410: Unit 2
United States to 1860, Fall 2023
The Messy Birth of the American Republic
Questions to consider as you do the readings for this unit and as preparation for the first writing assignment.
10. Asylum for Liberty
Gordon Wood, The American Revolution, xxiii-xxv (the preface). Then read Taylor, 258-259.
Docs (You have to jump ahead to the next section of the reader): "Consumption and Trade in the British Atlantic" and "Alibamo Mingo, Choctaw leader, Reflects"
Notes: What was the impact of British rule on people living in North America? How was the defeat of the French likely to change things?
11. The Imperial Crisis
Wood, The American Revolution, 3-16; 21(bottom) to 24; 27-38 (bottom)
Docs: Thomas Hutchinson letter, 1765; "Resolutions of the Stamp Act Congress”
Consider the two documents. Are the elites who composed the Stamp Act Congress rebelling for the same reasons as the mob in Boston? We can read the Stamp Act resolutions. Is it possible to "read" the actions of unruly mobs?
12. Decision for Independence
Wood, The American Revolution, 38-44; 49 (from "Thus") to 57
Docs: Revolutionary Timeline; Adams and Adams, “The Intimate Revolution”; Declaration of Independence (rough and final drafts).
Notes: How did the events of this period push the colonists closer to rebellion? What made the Coercive Acts “intolerable” to the colonials? Why does Wood call the dispute “irreconcilable? Do you agree? Was there a point of no return? What are the most significant phrases in the Declaration of Independence?
13. Social Dimensions of the Revolution
Wood, The American Revolution, 91 (the need for virtue)-95, 99-101 (stop at the first paragraph break); 105 (from the first paragraph break) to 106; 117-123 (bottom); 125 (bottom) to129
Docs: Manning, "On Learning." It may be out of order in the reader.
Notes: How revolutionary was the Revolution? What social and economic changes did it bring about? Did Americans become more equal as a result? Does Wood make a good case for the Revolution undermining slavery? Did anything change for women?
14. The New Governments
Wood, The American Revolution, 65-71 (bottom).
Docs, pp. 25-34: Nast, "Writing on the Clean Slate" from The Unknown American Revolution; "Constitution-Making in New Hampshire," by Lynn Warren Turner; and David Graeber, “Surely one has to pay one’s debts”
How effective are the state and the confederation governments of the 1780s? How is Graeber's book relevant?
15. Turbulence in the States
Wood, The American Revolution, 139-150
Docs: “The Republic of Rogue Island,” by Tom Cutterham, 37-38; Begin reading "Debt crisis in early New Hampshire" by Lynn Turner up to top of p. 43.
Why was money such a problem in the new states? REMIND ME TO GIVE YOU THE WORKSHEETS FOR FED. 10 AND BRUTUS.
16. The Turbulence comes to Massachusetts and Exeter, New Hampshire
READ Wood, 151-153 (stop at "republican government"; Docs: "Paper Money Riot of 1786," by Lynn Turner, 43-50; and William Manning "On the Shays Affair," 34-37.
(Notes on Turner: On Sept. 1, 1781, the NH Hampshire legislature had passed a legal tender act making only gold and silver coins legal tender. The dwindling supply of the coins, or “specie,” led to deflation of prices. The Latin phrase in the first paragraph translates to: “The love of money increases as wealth itself increases”).
Were the rioters guilty of treason? What were their demands and were they reasonable? Assess the outcome of these events. ***In class, remind me to give you the worksheets for Federalist #10 and Essays of Brutus. Interesting side note for the music buffs: The militia that defeated the Paper Money Rioters played the Rogues March in their triumph. You can read about that song and its role in history here.
17. The Constitution: The Debate over Ratification
Wood, The American Revolution, 153 ("Fifty-five delegates") to 166.
Docs, 52-65: "Our Broken Constitution" and the "Outline and Summary of the US Constitution" mostly to understand the basic outline of the document. BUT READ Federalist #10, paragraphs 1-11 CAREFULLY and answer all the questions from I through III on the Federalist #10 worksheet.
Each paragraph (or clause) of the Constitution deals with one discrete aspect of the government. Familiarize yourself with the layout of the Constitution and know where to look for stuff. Federalist #10, is essentially James Madison's explanation of the why the Constitution is a good form of government. If you don't buy his argument then you wouldn't support ratification. It's a confusing essay and it's very important that you understand each step in his reasoning. If you miss one step the whole thing won't make sense. As you read Federalist #10, note the influence of recent events and controversies in the states on the document.
18. Ratification debate continued.
READ the rest of “Federalist 10” and the "Essays of Brutus" (DOCS, 65-75), AND fill out the rest of the worksheet for Federalist # 10"; AND "Worksheet for the Essays of Brutus," just parts III and XI. Also, use the outline of the Constitution as a reference. You can find the full document on the internet if you want the actual wording.
What are the essential differences between Madison and Brutus. How do their views of human nature and government differ? Who's basic vision do you prefer? If he doesn't like Madison's Constitution, what kind of government would Brutus design?
Food for thought: Historians traditionally depicted the framers of the Constitution as great liberals, defenders of the rights of man, and the creators of a democratic society. Historians who take this approach are sometimes referred to as Whigs. But beginning in the early 20th century, revisionists began to challenge this view of the framers. Some "progressive" historians, led by Charles Beard, argued that the Constitutional Convention was dominated by an elite and that the Constitution itself is an instrument written to protect elite interests against popular democracy. Based on our in-class readings so far, which view seems more accurate?
19. Fault lines in the New Republic
READ (IN DOCS, Unit 3) (these aren't all in the same order in the book):
Walter McDougall, Freedom Just Around the Corner, 337, 341-342 (stop at "killed in the cradle") & 345 (from "Thanks to Hamilton") to 346 (end). Skip a few documents, then:
Thomas Jefferson "The Importance of Agriculture," & Alexander Hamilton "Report on Manufactures" (these two primary documents on pages numbered 2-4);
Woody Holton, "Madison on the National Debt" (pp. 5-8). JUMP WAY AHEAD IN THE READER TO:
Gordon Wood, "The Whiskey Rebellion" pages numbered 1-5).
Timeline of events:
April 1789 George Washington inaugurated as first US president.
May 1790 Rhode Island Ratifies the Constitution.
August 1790 Assumption bill signed (US assumes state debts)
December 1790 Hamilton sens message to Congress calling for creation of a National Bank.
March 1791 Revenue act signed (includes 25% tax on distilled spirits, like Whiskey)
December 1791 Bill or Rights Ratified
December 1792 Washington unanimously re-elected
December 1793 Jefferson resigns from position as Secretary of State.
July 1794 Farmers in in Western Pennsylvania rebel over enforcement of tax on whiskey
August 1794 Washington sends troops to quell Whiskey Rebellion.
Notes: Understand the opposing visions of Hamilton and Jefferson regarding what kind of country America should become. In what sense is the Whiskey Rebellion the final battle of the Revolution? What does the outcome suggest about the result of the American Revolution?
Optional Video: On the Whiskey Rebellion
20. In-class writing assignment #2 (study guide). The exercise will consist of three mini ID essays and one longer essay. Study groups of three are highly recommended.