James Madison Symposium with Profs. Alan Gibson (Visiting, KICD) and Michael Zuckert (Notre Dame, Emeritus)


For the first public talk of the Spring 2020 semester, 2019-20 Kinder Institute Distinguished Visiting Research Fellow Alan Gibson and Michael Zuckert, Nancy Reeves Dreux Emeritus Professor of Political Science at University of Notre Dame, will lead a January 24th symposium on the political thought and career of James Madison, focusing specifically on Madison’s conception of an impartial republic (Gibson) and his “third hand clapping” interpretation of the necessary and proper clause (Zuckert). Free and open to the public, the symposium will be held at 3:30pm in Jesse Hall 410.


“What James Madison Problem?: James Madison and the Creation of an Impartial Republic, 1780-1792”

James Madison is often said to have feared majority tyranny and favored a strong central government as a nationalist constitutional reformer in the 1780s but then reversed course in the 1790s to become a Jeffersonian proponent of states’ rights. Focusing on Madison’s bedrock commitment to the creation and administration of an impartial republic from 1780 to 1792, Alan Gibson will argue that the “James Madison Problem” of inconsistency is mostly an illusion and establish the importance of impartiality as an underappreciated dimension of Madison’s political thought.

“The Sound of the Third Hand Clapping”

Scholars have typically interpreted the famous national bank case of McCullough v Maryland as pivoting on whether a Hamiltonian “broad construction” or Jeffersonian “strict construction” reading of the “necessary and proper clause” of the Constitution was best. In his presentation, Michael Zuckert will resurrect from obscurity and defend an alternative interpretation of the necessary and proper clause proposed by James Madison. Madison’s “third hand clapping,” Zuckert will argue, merits reconsideration as the most constitutionally correct of the batch readings about the necessary and proper clause proposed during the American Founding.

Alan Gibson is Professor of Political Science at California State University, Chico. His scholarly focus is American political thought, especially that of the American founding. Gibson has held fellowships from the International Center for Jefferson Studies in Charlottesville, Virginia, the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has published articles in, among other journals, American Political ThoughtPolityHistory of Political Thought, and The Review of Politics. Gibson is the author of two books on the historiography of the American founding, both published by University Press of Kansas, and he is currently working on a study of the political thought of James Madison, tentatively titled James Madison and the Creation of an Impartial Republic. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame.

Michael P. Zuckert is the Nancy R. Dreux Professor of Political Science, Emeritus. He has published extensively in both Political Theory and Constitutional Studies. His books include Natural Rights and the New Republicanism, the Natural Rights RepublicLaunching Liberalism, and (with Catherine Zuckert) The Truth About Leo Strauss and Leo Strauss and the Problem of Political Philosophy, in addition to many articles. He has also edited The Spirit of Religion & the Spirit of Liberty and (with Derek Webb) The Antifederal Writings of the Melancton Smith Circle. He is completing Natural rights and the New Constitutionalism, a study of American constitutionalism in a theoretical context.

Professor Zuckert taught graduate and undergraduate courses in Political Philosophy and Theory, American Political Thought, American Constitutional Law, American Constitutional History, Constitutional Theory, and Philosophy of Law. His advising specialties were graduate programs in political science. He is a 2019 Visiting Professor in Arizona State University’s School of Civic & Economic Thought and Leadership.

He co-authored and co-produced a public radio series, Mr. Adams and Mr. Jefferson: A Nine Part Drama for the Radio. He was also senior scholar for Liberty! (1997), a six-hour public television series on the American Revolution and served as senior advisor on the PBS series on Ben Franklin (2002) and Alexander Hamilton (2007).