Unit 6 Assignment Sheet


Assignment 1. The Society & Economy of the Old South

  • Skim Nash, 321-328.
  • Charles Sydnor, "The Unawakened South" in The Development of Southern Sectionalism (Louisiana State University Press, 1948), 1-32. [PDF]
  • Cartoon: "Slavery as it Exists..."(1850) [Image] [Text]

Questions to Consider:

  1. Looking at the top half of the cartoon, what is missing from the image?
  2. What does the bottom half of the image concern? Though the author of the cartoon intended to draw a distinction between the two societies, the fact that both societies are represented on the same page implicitly raises a feature of the early 19th century world that slaveholders as well as Northerners/Englishman did not always recognize. What is that feature?
  3. Characterize the economy of the South. What were the major crops; where were they grown?
  4. Was the South part of the market revolution
  5. How did the South begin to show its difference from the North?
  6. What were the major divisions within the South?

Assignment 2. Interpreting The Slave South

  • Nash, 328-333.
  • Eugene Genovese, “The Slave South: An Interpretation,” Science & Society XXV (December,) 320-337. [PDF]

Questions to Consider:

  1. According to Genovese, what are the two traditional interpretations of antebellum Southern society? Why is neither convincing?
  2. Though the South was tied to international capitalist development through its production of cotton for the commodity market, Genovese argues that it became a “largely autonomous, aristocratic civilization….” How does he reach this conclusion? Do you agree?
  3. What are the irrational tendencies manifested by slave economies that inhibit economic development?
  4. Why are some of these irrationalities, according to Genovese, only irrational from “a bourgeois standpoint."?
  5. What are some of the “bourgeois” aspects of the Southern economy according to Genovese?
  6. If there existed a commercial and industrial middle class in the antebellum South, why didn’t they serve as a vanguard for economic development and capitalist transformation?
  7. How do the differences between banking practices of the South and those of the West reflect the difference between the slave-based economy of the South and the agrarian capitalism of the Midwest?
  8. What were the barriers to industrialization in the South?
  9. What were the weaknesses inherent in Southern agriculture
  10. What efforts were made to reform Southern agriculture
  11. How does Genovese characterize the ideology or mentality of the planter class? Why does he conclude that they were not “bourgeois"?
  12. What was the basis of the planter’s position and power
  13. Why, according to Genovese, were social relations in the South essentially paternalistic
  14. What was the general crisis of the Slave South? Why wasn’t the South able to relinquish slavery voluntarily
  15. What are the limits of Genovese’s argument

Assignment 3. Yeoman Farmers in the South

  • Eugene Genovese, “Yeoman Farmers in a Slaveholders’ Democracy,” Agricultural History 49:2 (April 197,) 331-342. [PDF]

Questions to Consider:

  1. What are the 2 types of yeoman identified by Genovese
  2. What goals and values were important to the southern yeoman?
  3. Did they accept the pro-slavery doctrines being articulated by the planter class during the antebellum period?
  4. How did the view their place in society and the racial and class systems of which they were apart?
  5. Were they subject to the planter class’s dominance or hegemony or did they hold separate, distinctive views on the southern social system?
  6. Define hegemony?
  7. Why did the yeoman support the slaveholding system and ultimately fight for the South in the Civil War?

Assignment 4. Society & Culture of the Slaves

  • Nash, 339-349. (worth reading if you have the time)
  • Lawrence Levine, "'Some Go Up and Some Go Down': The Meaning of the Slave Trickster," in The Unpredictable Past: Explorations in American Cultural History (New York: Oxford, 1993), 59-77. [PDF]
  • Go to the American Slave Narratives website and read 2 of the narratives. [LINK]

Questions to Consider:

  1. How have historians interpreted the impact of slavery on slaves? What are the varying interpretive approaches?
  2. What was slave labor like in the South?
  3. What forms of resistance did slaves practice in the South?
  4. What role did religion play amongst the slaves?
  5. Why weren’t there more slave rebellions?
  6. What resources did slaves employ to endure their harsh existence?
  7. What are trickster tales?
  8. What do they tell us about the experience of slaves?
  9. What is Levine’s argument? Do you agree with him?
  10. What are other kinds of sources that could be used to access the experience of the slaves?

Assignment 5. Varieties of Reform

  • Skim Nash, 338-358.
  • Ronald Walters, "The First Age of Reform," Gilder Lehrman Institute. [PDF]
  • Ronald Walters, "Abolition and Reform," Gilder Lehrman Institute. [PDF]

Questions to Consider:

  1. What was distinctive about the antebellum Age of Reform?
  2. What were the three best-remembered reform movements of the era?
  3. What were some of the other reform movements?
  4. What were some of their common patterns?
  5. Why did they emerge?
  6. What were some of the strategies deployed?
  7. What are the role of social movements in a political system?

