Accessible Navigation.

Woody Holton - April 20, 2009

Woody Holton

Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Richmond

"Unruly Americans and the Origins of the U.S. Constitution"

8:00 PM Monday, April 20, 2009
University Theatre

Where do the vast powers of the federal government and the imperial presidency of today originate? In Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution (2007, National Book Award finalist), Professor Holton argues that the salient political realities of today have taken form in consequence of the institutional arrangements deemed necessary to control what Alexander Hamilton called “an excess of democracy.” The question today posed by Professor Holton is this: can the limitations imposed on American democracy at the country’s founding be erased?

A special three-part course of the same name offered by the Montana Osher LIfelong Learning Institute (MOLLI) in conjunction with Professor Holton's visit will be taught by UM HIstory Professor Kyle Volk on 7, 14, and 28 April in the Todd Building Room 204 at 7:00 P.M. ($20 course fee).  This course is supported in part by President George M. Dennison and the President’s Lecture Series.

You may also download a podcast of the lecture.

Right click on the link below and choose "Save Target As..." You can then save the file and listen to it on your computer or your iPod.

Listen to the lecture!

"Abigail Adams: Entrepreneur"

3:10 PM Monday, April 20, 2009
Gallagher Business Building 123

You are cordially invited  to attend a seminar with Woody Holton. Before beginning his teaching career at the University of Richmond in 2000, he directed numerous environmental campaigns and was the founding director of “Clean Up Congress,” an environmental advocacy group. He has published two major books: Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia (1999) and Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution (2007). The Organization of American Historians honored Forced Founders with the prestigious Merle Curti Award, and the book is required reading on more than 150 campuses across the country. Unruly Americans was a National Book Award finalist. These works and a series of seminal articles in the William and Mary Quarterly, the Journal of American History, and the Journal of the Early Republic have pushed him to the forefront of an important school of thought in American historiography known as the neoprogressives. Inspired in part by the class interpretation of American history made famous by Charles Beard’s An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (1913), the neoprogressives take an astringent view of the Founding Fathers whose economic concerns, we learn in such books as Unruly Americans, provided the main impetus for the unfolding of events at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. According to Professor Holton and the other leading lights of the neoprogressive school—notably Terry Bouton (Taming Democracy: “The People,” the Founders, and the Troubled Ending of the American Revolution, 2007) and Michael A. McDonnell (The Politics of War: Race, Class, and Conflict in Revolutionary Virginia, 2007)—the economic and political elites of the time set out to eliminate what Alexander Hamilton called “an excess of democracy.” They succeeded brilliantly in their undertaking. The vast powers of the federal government and the imperial presidency of today took form in consequence of the institutional arrangements deemed necessary for the control of “unruly Americans.” The democratic elements and potentialities found in the Bill of Rights came about as a result of compromises forced upon the Federalists who aspired above all to create a safe and lucrative environment for the investing class. The question for today posed by Professor Holton is this: can the limitations imposed on American democracy in 1787 be erased? He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship for his current research work on Abigail Adams, whose cunning as an investor amidst the swirling economic insecurities of the Revolutionary War era further illuminates the commanding power of class as a category of historical analysis.