Academic Year Seminars

The Witherspoon Institute and the James Madison Program are co-sponsoring a year-long noncredit reading group on The Federalist, meeting on Thursday afternoons beginning September 21, from 1:30 to 3:00 in the East Room of Bobst Hall.  The seminar will be led by Professor Matthew J. Franck of the Witherspoon Institute (and visiting lecturer in Politics at Princeton) and Professor John D. Wilsey, historian, visiting fellow in the James Madison Program, and author of American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion.

Many students, for one class or another in college or high school, will have read a few of the “Federalist Papers,” a series of 85 newspaper essays published in 1787-88 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, advocating the ratification of the new Constitution of the United States.  We will read and discuss all of the essays, at a pace in which we can absorb the arguments, over the course of both fall and spring semesters in the coming year.  A full projected calendar of meetings will be shared with all participants.
Students joining in this noncredit experience will have no “assignments” at all other than to attend the seminar as much as they can and to keep up with the reading.  They will be provided with a copy of The Federalist, and from session to session the reading assigned will not be onerous.  Our objective is simple—to read together and seek understanding of this remarkable work that is simultaneously the most relied-upon guide to the meaning of the Constitution and the most influential work of political thought in American history.  
Interested Princeton students may contact Professor Franck for more information at

Summer Seminars

Each summer the Witherspoon Institute offers a series of intensive courses exploring vital moral questions in various aspects of social, philosophical, legal and political thought. They constitute the core of the Institute’s effort to encourage and inform outstanding young men and women at the undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate level who aspire to academic careers. While the Center on the University and Intellectual Life hosts some of these summers, the Center on Religion and the Constitution organizes the following summer seminars:


Moral Foundations of Law Seminar
July 21-27, 2019 
Princeton, New Jersey
Moral Foundations of Law is a comprehensive, week-long program investigating the relationship between sound norms of critical morality and the civil law. Under the direction of Gerard V. Bradley (Notre Dame Law School) in collaboration with Robert P. George (Princeton University) and John Finnis (University of Oxford; University of Notre Dame), the seminar covers some of the most challenging questions facing law students today, including: the moral justifying aim of punishing criminals; morals legislation; marriage and family; legal positivism and natural law theory; the right to privacy; church and state. Evening lectures are presented by legal experts, including appellate court judges and law professors.


Summer Seminar Application Information 

The following documents are required of applicants: cover letter explaining your interest in the seminar, resume or curriculum vitae, copies of your unofficial transcripts, and two letters of recommendation. All application materials must be submitted online on or before February 11, 2019; applications received by email will not be considered. 

Admissions Information 
Admitted students will be notified of their status in mid-March. A non-refundable $250 registration fee is required of all admitted students to offset the costs of tuition, room, and board to attend each program.

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Click here for a list of seminars offered by the Institute’s Center on the University and Intellectual Life.