Correspondence Project

Origins of the Project

A few years ago, in the heady warmth following a large Christmas feast and several glasses of wine, a father and son talked themselves into an ambitious new joint project: to read theologian Hans Kung’s massive tome Does God Exist? and exchange regular letters discussing the various topics raised in the course of reading. In deference to the difficulty of the text and the heft of the subject matter, the agreed-upon timeline was generous. Over the course of the next year, reading at their own pace, they worked their way through this self-designed syllabus, debating issues ranging from the subjectivity of experience to the perplexing ineffability of God’s presence and riffing off thinkers as varied as Pascal, Kierkegaard, Martin Buber, and Jacques Maritain.

The following year, a similar project was undertaken, this time building off a parallel reading of two versions of our national story: Paul Johnson’s History of the American People and Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. In the useful space between two ideologically polar but equally compelling narratives, countless opportunities to relate historical themes and figures to contemporary concerns grew out of a lively written correspondence.

Get Involved

Working from that model, the editors of Open Borders invite readers to participate in a third exchange. The common texts for this new project are The Federalist Papers written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay and Original Meanings by Jack N. Rakove. Chosen to stimulate a vigorous conversation about constitutional authority, the Founders’ intentions, and the balance of power in our government structure, these texts promise to generate a valuable context for the fresh examination of a range of pressing issues in our society. Regular editorial postings will summarize each reading installment and pose several questions for dialogue. Comments and active participation are encouraged.

As there is no set schedule for reading and response, interested participants are invited to read at their own pace and respond to the posted prompts accordingly. The rough syllabus for this project is as follows:

1. Rakove: “The Perils of Originalism” and Federalist 1 – 5
2. Rakove: “The Road to Philadelphia” and Federalist 6 – 10
3. Rakove: “The Madisonian Moment” and Federalist 11 – 14
4. Rakove: “The Politics of Constitution-Making” and Federalist 15 – 20
5. Rakove: “The Politics of Constitution-Making”and Federalist 21 – 28
6. Rakove: “The Concept of Ratification” and Federalist 29 – 36
7. Rakove: “The Concept of Ratification” and Federalist 37 – 40
8. Rakove: “Debating the Constitution” and Federalist 41 – 44
9. Rakove: “Debating the Constitution” and Federalist 45 – 47
10. Rakove: “Federalism” and Federalist 48 – 51
11. Rakove: “Federalism” and Federalist 52 – 58
12. Rakove: “Federalism” and Federalist 59 – 61
13. Rakove: “The Mirror of Representation” and Federalist 62 – 64
14. Rakove: “The Mirror of Representation” and Federalist 65 – 67
15. Rakove: “The Mirror of Representation” and Federalist 68 – 70
16. Rakove: “Creating the Presidency” and Federalist 71 – 74
17. Rakove: “Creating the Presidency” and Federalist 75 – 77
18. Rakove: “Rights” and Federalist 78 – 80
19. Rakove: “Rights” and Federalist 81 – 83
20. Rakove: “Madison and the Origins of Originalism” and Federalist 84 – 85


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