Reasoned Argument Book Club

REASONED ARGUMENT: THE COUNTER TO CANCEL CULTURE

American Argument Prior to, During, and Following the
Federalist-Antifederalist Debate

featuring

John S. Baker, Jr., Ph.D.,
Professor Emeritus,
Louisiana State University Law Center 

Reasoned Argument Book Club will run weekly on Tuesday evenings for 13 one-hour sessions, beginning Tuesday, August 24th at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. The class is now full, but you can watch the live streams on our website and YouTube.

Law and Liberty’s Lifeblood: Reasoned, Persuasive Argument

The Republicanism of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution is the product of reasoned, persuasive argument. Over time, however, the republican rhetoric of law and liberty has been pushed aside by the language of regulation and federal power. More recently, Marxist rhetoric condemning America has erupted into the public square. The different worlds of sports, entertainment, education, media, as well as big law and large corporations seem to be singing from the same hymnal.  

Condemning America and commanding—not arguing—that we should all think and speak as directed is the way of Cancel Culture. Rather than responding in kind, this Book Club offers an opportunity to refresh our understanding of the Republicanism that fueled the Founding and the Post-Civil War Amendments.

The audience for this Book Club includes not only law students and lawyers, but anyone concerned about disorder in our constitutional order. This Book Club is closer to a collection of essays, largely drawing from two books: Our Republican Constitution by Professor Randy Barnett; Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution by Professor Forrest McDonald; and The Ethics of Rhetoric by Richard Weaver.

Professor Barnett’s book is aimed at a general, non-scholarly audience. Professor McDonald’s book goes more deeply into the intellectual richness of the Founding. Dr. Weaver's book addresses ethical and persuasive speaking and argument by analyzing particular arguments, including those of Lincoln.

Persuasive Speech—aka Rhetoric

Justice Scalia proved the power of rhetoric, classically understood. He defended the Rule of Law and Originalism, through much more than pure reason. He used, of course, analogies and memorable metaphors, e.g., “this wolf comes as a wolf.” It was his passion for truth, however, that powered his persuasiveness. The challenge, which he relished, was addressing written and oral arguments aimed at audiences steeped in relativism. For readers and listeners ranging from fans to sneering cynics, he employed humor, sarcasm, hyperbole, and (from the bench and in speeches) especially facial expressions. His purpose: to shatter their un-reflected acceptance of Progressive constitutional truisms.

Professor Baker co-taught with Justice Scalia over the entire period of the Justice’s tenure on the Supreme Court. Besides arguing constitutional cases, including twice in the Supreme Court, Baker tried over 40 felony, jury trials and countless misdemeanors as a state prosecutor prior to entering law teaching.

Baker emphasizes that one need not have the personality of a Justice Scalia in order to understand Rhetoric and to argue more persuasively. One need not even ever make formal arguments in order to realize its benefit in the most informal of exchanges with others. But everyone needs an understanding of Rhetoric in order to protect against Woke’s “Condemn and Command” rhetoric. 

I. THE REPUBLICANISM OF THE FOUNDING

August 24th: Introduction: Do we live in a Democracy, a Republic, or a blended Democratic Republic?

August 31st: The Declaration of Independence: How much of the Declaration is still largely believed?

September 7th: Defending the Republic through Rhetoric: Cicero and Justice Scalia.

  • The Five parts of Rhetoric, as outlined by Cicero.
  • Our Republican Constitution, CH. 2 & 3 (pp. 52-81).
  • Novus Ordo Seclorum, pp. 57 and 1st par. of p. 70.
  • Scalia Speaks, pp. 157-168 and pp. 180-187

September 14th: Colonial Courtroom Rhetoric

September 21st: Declaration-related Rhetoric

September 28th: Rights, Ratification, and Revolution

  • Patrick Henry versus James Madison~~ The Climax of the Federalist-Anti-Federalist Debate (June 1788)
  • Madison on the Bill of Rights in the first Congress (1789)
  • Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) versus Thomas Paine, Rights of Man (1791)

 II. ARGUMENTS THAT INSTITUTIONALIZED THE CONSTITUTION & ATTEMPTED TO AVERT THE CIVIL WAR

October 5th: Washington’s Presidency

October 12th: John Adams and the Alien and Sedition Acts versus Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions (1798).

October 19th: After the War of 1812 to 1850

  • Great orators dominate Congress: Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun
  • Novus Ordo Seclorum, Ch. 8, with a focus on pp. 282-284
  • Our Republican Constitution by Randy Barnett, Ch. 4, pp. 85-90
  • Watch the Federalist Society's 10-minute video, “Executive Power & the Louisiana Purchase

October 26th: Abolition Movement

November 2nd: Arguments producing the Post-Civil War Amendments

  • Our Republican Constitution, pp. 85-113.

III. POSITIVISM, PROGRESSIVSM & SOCIAL DARWINISM ALTER ARGUMENT

November 9th: Replacing Natural Law with Positivism, Progressivism, and Social Darwinism.

  • Justice/Harvard Law Professor Holmes versus Justice/Harvard Law Professor Story.
  • Woodrow Wilson, an accomplished public speaker and debater, attacking the Founding and the Constitution as outmoded.
  • The Scopes Trial: Clarence Darrow versus. Wm. Jennings Bryan (1925)

November 16th: Reasoned Argument versus Thought and Speech Suppression.