Constitution was a significant departure from the more democratic state constitutions of the 1770s. Definitive and authoritative, The Framers' Coup explains why the Framers preferred such a constitution and how they managed to persuade the country to adopt it. We have lived with the consequences, both positive and negative, ever since.
Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution
by Pauline Maier
When the delegates left the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in September 1787, the new Constitution they had written was no more than a proposal. Elected conventions in at least nine of the thirteen states would have to ratify it before it could take effect. There was reason to doubt whether that would happen. The document we revere today as the foundation of our country’s laws, the cornerstone of our legal system, was hotly disputed at the time. Some Americans denounced the Constitution for threatening the liberty that Americans had won at great cost in the Revolutionary War. One group of fiercely patriotic opponents even burned the document in a raucous public demonstration on the Fourth of July. In this splendid new history, Pauline Maier tells the dramatic story of the yearlong battle over ratification that brought such famous founders as Washington, Hamilton, Madison, Jay, and Henry together with less well-known Americans who sometimes eloquently and always passionately expressed their hopes and fears for their new country. Men argued in taverns and coffeehouses; women joined the debate in their parlors; broadsides and newspaper stories advocated various points of view and excoriated others. In small towns and counties across the country people read the document carefully and knew it well. Americans seized the opportunity to play a role in shaping the new nation. Then the ratifying conventions chosen by “We the People” scrutinized and debated the Constitution clause by clause.

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