Assignment 6. Anti-Slavery & Abolitionism

  • Nash, p. 350-55.
  • Bruce Levine, "To 'Fight Against the Serpent': Antislavery and its Early Progress," in Half Slave and Half Free (Hill & Wang, 2005), 144-159. [PDF]
  • Excerpts from David Walker, Appeal, In Four Articles: Together With A Preamble To The Coloured Citizens Of The World, But In Particular, And Very Expressly, To Those Of The United States Of America (1829). [LINK]
  • William Lloyd Garrison, "To the Public" The Liberator, January 1, 1831. [LINK]
  • Frederick Douglass, "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro" 1852. [LINK]

Questions to Consider:

  1. What’s the difference between an abolitionist and an antislavery “non-extensionist”?
  2. What influenced the development of abolitionism?
  3. Why did abolitionism emerge with such full force in the 1830s and not earlier or not later?
  4. What role did African-Americans play in the anti-slavery movement?
  5. What characteristics did most abolitionists share? What were some of their differences in approaching the slavery question?
  6. Were abolitionists “responsible” for the Civil War? Were they crazy?
  7. Assuming you were alive during the antebellum period, do you think you would have been an abolitionist? If so, which wing of the abolitionist movement would you have found most appealing? Or would you just have been a non-extensionist?
  8. Why weren’t more Northerners active against slavery?
  9. Which political movements of the last several decades do you think the abolitionist movement is most similar to?
  10. Why are Americans now more familiar with abolitionists than with the free soilers?

Assignment 7. Defending Slavery

  • Cartoon: "Slavery as it Exists..."(1850) [Image] [Text]
  • Paul Finkelman, "Introduction: Defending Slavery," in Defending Slavery: Proslavery Thought in the Old South (Bedford/St. Martins, 2003), 1-44. [PDF] -- Focus on pp. 1-6 & especially pp. 19-40.
  • Thomas Dew, “Dew Defends Slavery” (1852) [LINK]
  • George Fitzhugh, “The Universal Law of Slavery” (1857) [LINK]
  • James Henry Hammond, "The Mudsill Theory" (1858) [LINK]

Questions to Consider:

  1. What are the various ways which slavery is defended in the cartoon?
  2. Does the cartoon support Genovese’s characterization of the South?
  3. What was Thomas Dew’s argument in defense of slavery? How was it similar and different to George Fitzhugh’s or Hammond's?
  4. What prompted proslavery apologists to develop a vigorous defense of slavery during the antebellum period?
  5. What were the major sources of proslavery thought?
  6. Why did proslavery activists believe that slavery was consistent with nature and Christianity?
  7. What made proslavery ideology so acceptable in the South? Was it mainstream or just the ideology of a ruling class?
  8. What were the consequences and effects of Southerners developing such an all-embracing pro-slavery defense?

Assignment 8. The Crisis of the 1840s: The Mexican War, The Wilmot Proviso & Popular Sovereignty

  • Nash, p. 362-372, 394-397.
  • David Potter, "Forging the Territorial Shears," in The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (Harper, 1976), 51-89 (skim well the last 10 pages if out of time). [PDF]
  • The Wilmot Proviso, 1846. [LINK]
  • Free Soil Platform, 1848. [PDF]
  • John O'Sullivan, "The Great Nation of Futurity," 1839. [PDF]
  • Thomas Corwin, "Against the Mexican War" (1847). [LINK]

Questions to Consider:

  1. What does Manifest Destiny mean?
  2. What was John L. O'Sullivan's case for expansion?
  3. Why did the Mexican War occur?
  4. Who was against the War?
  5. Why was the Wilmot Proviso important?
  6. What’s the relationship between the Mexican War and the emergence of the Free Soil Movement?
  7. How were free soilers different than abolitionists?
  8. What impact did the emergence of the Free Soil Party have on the Northern Democratic Party?
  9. What was popular sovereignty?
  10. After the Mexican War and moving into the 1850s, what were the 4 positions regarding slavery in the newly acquired territories? Who were the major backers of each position?

Assignment 9. The Crisis of the 1850s-Part 1

  • Nash, p. 397-407.
  • Richard H. Sewell, A House Divided, (John Hopkins, 1988), parts of chapter 2 and all of chapter 3. [PDF]
  • The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 [LINK]

Questions to Consider:

  1. After the Mexican War and moving into the 1850s, what were the 4 positions regarding slavery in the newly acquired territories? Who were the major backers of each position?
  2. What was the Compromise of 1850? Were were its constituent elements?
  3. What was popular sovereignty? Who advocated for it?
  4. What impact did the fugitive slave act have on the sectional crisis?
  5. What was the Kansas-Nebraska Act?
  6. What were the different reasons that the Republican party was formed?
  7. Which groups made up its constituency?
  8. Why do some historians conclude that the Civil War actually began in 1854?
  9. What was Bleeding Kansas?

