OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

OAH Distinguished Lectureship program 40 years 1981-2021

Todd Estes

Portrait of Todd Estes

Todd Estes is a professor and former chair of the history department at Oakland University. His research concentrates on early U.S. political history and political culture, and he is the author of The Jay Treaty Debate, Public Opinion, and the Evolution of Early American Political Culture (2006) and many journal articles and book chapters among other publications. He is currently researching a book on the ratification debate, tentatively entitled "The Campaign for the Constitution: Political Culture and the Ratification Contest." He has won a couple of teaching prizes, including the Oakland University Teaching Excellence Award.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

This lecture examines the rise and practice of political moderation in the ratification debate. It focuses on the writings and actions of James Madison and John Jay and traces the emergence of moderation at a key stage of the debate over the Constitution. In fact, it argues that moderation is what enabled the Federalists to reach out to opponents and win them over.
This lecture surveys the way the Electoral College playing field has shifted dramatically since the 2016 election. The result has been a further narrowing of the number of contested or battleground states which now have an outsized importance in the calculations of campaigns. It also examines the way recent results have either solidified or reversed past historical trends and the ramifications of those trends.
While they are a feature in every history and government textbook, THE FEDERALIST PAPERS had almost no influence on the ratification debate in 1787-88 at all. Not only were they published almost exclusively in New York, the powerful ideas they contained had scant influence on the actual debate that took place in the newspapers and ratifying conventions. This lecture examines this historical anomaly and discusses when and how this series reached its canonical status in spite of this inconvenient fact.
In this lecture, Estes examines the political world of the early American republic by using some of the touchstones of contemporary U.S. politics as a way of thinking about what elements of politics and politicking have--and have not--changed and transformed over time.
Estes investigates an interesting dilemma: why is James Madison frequently called "The Father of the Constitution" when there were so many parts of the document that he seemingly disliked, opposed, or believed should be either added to or deleted from the text?
Using the 1795-96 debate over the Jay Treaty between the U.S. and Great Britain, this lecture examines the ways both supporters and opponents of the treaty worked to shape and activate public opinion. It also examines the ways that public opinion came to be recognized as both a real presence and a legitimate one in the young nation's emerging democratic (but not yet Democratic) politics and political culture.
In this lecture, Estes explores the way Federalists opened the debate over ratifying the Constitution with aggressive, hardball politics aimed at crushing and silencing Anti-Federalist opposition, rather than genuinely debating the new document.
Few people were more significant to spurring American colonists to undertake their Revolution in 1776 than Thomas Paine. But a quarter of a century later, Thomas Jefferson--who also wrote something profound that year--practically had to sneak Paine into the White House for a visit. What transpired in the intervening years to make one of the great heroes of the Revolution persona non grata?