The American Experiment

Foundations of Democracy

July 17-23, 2022 | Santa Fe, NM

In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln posed a question: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” What kind of test, what kind of experiment, does American democracy represent? In classical Greek and Roman experience, democracy appeared to be the most unstable of regimes, prone to faction, revolution, demagogues, and dictators. Founding theorists of modern democracies sought ways to secure the advantages of democratic life, while addressing both the weaknesses identified by the ancients and the peculiar vulnerabilities of modern politics. To do so, we must raise difficult questions about the relations between justice and wisdom, between freedom and liberty, between commercialism and individualism on the one hand, and civic, religious, and moral virtues, on the other.

Sample readings include Plutarch’s Lives, Aristotle’s Politics, Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, the US Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, The Federalist Papers, and speeches by Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.

General Information About Camp

Summer Academy Students Studying on Grassy Knoll St Johns College Santa Fe

Classes and Readings


  • Plutarch, Lives, Lycurgus, Solon
  • Aristotle, Politics
  • Locke, Second Treatise of Government

Political Theory

Tocqueville, Democracy in America


  • Declaration of Independence
  • U.S. Constitution
  • Hamilton, Madison, and Jay​​​​​​​, The Federalist Papers
  • Selected Speeches of Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Example Workshops

Archery, Pottery, Drumming

Example activities

Visit cave dwellings at Bandelier National Monument, tour the historic Santa Fe Plaza

Summer Academy in Santa Fe

The community formed among students is a natural extension of the friendships and ideas shared in the classroom. To further nurture a sense of community, Summer Academy students participate in non-academic workshops such as archery, yoga, and cooking. Off-campus excursions will include a trip to Ghost Ranch and a performance at the Santa Fe Opera.