Assignment 10. The Crisis of the 1850s-Part 2

  • Nash, 407-416.
  • Bleeding Kansas [LINK]
  • Sewell, "And the War Came," A House Divided, ch. 4. [PDF]
  • Key Excerpts from the Majority Decision in the Dred Scott Case [LINK]
  • New York Times Account of the Dred Scott Case [LINK]
  • Explore this Lincoln-Douglas debate website [LINK]
  • Read this excerpt from the debate known as the Freeport Doctrine [LINK]

Questions to Consider:

  1. What happened in Kansas from 1854-1857?
  2. What was the Lecompton Constitution?
  3. What happened in the Dred Scott case?
  4. What were the different facets of Taney's decision?
  5. What was the impact of the case?
  6. What was at stake in the Lincoln Douglas debates?
  7. What was the Freeport Doctrine?
  8. What impact did John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry have?

Assignment 11. Election & Secession

  • Nash, p. 416-423.
  • Susan Schulten, "How (and Where) Lincoln Won," New York Times, November 10, 2010. [LINK]
  • Declaration of Immediate Causes...for Secession, 1860. [PDF]
  • Crittenden Compromise [PDF]

Questions to Consider:

  1. What was at stake in the Lincoln Douglas debates?
  2. What was the Freeport Doctrine?
  3. Why was Buchanan such a failure as president?
  4. Who were the major candidates in the 1860 election? Which parties did the represent?
  5. Why did Lincoln win the election? What happened to Douglas?
  6. What was the Crittenden Compromise?
  7. Why did South Carolina secede?
  8. Did the election of Lincoln mean that there was no alternative to Civil War? Could Lincoln have handled things differently?

Assignment 12. Strategy & Tactics

  • Nash, p. 424-438, 442-444.
  • Donald Stoker, "The Grand Design," North & South vol. 12, no. 3 (September 2010), 11-22. [PDF]

Questions to Consider:

  1. According to Stoker, what is "strategy"?
  2. What's the significance of the inverted pyramid on p. 12?
  3. What's the relationship between policy and strategy?
  4. What are tactics?
  5. What was the initial Confederate strategy?
  6. What was the Anaconda Plan?
  7. How did Northern strategy change during different stages of the war?
  8. Why did Lincoln and McClellan conflict?
  9. How did Confederate strategy evolve during the course of the war?

Assignment 13. Emancipation

  • Nash, p. 439-442.
  • Abraham Lincoln, The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863. (Read the website info and the actual transcript) [LINK]
  • Barbara J. Fields, “Who Freed the Slaves,” in The Civil War, ed. Geoffrey C. Ward (Knopf, 1990), 178-181. [PDF]
  • James McPherson, “Who Freed the Slaves?” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 139 (1) (1995), 1-10. [PDF]
  • Susan Schulten, "Disunion: The Opening of the American Frontier," New York Times, June 20, 2012. [LINK]

Questions to Consider:

  1. What did the Emancipation Proclamation specifically authorize? Why did Lincoln put it forward?
  2. Why did it take so long for Lincoln to free the slaves?
  3. Why did Lincoln only free slaves in the Confederacy?
  4. What is Barbara Fields’ interpretation of emancipation? What is her evidence?
  5. What is James McPherson’s interpretation of emancipation? What is his evidence?
  6. Whose interpretation—Fields or McPherson—do you find more convincing?
  7. Why was emancipation important to the war effort?

Assignment 14. Gendering the Civil War

  • Nina Silber, "'A Woman's War:' Gender and Civil War Studies," OAH Magazine of History, Vol. 8, No. 1, The Civil War (Fall 1993), 11-13. [PDF]
  • Link to primary sources regarding General Butler's "Woman's Order" [LINK]

Questions to Consider:

  1. How does accounting for gender transform our understanding of the Civil War in particular and war in general?
  2. What are possible gendered interpretations of the women's response to the the Union occupation of New Orleans?

Assignment 15. Lincoln

  • Eric Foner: The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, November 30, 2010 [LINK]
    • This is an audio lecture. Listen to the lecture and if you have the time or inclination, the questions and answers.
    • You can also read a short essay by Foner on Lincoln in the Nation. [LINK]
  • Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, 1865. [LINK]

Questions to Consider:

  1. According to Foner, what was Lincoln's attitude toward race and slavery?
  2. How did the constitution inform his policy choices?
  3. How did Lincoln navigate the changing contours of the 1850s?
  4. How did Lincoln initially approach the question of slavery during the war?
  5. What led to his changed views?
  6. According to Foner what was the most substantial hallmark of Lincoln's character?

Assignment 16. Why the North Won/Why the South Lost...

  • Nash, p. 444-455.
  • Richard N. Current, “God and the Strongest Battalions,” in Why the North Won the Civil War, ed. David Herbert Donald (Simon & Schuster, 1960), 3-21. [PDF]

Questions to Consider:

  1. What is Current's interpretation of why the North Won the Civil War? Do you agree?
  2. What are some other plausible interpretations?
  3. Does it matter how you frame the question--that is, do you come up with a different answer if you ask: Why did the South lose the Civil War?