Fulbright International Summer Institute on the U.S. Constitution: Origins, Evolution, and Contemporary Issues (2003)

Purpose and Overview

We will conduct a six-week institute on the theory and practice of the United States Constitution from June 27 to August 9, 2003, for 18 foreign university faculty. The institute will benefit from our experience with successful 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, and 2002 institutes. All were evaluated very highly. Through seminars, panel discussions, and site visits, the 2003 participants will examine, discuss, debate, and gain practical insights into the central role of the U.S. Constitution in American life and history by focusing on America’s ongoing debates over the meaning and role of the federal Constitution and the impacts of changing conceptions of constitutionalism on American political institutions, democracy, republicanism, federalism, liberty, rights, pluralism, separation of powers, contests between the legislative and executive branches, checks and balances, economic prosperity, social welfare, and social values.

During their first four weeks at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, the participants will engage diverse readings and scholars on how generations of Americans have shaped and been shaped by their Constitution; they will also visit relevant historic sites in Philadelphia (e.g., Independence Hall) and New York City. (Easton was the site of the third public reading of the Declaration of Independence in July 1776.) The participants will explore contemporary scholarly approaches to American constitutionalism, discuss classic and primary works of American constitutionalism, and develop methods to apply the literature and ideas to their teaching and research. Through the study of original materials and exchanges of pedagogical ideas with their peers, and through follow-up Internet communications and contributions to a newsletter, the participants will acquire new knowledge, fresh insights, and new resources; develop curricula and methods of teaching and research; and be part of a community emphasizing classic and contemporary works and cases as expressions of constitutional principles in the United States.

During the last two weeks, the participants will encounter today’s Constitution from a more deeply multi-cultural perspective, especially Native American and Latino, through site visits and meetings with public officials, civic leaders, and others in Colorado and New Mexico. The study tour will end with three days in Washington, D.C.

Objectives and Content

The institute will offer a collegial, scholarly introduction to the history, theories, controversies, and dynamics of American constitutionalism, as well as practical insights into the day-to-day workings of the U.S. constitutional system.

Four-Week Residency Phase

Substantive Content. The participants will examine, discuss, and debate the central role of the federal Constitution in American life–from the political principles and practices derived from the Puritans’ federal or covenant theology through the development of constitutional ideas and practices of the colonial era, lessons from the Iroquois Confederacy, the Articles of Confederation, the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, and transformations of constitutional ideas and practices through America’s major historical eras. For each era, participants will address the following types of questions: (1) What constitutional and political values and conflicts predominated during the era? (2) How were values and conflicts translated into constitutional interpretations and government policies, and how did they alter the balance of power between individuals and government and between the federal, state, and local governments? (3) How did these constitutional theories and dynamics affect political and socioeconomic life and the rights and welfare of the people?

The participants will first be introduced to the text of the U.S. Constitution and to the field of constitutional interpretation, particularly debates between proponents of “original intent” and of the “living Constitution,” plus diverse subfields such as critical legal theory. Next, participants will examine the colonial origins of American constitutionalism and then turn to the “founding” period–from the Declaration of Independence (1776) through the framing and ratification of the federal Constitution, and establishment of the new government. The participants will look at diverse perspectives reflected in early policies (e.g., the Judiciary Act of 1789) and in leaders, such as Washington, Hamilton, and Jefferson, as well as key decisions by John Marshall’s Supreme Court.

The new government was soon faced with state nullifications (e.g., the 1798 Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions drafted by Jefferson and Madison in response to the federal Alien and Sedition Acts). These remained issues up to the Civil War and became entangled with the slavery debate. Internal improvements’ controversies emerged as well, namely, the constitutional authority of the federal government to construct and/or finance highways and harbor improvements within states–a matter still controversial in 1956 when Congress enacted the interstate highway program under the constitutional cover of national defense. A classic work of the pre-war era was Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Participants will focus on Tocqueville’s analysis of (1) the federal Constitution and his conclusion that administrative decentralization rather than federalism would work better in European democracies and (2) the plight of Indians and African slaves.

