Directions: The papers should be 3-5 pages, double-spaced. The expectation for these papers, as it has been with your earlier essays, is for you to use the readings from class to help support your argument. There is no need for a works cited page.
I. The Unites States was supposed to be a new world, a better world – one where people would be treated equally and, because the people themselves were given ultimate power over government, where oppression of individuals was less likely, if not impossible. But we have seen numerously examples of people being oppressed in North America (the Trail of Tears, southern slavery, and the demise of radical Reconstruction in the South). We’ve also, however, seen examples of people in the United States fighting against their oppression successfully (the American Revolution, the Democratic movements in the 1820 and 1830s, and the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments). What then is the story of US history? Is the history of the United States best understood as a place that established extremely high ideals at the very outset – ideals that were understandably difficult to bring about quickly or easily? Or is US history best understood as series of contradictions and failures – a place where the oppressed in the US had to fight for their freedom by any means necessary, just as oppressed people throughout the world have had to do in places that do not have a founding document, like the Declaration of Independence, that makes such grandiose promises to the people.
There are several documents that we have read that speak to this question, but a few to pay particular attention to include the Declaration of Independence; Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia; the “workingman’s petition” in Pennsylvania; Andrew Jackson’s “Message on his veto of the National Bank;” “A Soldier’s account of the Trail of Tears;” Andrew Jackson’s comments on Indian Removal; Boudinot’s “Address to the Whites;” David Walker’s “Appeal;” James Henry Hammond’s “Letter to an English Abolitionist;” Frederick Douglass’s speech on the Fourth of July and his essay on the race problem in America; and the documents on the educational initiatives in the South. All of these readings are on elearn. Also, you may want to consider Roger Taney and Abraham Lincoln’s separate opinions on the Dred Scott Case from our lecture on the Civil War.