A panel of experts dives into what early American founding figures—including Thomas Jefferson, John and Abigail Adams, George Washington, Mercy Otis Warren, and Phyllis Wheatley—learned from the Greeks and Romans, from their early education through adulthood, and how that knowledge came to influence founding documents such as the Constitution and Declaration of Independence and the scope and shape of the American republic. They also explore the founders’ philosophical understanding of passion versus reason, the meaning of “happiness,” and how ancient philosophy continued to influence American democracy throughout turbulent times including the Civil War. Historians and authors Caroline Winterer and Carl Richard and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas Ricks joined National Constitution Center President and CEO Jeffrey Rosen.
This program originally aired on our companion podcast, Live at the National Constitution Center. Check it out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to catch up on the live constitutional conversations we hosted in 2020.
Carl Richard is professor of history at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He is the author of several books, including: The Founders and the Classics: Greece, Rome, and the American and Greeks and Romans Bearing Gifts: How the Ancients Inspired the Founding Fathers.
Thomas Ricks is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a #1 New York Times bestselling author. He covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008 and was on the staff of the Wall Street Journal for 17 years before that. He is the author of several books, the most recent of which is, First Principles: What America's Founders Learned from the Greeks and Romans and How That Shaped Our Country.
Caroline Winterer is William Robertson Coe Professor of History and American Studies and the chair of the History Department at Stanford University. Winterer has also curated two exhibits of rare books and artifacts: Ancient Rome & America at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia (2010) and The American Enlightenment at the Stanford Library (2011). She is the author of several books, including The Culture of Classicism: Ancient Greece and Rome in American Intellectual Life, 1780-1910.
Jeffrey Rosen is the president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization devoted to educating the public about the U.S. Constitution. Rosen is also professor of law at The George Washington University Law School and a contributing editor of The Atlantic.
This episode was engineered by the David Stotz and Greg Scheckler and produced by Jackie McDermott, Tanaya Tauber, John Guerra, and Lana Ulrich.
- Carl Richard, The Founders and the Classics: Greece, Rome, and the American and Greeks
- Carl Richard, The Battle for the American Mind: A Brief History of a Nation's Thought
- Carl Richard, Greeks and Romans Bearing Gifts: How the Ancients Inspired the Founding Fathers
- Carl Richard, The Founders and the Bible
- Thomas Ricks, First Principles: What America's Founders Learned from the Greeks and Romans and How That Shaped Our Country
- Caroline Winterer, The Culture of Classicism: Ancient Greece and Rome in American Intellectual Life, 1780-1910
- Caroline Winterer, American Enlightenments: Pursuing Happiness in the Age of Reason
- Caroline Winterer, The Mirror of Antiquity: American Women and the Classical Tradition, 1750–1900
- Aristotle, Politics
- "Epicurus," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- The Epicurus Reader
- "Cincinnatus," National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mt. Vernon
- "Cicero," Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Cicero, Political Speeches
- "Porcia," Chaucer Name Dictionary
- Joseph Addison, Cato: A Tragedy
- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia
- Sophocles, Antigone
- Homer, The Iliad
- Homer, The Odyssey
This episode was produced by Jackie McDermott, Tanaya Tauber, John Guerra, and Lana Ulrich. It was engineered by Greg Scheckler.
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