Constitutional Foundations

The course includes seven modules focusing on the language of the Constitution, including theBackground on the Constitution with a focus on the Articles of Confederation and the Declarationof Independence; Congress and the Legislative Branch with a focus on Article I; President and theExecutive Branch with a focus on Article II; Supreme Court and the Judicial … Read More

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 … Read More

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

Congress, the Constitution, and Contemporary Politics explores the theoretical foundations of the legislative branch, from the representative bodies of ancient Rome and Greece, the creation of the American bicameral Congress at the Philadelphia Convention, the powers of Congress, and the expansion and change of congressional power over time. With a growing partisan divide in today’s Congress, … Read More

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

Article III of the United States Constitution, which creates the federal judicial branch, is notable for its brevity. It also is notable for what it does not say about the nature and exercise of national (often called federal) judicial power. How and why have federal courts become such influential players in America’s scheme of separation … Read More

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, … Read More

Suffrage in America

Welcome to the e-course, Suffrage in America produced by the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison’s Montpelier. To get started you can click on the links, below, or use the navigation menu to the left to explore the resources that the course has to offer. The history of the right to … Read More

Archaeology Field School

Welcome to the Montpelier 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 2022 field school, visit, … Read More

Slavery and the Constitution

It is perhaps the great irony of American history that the U.S. Constitution—a document which deliberately avoided interference with the institution of slavery as it already existed within each state and which even created some additional protections for slave property—would ultimately be the instrument that made it possible to abolish slavery throughout the United States.  … Read More