Great Issues Forum

10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.


“Vices of Our Political System: In Madison's Time—and Ours”


How do you create a national government that maintains an appropriate balance, both among its three branches and in its relationship with the states

Did the framers of the U.S. Constitution get it right? Join St. John’s College tutors and a noted Constitutional historian for a conversation about an issue of great importance throughout American history—and rarely more so than today.


Featured speaker Professor Jack Rakove with James Madison, National Constitution Center in Philadelphia

Guest Speaker
Jack N. Rakove, Stanford University

Noted Constitutional Historian and Pulitzer-Prize Winning Author of Original Meanings:
Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution

Admission including luncheon $75

Advance registration required

Registration closes September 3. Any interested persons should call Alice Chambers directly at 
410-295-5544 for availability.

College students with valid student ID may attend the afternoon lecture
free of charge, space permitting. (Registration for students not required.) 


Readings from The Federalist, Nos. 37, 38, 47-51

In these readings, James Madison poses difficult questions faced by the framers of our Constitution, questions that continue to confront us today. Madison details the measures in the Constitution that try to thread the needle, balancing not only the relations among the three branches of the federal government, but also the powers between federal and state governments. But did the framers get it right? Or did their contrivances just cover up problems that really cannot be solved? If so, is it a foregone conclusion that those problems will eventually undo the government they created?

Seminars comprising 10-15 registrants, each led by a St John’s tutor, will discuss these and related issues. For information about the readings from The Federalist, click here.

BUFFET LUNCHEON—Continuing the Conversation


Jack N. Rakove on James Madison’s ‘Ticklish Experiment’ 

The adoption of the Federal Constitution in 1787-88 remains one of the most remarkable experiments in political history. But more than that, it also combined a remarkable confidence in the capacity of human reason to improve the “science of politics” with a persisting nervousness about the risks that any effort to adopt a new constitution would run. That tension remains evident in American politics today. We readily identify obvious flaws in our Constitution yet balk at the dangers of constitutional change.This tension was also evident in James Madison’s approach to constitutionalism. In his lecture Professor Rakove will explore these issues and their importance, both then and now.

For more information, click here.

Have more questions? Please contact Alice Chambers at or 410-295-5544.

This Great Issues Forum is presented by the
Friends of St. John’s College.
Sponsors: Board of the Friends of St. John's College and Historic Annapolis

Click here to register online.