Unit 4 Assignment Sheet


Assignment 1. 'Tis Time to Part--Common Sense

  • Nash, 156-161.
  • Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776. [PDF]
    • If you want to read the full text version, you can download it here.

Questions to Consider [LINK].

Assignment 2. Declaring Independence

  • Read Nash, 161-167.
  • Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence, 1776. [LINK]
  • Deleted section from draft of Declaration. [Doc]

Questions to Consider:

  1. What is the structure of the Declaration? How does it read? To whom was it targeted?
  2. What did TJ appeal to in the first paragraph?
  3. What are the inalienable rights asserted by TJ?
  4. According to TJ, why are governments instituted?
  5. When is it appropriate to change a government?
  6. What are the abuses and usurpations perpetrated by England?
  7. Which were the fault of parliament? Which were the fault of the king?
  8. What did the colonists do to resolve the situation? How were they met?
  9. What are the conclusions put forward by TJ?
  10. What powers does TJ believe this new entity should have?
  11. Was the Declaration legal?
  12. In what ways does the Declaration of Independence reflect the foundations of British political tradition? In what sense does it depart from that tradition/
  13. Why was Jefferson’s paragraph on the slave trade omitted from the final draft of the Declaration?
  14. What issues did the Declaration of Independence fail to resolve regarding equality? Regarding the newly established national government?
  15. Is the Declaration of Independence a radical document? Explain.
  16. What other historical documents laid the groundwork for the Declaration?

Assignment 3. The Limits of Liberty

  • Nash, 167-169. 173-181, 188-191 for background.
  • Packet of Primary Sources—includes:
    • "Letter from Four Slaves of Massachusetts to Provincial Legislature, April 20, 1773" [PDF]
    • "Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation Freeing Slaves, November 7, 1775" [PDF]
    • "Chapter I of A Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the State of Vermont, 1777" [PDF]
    • "1779 Freedom Petition submitted by Slaves to the New Hampshire State Legislature"  [PDF]
    • "1781 Letter and Freedom Petition from freed slaves"  [PDF]
    • "Excerpts from Letters between Abigail Adams and John Adams"  [PDF]

Questions to Consider:

  1. What do the letters and petitions written by the slaves tell you about the slavery in the 1770s and the revolution’s impact on the institution?
  2. What is the significance of Lord Dunmore’s proclamation?
  3. Thinking back to the Edmund Morgan essay, how had slavery changed since the late 17th century?
  4. Was total emancipation possible in the 1770s? Why or why not? Was Vermont an exception?
  5. Was Abigail Adams requesting equality or something else?
  6. What does John Adams mean when he refers to "our struggle" loosening "the bands of Government every where"?
  7. How did the treatment of slaves and women in the late 18th century square with the principles of the Declaration of Independence?

Assignment 4. The Revolution: Conservative or Radical

  • Nash, 201-204
  • “Was the American Revolution a Conservative Movement” (Readings by both Carl Degler & Gordon Wood). [PDF]

Questions to Consider:

  1. What precisely are the arguments and evidence provided by those historians who view the American Revolution as conservative?
  2. What precisely are the arguments and evidence provided by those historians who view the American Revolution as radical?
  3. What are the problems in each of these assessments?
  4. Which do you find ultimately more persuasive?
  5. What do you think Bernard Bailyn’s assessment would be?
  6. What do you Gary Nash’s assessment would be?
  7. What do you think T.H. Breen’s assessment would be?

Assignment 5. The Articles of Confederation

  • Nash, 163-165, 204-212, 199-203.
  • Articles of Confederation, 1777. [LINK]
  • The Northwest Ordinance, 1787. [LINK]
  • "Letter from Benjamin Lincoln to George Washington" (1786). [PDF]

Questions to Consider:

  1. Characterize the types of state governments formed immediately after Americans declared independence.
  2. How was the government under the Articles of Confederation organized?
  3. What was wrong with the system of government under the Articles of Confederation? Did it have any redeeming features?
  4. What would have happened had the Articles remained the framework for the government of the US?
  5. Why was western land such a major problem for the nation? How did the government under the Articles systematize the settlement of western lands?
  6. What were the main provisions and the significance of the Land Ordinance of 1785?
  7. What were the main provisions and the significance of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787? Why do historians believe it was the most important contribution of the government under the Articles besides winning the war against the British?
  8. What was the significance of Shays' Rebellion for the drafting of the Constitution? Do the circumstances surrounding the rebellion and the reaction support or undermine the neo-Progressive approach?

