History of the U.S. and Its Colonial Origins: 19th Century

1. Readings and lectures in this course have emphasized the ways in which developments in the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century generated sharply contrasting viewpoints. For your first paper assignment, choose two documents (from two different weeks of assignments) from the book Voices of Freedom. Write a brief essay for each that encapsulates the viewpoint of the author and situates it within key developments in American history between the 1790s and the 1840s. For each document (and for each essay), you should then summarize what a document offering an opposing point of view might say (you might also identify the likely author of the opposing document). In some cases, you may be able to draw directly from one of the documents in Voices of Freedom for this opposing viewpoint; in others you can treat yours as a “hypothetical” opponent/opposing point of view. Each of the essays should be approximately (500 words)

2. Abraham Lincoln claimed that in the United States, “the prudent, penniless beginner in the world labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself, then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him.” Based on your study of American history from 1790-1900, how would you assess the accuracy of Lincoln’s view? To what extent, did it become more or less true over the course of the nineteenth century? How would your answer differ depending on which groups you’re assessing or which areas of the United States? As with your first paper, your essay might focus on one or more “representative individuals” to illustrate your argument and, where possible, draw supporting evidence from lectures, the textbook, and especially the primary sources found in Voices of Freedom.
(750 words)

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3. Mark Twain contended that “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.” Based on your study of American history from 1790-1900, what issues would you highlight to illustrate the “rhymes” between nineteenth-century developments and present concerns? What lessons would you draw from earlier episodes that could inform our discussion of contemporary matters? In making your case, you should draw supporting evidence from lectures, the textbook, and especially the primary sources found in Voices of Freedom. (750 words)

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