For the Civil War era, the participants will focus on representative speeches by Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln about the nature of the federal constitutional union and also on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott decision. Participants will then examine the post-Civil War amendments (13, 14, and 15) and key U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and also discuss Reconstruction, racial segregation, westward expansion, industrialization, and Progressivism, as well as constitutional amendments of the Progressive era: the 16th on the federal income-tax (1913), the 17th on direct election of senators (1913), and the 19th on women’s suffrage (1920).

This will lead to discussion of political transformations in the United States and the growth of national power, to be considered initially in Theodore Roosevelt’s “The New Nationalism” (1910). Also important were new expressions of federalism in civil society (e.g., founding of the American Federation of Labor) and a new view of federalism as “social pluralism,” as in Horace Kallen’s “Democracy Versus the Melting Pot” (1915).

The tremendous impact of the New Deal will be examined through both secondary sources and key U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Although the New Deal had a lasting impact, reactions against its centralizing tendencies sent Americans see-sawing through various “new federalisms” affecting constitutional interpretation. President Johnson’s Creative Federalism marked major expansions of federal power, followed by Nixon’s constrained, though fiscally generous, New Federalism and appointment of “strict constructionists” to the Supreme Court. President Carter endeavored to revive federal links to big cities through his New Partnership, but was followed by Reagan’s states’ rights view of federalism and conservative Court appointments. Clinton’s New Covenant emphasized a “new intergovernmental partnership,” and state-local flexibility through waivers. At the same time, state leaders mounted an unsuccessful effort in the mid-1990s to amend the U.S. Constitution. President Bush might swing the power pendulum further back toward the states and appoint state-friendly justices to the Supreme Court.

Given that rights expansion through nationalization of the federal Bill of Rights was one of the signal developments of the late twentieth century, participants will examine this nationalization and look at constitutional issues of criminal procedure, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, racial equality, sexual equality, privacy, and disability rights. More emphasis will be placed as well in 2003 on contemporary constitutional issues, such as legislative, executive, and judicial powers, legislative-executive relations, war powers, and foreign policymaking.

The institute’s residency period will close by examining two important trends in constitutional interpretation. One is the new judicial federalism whereby state high courts provide greater rights protection under their state constitution’s declaration of rights than the U.S. Supreme Court grants under the U.S. Bill of Rights. The second is the Supreme Court’s sharply divided new federalism jurisprudence in which the Court has enhanced state powers. During the last seminar, participants will present their teaching and research plans developed during the institute.

Teaching and Research Methods. The participants will be introduced to a variety of teaching methods and research resources. The institute faculty teach and publish in American government, constitutionalism, federalism, and theory. All have experience in civics education and in improving teaching about American constitutionalism in secondary schools and higher education. All have also served as faculty in other USIA/Fulbright institutes.

One faculty member will have principal responsibility for each 1.5-hour seminar, with 1-2 other faculty participating as counterpoints. Emphasis will be placed on discussion. Participants usually prefer the faculty to highlight key points of the readings and make other remarks for about 20 minutes, and then invite discussion. The core faculty will be supplemented by diverse guest speakers, including panels of speakers. Issues raised in the seminars also will be enlivened through weekend field trips to historic Philadelphia and New York City; meetings with Easton’s mayor, Northampton County’s executive, and the county’s president judge; attending a city-council meeting; touring the Northampton County prison; visiting a Puerto Rican community center in Allentown; and the like.

The faculty will work closely with the participants to develop teaching and research plans to be implemented at home. Faculty will also provide participants with their own course syllabi. The participants will form three small groups to meet periodically with the institute faculty to develop teaching and research plans. The faculty will work individually with participants, too. Participants will have access to library materials, relevant videotapes, and computer equipment. The faculty will also highlight various teaching tools, such as videotapes, computer-assisted instruction, and role-playing.

