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We the People: The Early Days of the U.S. Constitution
Covenant Church Fellowship Hall, Building B,
4949 Caroline in the museum district, 77004. Parking available on adjacent streets and in the church lot (enter on Wichita Street).
The United States Constitution has been our nation’s guiding document, serving to preserve its democracy for over 200 years. John Boles, retired Rice University professor and scholar of early American history, takes us through the fights, anguish, reconciliation, and finally, the birth and early applications of this historical document.
March 4: Responding to Crisis—The Constitutional Convention
During the American Revolution, the states created their first national governing document, the Articles of Confederation, which proved to be very flawed. Political chaos and economic depression followed, leading to a quasi-revolutionary movement to craft a new form of government.
March 11: Writing and Ratifying the Constitution
For three months over the summer of 1787, delegates, under the cloak of secrecy, met in Philadelphia to hammer out a new, more centralized model for governing. While today we treasure the Constitution they created, at the time the document was quite controversial and the fight to ratify it was long and bitter.
March 18: Getting the New Nation Underway
George Washington was elected president and the first Congress was seated in 1789. Their task was to take the recently ratified Constitution, a rarefied abstraction of ideas and principles, and form a concrete structure for governing that reflected the spirit, norms, and guarantees set out in the Constitution.
March 25: Political Parties and the Evolution of the Presidency
As the nation grew, predictable policy differences emerged and political parties, although much despised at the time, arose to accommodate the ongoing debate between federal and states’ power, which continues today. The role of the presidency also evolved as the administrations of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson grappled with international threats and internal dissension.
John B. Boles retired in 2019 as the William P. Hobby Professor of History at Rice University, where he taught for 38 years. He is the author of the critically acclaimed biography, Jefferson: Architect of American History, and continues researching and writing on the founders and the formation of the U.S. government.