On January 24, 1783, as the Revolutionary War wound down and the United States prepared for full independence, a congressionally appointed committee led by James Madison recommended “a list of books proper for the use of Congress” in conducting constitutional government. The list included core texts on ethics, political and legal thought, law, religion, and European and American history. The list ranged from ancient authors such as Plato and Aristotle to contemporary writers like Cesare Beccaria and Emer de Vattel.
It included “conservative” thinkers like Edmund Burke and “radical” thinkers like Voltaire and David Hume. The legal texts on the list ranged from the Institutes of Justinian to Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England. In short, Madison’s congressional book list contained a fair cross-section of the thought and history of Western civilization. In asking Madison’s committee to compile this list, Congress implied that leadership in a constitutional democracy depends not merely on the raw ability to obtain and use power, but on a deep knowledge of the Western intellectual tradition.
The Hamilton Center’s core mission is to help students develop the knowledge, habits of thought, analytical skills, and character to be citizens and leaders in a free society. We will accomplish this mission in three ways:
Adam Smith (Oxford) & Patrick Griffin (Notre Dame)
Thursday, 9 February
4:00 PM / Judaica Suite (Library East)
Screening of Unguarded followed by a panel discussion. Includes Shon Hopwood (Georgetown)
Monday, 27 February
5:30 PM / The Hippodrome
Randy Barnett (Georgetown) & Mitchell Berman (Penn)
Tuesday, 7 March
4:00 PM / Library East Room 100