Distributor:  Icarus Films
Length:  58 minutes
Date:  1998
Genre:  Dramatization
Language:  English
Color/BW:  Color
Closed captioning available
Interactive transcript available
You must register and login to preview and purchase items.

An Empire of Reason

New to Docuseek2? Please register and login to preview and/or license this film. If your institution has already licensed this film, you will need to access this page from your institution's network to watch the film. For help on using Docuseek2, please visit our help wiki.

What it would have been like if television had covered the ratification process of the US Constitution in 1781.

An Empire of Reason

What would it have been like if television had covered the ratification process of the U.S. Constitution?

Such is the premise of AN EMPIRE OF REASON, an imaginative look back at that process which ultimately gave birth of the United States of America.

Walter Cronkite appears as the anchorperson of CTN (Contintental Television Network) nightly news. In the TV news style of the late twentieth century, he reports the vociferous battle between the Federalists and anti-Federalists - to ratify the Constitution and become the United States, or to not ratify and remain affiliated, but autonomous states.

The debate rages on. Alexander Hamilton, one of the authors of the Constitution, and anti-Federalist Melancton Smith duke it out on William F. Buckley Jr.'s Firing Line. Heated arguments on the necessity of a Bill of Rights take place on the MacNeil-Lehrer Report and The Donohue Show.

Interspersed with the larger political and constitutional debates are lively local news items, such as New York Mayor Ed Koch's response to citizen demands for a trash collection alternative to the garbage-eating pigs roaming the city's streets.

Hovde explains that they chose this contemporary format because 'The way history is presented is cut-and-dried. It has nothing to do with us. It's people in period costume.' AN EMPIRE OF REASON seeks to elucidate the issues so vital to that time - the benefits of a unified nation vs. the fear of a big, distant government; the pros and cons of a single currency, federal income tax, and a Bill of Rights - in such a way as to reveal the continued presence of these issues in contemporary American political discourse. What is at stake is nothing less than the still ongoing debate over the meaning of the word 'democracy.'

'A super way to learn about our history!'-Marvin Kitman, Newsday

'Wonderful!'-Adjunct Professor of Law R. B. Bernstein. New York Law School

'Teaches as it entertains... so that a wide range of ages and educational levels can learn from it.'-The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

'You'll never have more fun learning!'-Daily News


** 1989 Emmy Award
** 1989 Cine Gold Eagle
** Best of Festival, 1989 Athens Film Festival.
** Gold Camera, 1989 U.S. Film Festival.


Main credits

Hovde, Ellen (film producer)
Hovde, Ellen (film director)
Meyer, Muffie (film producer)
Meyer, Muffie (film director)
Blumer, Ronald H. (screenwriter)
Roberts, Cokie (host)
Giroday, François (actor)
Blaisdell, Nesbitt (actor)
Sheridan, Jamey (actor)
Wachtler, Sol (actor)

Other credits

Co-producer, Amy Kaufman; director of photography, Edward Marritz; editor, Alison Ellwood; music, Arnold Black; historical consultants, Richard Berstein et al.

Distributor credits

A Film by Muffie Meyer and Ellen Hovde

Docuseek2 subjects

American Studies
Comparative Government
U.S. History
Law and Legal Studies
United States
Politics and Political Science
U.S. Government and Politics
Constitutional Law
Legal History
Colonial Era and Revolutionary War

Distributor subjects

American Studies
Comparative Government
High School Use
History (U.S.)
North America


Empire of Reason; Muffie Meyer; Ellen Hovde; constitution; Ed Koch; Walter Cronkite; Alexander Hamilton; Bill of Rights; federal; federalists; anti-federalists; drafting; ratifying; US; U.S.; Constitution; film; about; Bill of Rights; "An Empire of Reason"; Icarus Films

Welcome to Docuseek2!

Docuseek2 is a streaming platform of the best documentary and social issue films available for the higher education community.

Anyone may search for titles and find detailed information about the titles. To preview films or license them for streaming, you must register and login.

Currently, we support online registration for anyone affiliated with a higher education institution. Please inquire if you are with a K-12 district or school or with a public library.

Click the Close button to get started!