Assignment 6. The Nuts and Bolts of the Constitution

  • Nash, 212-216.
  • The United States Constitution (1787). [LINK]
  • Homework: Fill in Constitution Outline--Below is a Word document you can fill in by typing or a PDF document that you can write in. You must bring both a copy of the Constitution and the outline to each class

Questions to Consider:

  1. According to the Constitution, where does political and governmental authority rest? Why?
  2. According to the Constitution, who establishes the methods and mechanism for electing members of Congress? Why is this significant?
  3. How are Senators chosen (according to the original Constitution)
  4. What are the enumerated powers that the Constitution grants to Congress (in Article I, Section 8)? What powers does the Constitution deny to Congress?
  5. What is the elastic clause?
  6. What powers does the Constitution grant the states? What powers does it deny the states?
  7. According to the Constitution how is the President chosen? How is the Vice President chosen?
  8. What powers does the Constitution grant to the President? What powers does it grant to the Vice President?
  9. What are the different ways a president can veto congressional legislation? How can a veto be overridden?
  10. According to the Constitution, what is the function of the Supreme Court? What types of cases are within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court (what types of cases are they allowed to hear)?
  11. What is judicial review? Why is it important?
  12. What is the process of amending the Constitution? How is an amendment different from a law? What role does the president have in the amending process?
  13. What impact does Article VI have on the balance of power between the federal government and the states? How is this different from the Articles of Confederation?
  14. What is separation of powers?
  15. What are checks and balances?
  16. Make certain you understand the distinction between separation of powers and balance of powers
  17. According to the Constitution, where does political and governmental authority rest? Why?
  18. Is slavery directly referred to in the Constitution? How many different ways is slavery indirectly referred to?

Assignment 7. Interpreting the Constitution

  • Alfred Young, "The Framers of the Constitution and the 'Genius' of the People," Radical History Review, vol. 42, (Fall 1988), 8-18. [PDF]
  • Completely optional: Comments on Young's article by a number of other historians. [PDF]

Questions to Consider:

  1. What was Hamilton’s proposal at the constitutional convention? What did the delegates think of it?
  2. According to Young, what accommodation was taking place inside the convention??
  3. Who were the 4 “ghosts” haunting the convention?
  4. What were the elite divisions that characterized the period?
  5. What were the democratic divisions characterizing the period?
  6. What was the second accommodation?
  7. What’s the moral of Young’s narrative of the convention?
  8. How does Young’s interpretation differ from a conventional Progressive interpretation as put forward by Charles Beard?
  9. What was the purpose of the Bill of Rights? Why were they added?

Assignment 8. Federalist No. 10

  • Skim Nash, 216-221
  • Publius (James Madison), “The Federalist No. 10: The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection” Daily Advertiser, Thursday, November 22, 1787. [PDF] or [LINK]
  • George Clinton, "An Attack on the Proposed Federal Constitution" (1787). [PDF]

Questions to Consider [LINK].

Assignment 9. Hamilton vs. Jefferson

  • Skim Nash, 218-232
  • Paul Johnson, The Early American Republic, 1789-1828 (New York, OUP: 2007), 10-16. [PDF]
  • Look at this linked website on the first federal congress. [LINK]
  • Read one of the following documents, briefly skim the others:
    • Thomas Jefferson, "The Present State of Manufactures, Commerce, Interior and Exterior Trade," in Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785. [LINK]
    • Alexander Hamilton, Report on Public Credit, 1790. [LINK]
    • Alexander Hamilton's Opinion as the Constitutionality of the Bank of the United States, 1791. [LINK]
    • Thomas Jefferson's Opinion on the Constitutionality of the Bank of the United States, 1791. [LINK]

Questions to Consider:

  1. What was Alexander Hamilton’s economic plan for the new nation? Why was it controversial?
  2. According to Young, what accommodation was taking place inside the convention??
  3. Why did TJ think that AH’s economic system “flowed from principles adverse to liberty, and was calculated to undermine and demolish the republic?
  4. What was Jefferson’s vision of America? According to TJ, what was the role should commerce play?