UT Government Chair speaks in honor of Constitution Day

Brooke Bentley | Reporter

In a lively Friday afternoon lecture, Dr. Thomas L. Pangle spoke on the Federalist and Anti-Federalist arguments that led to the formation of the U.S. Constitution as it is known today. Pangle, who holds the Joe R. Long Chair in Democratic Studies in the Department of Government at the University of Texas, spoke at Baylor in honor of Constitution Day.

With pocket-sized copies of the U.S. Constitution free for all to take, Pangle led the audience through the various opinions of those who drafted what is considered to be one of the most stable political documents in the world, explaining the Founding Fathers’ angles, reasoning and oppositions.

“I think that in order to participate at all in the government and vote intelligently, we need to know sort of where we come from politically and what some of the big tensions and lasting problems are that are kind of embedded in our political culture,” Pangle said. “That, I think, is clearest if you start right at the beginning when there was such a great debate.”

Both during and after the Constitutional Convention of 1787, delegates from around the country met to discuss the future of America’s constitution on whether to amend the Articles of Confederation or to draft and ratify a completely new document to serve as America’s constitution.

The Federalists favored the ratification of a newly proposed constitution, while the Anti-Federalists opposed ratification and, instead, supported amending the Articles of Confederation.

Pangle’s lecture covered the competing political theories between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists as well as the different present-day analyses of the choices they made that resulted in the formation of America’s current constitution.

“I guess you could say I’m kind of a qualified originalist. I always start trying to find out the original intention, but you often do have to, I think, go beyond that because there are things they didn’t imagine,” he said.

Pangle’s discussion included a first-person adaptation of some of the famous Founding Fathers’ arguments such as those of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and Patrick Henry. He portrayed many of the main disagreements among the founders by impersonating them and stating their arguments and perspectives on the issues.

Pangle’s DVD and audiotape lecture course on the topic “The Great Debate: Advocates and Opponents of the American Constitution” can be purchased through The Great Courses.