Online Courses at Montpelier

Take Online Courses designed by leading scholars at the birthplace of the US Constitution.

Click on a course to learn more about the course content, and to enroll. All the offered courses are designed by leading educators and scholars in their fields, in partnership with the Montpelier Foundation’s Center for the Constitution. These courses are designed to provide a deeper dive into the history of the US Constitution – from its original design, to the ways it has changed through time.

Free

Constitutional Foundations

The course includes seven modules focusing on the language of the Constitution, including the Background on the Constitution with a focus on the Articles of Confederation and the Declaration of Independence; Congress and the Legislative Branch with a focus on Article I; President and the Executive Branch with a focus on Article II; Supreme Court and the Judicial Branch with a focus on Article III; States with a focus on Articles IV and VI; Ratification and Amendment with a focus on Article V and VII; and People with a focus on the Amendments in the Constitution. Each module presents a robust experience of information, resources, multimedia content, and thought provoking Constitutional Questions about the topic.

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Free

Constitutional Amendment: the Bill of Rights

The first ten amendments to the Constitution that are so familiar to Americans today had to undergo a lengthy and arduous journey before they could become the Bill of Rights. Finding their roots in the British Petitions of Right and Magna Carta, as well as bills of rights which had been adopted by several states, the amendments that make up the Bill of Rights are an enduring exposition of the fundamental political, social, and personal rights which citizens of the American republic enjoy. Since its adoption, the Bill of Rights has been subject to a vast interpretive landscape that has changed and evolved over time. The courts have interpreted many of the first ten amendments in ways that are very different from what the Framers had in mind when they were originally adopted, fitting the principles which they represent to new and changing circumstances and values.

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Free

Creation of the Constitution

The United States Constitution represents the first time in history that a nation gathered an assembly of its most eminent and erudite men for the sole purpose of designing a political system that would prove acceptable to its citizenry and their posterity. The event is a remarkable achievement in political history, and it is a fascinating story as well. But this story is also compelling because the issues that faced this generation are often the same issues that we face today. The disagreements over how best to divide power between state and federal governments, and between branches within the government, have never been settled to everyone’s satisfaction. The difficulties inherent in deriving all power from the majority of people, while protecting the rights of the minority, have never been fully resolved. This course reveals the relevance of many of the Framers’ debates to today’s debates.

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Free

American Institutions I: The Federal Judiciary – From Idea to Institution

This course focuses on how and why federal courts have become such influential players in America's scheme of separation of powers and defining the powers of the national government and the states. The course also asks, how has the federal judiciary developed its own institutional identity in relationship to Congress and the executive, and in relationship to the states, and what checks exist on the exercise of federal judicial power? The transformation of the Court and its constitutional interpretation is worthy of close study not only for its inherent historical value but also for the light it will shed on modern controversies over the judiciary.

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Free

American Institutions II: Congress, the Constitution, and Contemporary Politics

In this course, we review the main roles and functions of the U.S. Congress—representation, lawmaking, government oversight, and legitimizing the American political system—and consider why it is that the institution that the Framers most directly connected to the people is now so thoroughly hated by the American public. Over the course of the weekend, we will review the constitutional design for the Congress and evaluate the ways in which the contemporary Congress has evolved from its historical roots. We consider such issues as the development and polarization of the political parties, changes in public expectations about representation, and internal changes to the House and Senate, and we explore how these changes have affected both Congress’s productivity and the public’s expectations of the institution over time.

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Free

American Institutions III: The Presidency & the Constitution

The Presidency and the Constitution will explore the theoretical foundations of executive power, the place of the executive branch in the framework of the Constitution, the creation of the executive branch at the Philadelphia Convention, the powers of the president, and the expansion of presidential power over time. The course will place special emphasis on how Madison’s ideas related to the presidency and executive power.

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New!

Suffrage in America

This history of the right to vote in the United States is a long and complex tale, stretching from the absence of an affirmative right to vote in the U.S. Constitution to current debates about election procedures and voter suppression—with many important episodes in between. This course explores some of the key moments in this story, much of which unfolded in state governments, from the late 18th century through the 1960s and beyond. This course examines the reasons for dropping property requirements in the early 19th century, the passage of the 15th and 19th amendments, and the multiple legal changes of the long 1960s, among many other important changes to the franchise. Significant attention is paid to understanding why suffrage rights expanded in some eras and contracted in others.

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Archaeology Field School

The Montpelier Archaeology Field School is a 6-week in-person course that is designed for future archaeologists looking to gain professional training in archaeology. It is held annually each June. This online component is designed to accompany the in-person course. To apply for the field school, visit http://montpelier.org/fieldschools

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Free

Slavery and the Constitution

Slavery and the Constitution traces the intricate and often painful history of slavery and the Constitution: how the institution of slavery influenced the Constitution and how the Constitution influenced the institution of slavery. It describes the inhuman experience of slavery as it developed in different parts of the country, and the inconsistencies of holding some people as property in a country that declared all men to be free and equal. And it explores the concomitant problem of racism, which made American slavery both more virulent than many historic forms of enslavement and also more difficult to eradicate.

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