Cultural Experiences. The participants will experience American culture and its diversity as well as the culture of higher education and scholarship. Participants will interact with the resident faculty and their families, Lafayette faculty and students, and community residents. Every effort also will be made to have a local family paired with each participant for dinner, shopping, and the like. Faculty will organize formal activities and informal evening gatherings on such topics as American shopping, the media, the war on terrorism, the 2000 presidential election, American higher education, and other matters of interest to the participants. Participants will go river rafting and bowling (after reading Robert Putnam’s “Bowling Alone”), attend Easton’s July 8th fireworks, visit the Crayola Factory and Canal Museum in Easton, have full access to Lafayette’s new state-of-the-art sports and recreation center, attend a show at the State Theatre in Easton, visit Bethlehem and Allentown, and be able to see a show and visit museums in New York City and Philadelphia.

Study Tour

The participants will travel to Denver, Colorado, on July 26, and then, by vans, south to New Mexico, a genuinely tri-cultural state. In Denver, participants will meet with the National Conference of State Legislatures and/or Western Governors’ Association to discuss state-federal constitutional issues. A seminar on Latinos in America’s constitutional system is planned as well. Participants will visit a buffalo reserve and Buffalo Bill’s grave and museum, tour the Capitol, and explore downtown Denver.

Participants will then travel to Colorado Springs to visit the U.S. Air Force Academy, Garden of the Gods, and then proceed to Trinidad for overnight lodging. The participants will go to Bernalillo-Albuquerque, New Mexico, to be hosted by LaDonna Harris, president of Americans for Indian Opportunity, and Fred Harris, former U.S. senator. The participants will visit tribal lands and a gaming operation and also meet with tribal officials and an Indian state legislator as well as possibly the regional Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Service, and New Mexico Indian Commission. Participants will discuss Native American constitutional self-government, tribal governments in the federal constitutional system, and recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions affecting Native Americans. Participants will proceed to Santa Fe to visit the state Capitol, probably meet the governor or lt. governor, and be immersed in Santa Fe’s Hispanic and Indian cultural milieu. Next, they will visit Mesa Verde National Park (or Taos if Mesa Verde is closed) and, the following day, drive through the San Juan Mountains and Royal Gorge to Pueblo. The participants will return to Denver for a flight to Washington, D.C., on August 5.

In Washington, D.C., participants will meet with executive officials and congressional staff, representatives of state and local government associations, and constitutional specialists. Participants will attend a Department of State debriefing and be able to tour the U.S. Supreme Court, Capitol, White House, and city. A farewell dinner with certificates-of-completion awards will be held the night before their departure.


By the end of the institute, participants should feel that they:

  • Learned and experienced much that is new and useful, in terms of both facts and ideas, about theories and practices of American constitutionalism;
  • Learned how the Constitution is pivotal in shaping American life and democracy;
  • Realized–through exposure to diverse scholars, public officials, and private citizens–that Americans have diverse perspectives on their federal Constitution;
  • Acquired a multidimensional view of American society, culture, and institutions;
  • Gained a working, multidisciplinary knowledge of the major U.S. scholarly approaches to American constitutionalism;
  • Acquired books, articles, bibliographic resources, computer skills, and other materials useful for improving their teaching and research;
  • Developed teaching and research plans while also pursuing their research;
  • Interacted one-on-one with distinguished scholars and institute staff in a collegial environment where they were respected, well treated, and made to feel welcome;
  • Expressed their views and helped shape, or change, the conduct of the institute;
  • Formed personal relationships with two or more institute faculty and with most of their co-participants, with expectations of continued post-institute contact; and
  • Were exposed to diverse locales, historic places, libraries and other resources, and scholars, public officials, and citizens from different walks of life.


The institute’s principal benefits will be:

  1. improved understanding of the United States and teaching about American constitutionalism, government, society, and culture abroad;
  2. enhanced teaching and research about the United States by foreign scholars;
  3. acquisition of resources, such as books and bibliographies, that participants can share with students and teachers at home;
  4. integration of foreign scholars into U.S. networks of constitutional scholarship and discussion; and
  5. improved global dissemination of democratic constitutional ideas.

Program Evaluation

Program evaluation will involve six stages: (1) the institute faculty will re-review this proposal and suggest refinements or new ideas as deemed suitable; (2) during the institute, participants, faculty, and staff will periodically discuss the program’s strengths and weaknesses and propose alterations; (3) at the end of the four-week residency, the participants will complete a written evaluation, allowing thorough expressions of their reactions to the content, format, process, and value of the academic residency program; (4) at the end of the study tour, the participants will complete another evaluation, expressing their reactions to the content, format, process, and value of the tour and institute generally; (5) Department of State staff will evaluate the program on site and/or with the participants in Washington, D.C., and (6) one year after the institute, participants will receive a follow-up questionnaire asking about the institute’s continuing impacts and outcomes.


The Meyner Center, will follow up with the 2003 institute participants in several ways:

  1. Each participant will receive a one-year subscription to Publius: The Journal of Federalism, which is published at the Meyner Center.
  2. We will establish Internet links to provide follow-up information and news and also allow participants and colleagues to pose queries, provide news, and present information, such as course syllabi and research products, to the Center, institute faculty, and co-participants in each country.
  3. The Center and institute faculty will respond to requests for more information.
  4. We will welcome the participants at our institutions on future visits to the U.S. and, in turn, meet with program participants when we visit their countries.
  5. We will encourage participants to link up with the American Political Science Association, American Bar Association, American Association of Law Schools, and other relevant organizations for continuing contact.
  6. When possible, we will participate in joint research and conferences with participants and their institutions.


The program will be administered by the Robert B. and Helen S. Meyner Center for the Study of State and Local Government of Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania, which is directed by Professor John Kincaid, who will be the project and academic director. The principal administrative assistant will be Ms. Terry A. Cooper. Kincaid and Cooper will be at the institute site for the four-week residency. Overseeing the program, the project director will also have teaching and cultural-life responsibilities, and will work with the faculty in refining the program.

Predeparture materials and assigned readings for the first 1.5 weeks will be sent to all participants. All readings, insurance documents, and other materials will be given to the participants on June 27, 2003, the day of their arrival. All lodging and other necessities will be in place upon the participants’ arrival.

Primary Institute Faculty

In addition to Dr. Kincaid, the following scholars, who reflect diverse perspectives, will serve as primary faculty. Ellis Katz, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Temple University, Philadelphia, is a well-known scholar of judicial federalism. He has participated in the Ampart and Worldnet programs, and traveled to Brazil, India, and Spain, among others, on USIA projects. Donald S. Lutz, Professor of Political Science at the University of Houston, Texas, is a leading scholar of American political thought and constitutional development. He has participated in USIA/Fulbright programs and directed many institutes for scholars and secondary-school teachers. Joseph R. Marbach, Associate Professor and Chair of Political Science at Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey, publishes on federalism and state and local government. He has participated in a number of USIA/Fulbright programs at home and abroad. Morey Myers, a practicing attorney in Scranton, Pennsylvania, litigated pro-civil-rights cases in the South during the 1960s and thereafter. Stephen L. Schechter, Professor of Political Science and Public Administration at Russell Sage College, Troy, New York, is Director of the Council for Citizenship Education at Russell Sage College and former Executive Director of the New York State Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. G. Alan Tarr, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for State Constitutional Studies, Rutgers University, New Jersey, specializes in constitutional law and is co-editor of the casebook to be used in the 2003 Institute. Conrad Weiler, Professor of Political Science at Temple University and a practicing attorney, is a scholar of urban politics and constitutional law with extensive practical experience in Philadelphia politics, zoning, and neighborhood organizing. Several Lafayette College faculty will also participate in seminars relevant to their expertise.