Primary Source Essay

Instructions: Students must choose three (3) of the following essay questions to complete this semester.  Each question is based on a group of primary documents. You must read all of the documents assigned for that reading, then write a two to three page essay (440 to 660 words) answering the question. You will have an opportunity to revise these essays to improve your grade, so long as you turn them in on time. Please be sure that your essay is in your own words - do not simply copy out long passages from the readings. If you use any source other than the assigned reading, please use either footnotes or endnotes to indicate this. If you have any questions, please feel free to come to my office during office hours, or make an appointment.

Essay Questions:

1. Due Sep 11: Compare these three descriptions of the New World by European explorers. What kind of things do they emphasize? How do they differ in what they think important, and what similarities do these descriptions have? Readings: 1. 2. Hernan Cortés: Second Letter to Charles V, 1520; 3. Thomas Hariot: A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of VIRGINIA; 4. Edward Haies: Sir Humphrey Gilbert's Voyage To Newfoundland, 1583

2.  Due Sep 11: Both Hernan Cortes and Thomas Morton (a century apart) wrote back to Europe describing the people they encountered in the Americas. What kinds of similarities do you find in the way they describe the Indians? Are the differences just because they encounter different kinds of societies, or are Morton and Cortes concerned about different things? Readings: 2. Hernan Cortés: Second Letter to Charles V, 1520; 1. Thomas Morton: Manners and Customs of the Indians (of New England), 1637

3.  Due Sep 11: Nathaniel Bacon led a rebellion against William Berkeley's government in Virginia in 1676. What divided these two men? What were the root differences between them, and what did they think of each other? Readings: 12. Bacon's Declaration in the Name of the People, 30 July 1676; 13. Governor William Berkeley: On Bacon's Rebellion, 19 May 1676

4.  Due Sep 18: Compare these descriptions of the conditions of slaves and indentured servants in the colonial period. Concerning their passage from Africa and Europe to the English colonies, what similarities do you find? What was different? Readings: 9. Olaudah Equiano, The Middle Passage, 1788; 10. Alexander Falconbridge, The African Slave Trade, 1788; 11. Gottlieb Mittelberger, On the Misfortune of indentured Servants

5. Due Sep 25: Read the two essays listed here. Compare and contrast these three descriptions of the American character. Are they mutually exclusive or are they complementary? Readings: 14. Jonathan Edwards, from "Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England" 1742; 15. Michel-Guillaume-Jean de Crèvecoeur, from Letters from an American Farmer 1782

6. Due Oct 1: The three authors listed here all outline their opinions on British policy. What are their main themes? Do they all emphasize the same things? Which do you think makes the strongest case? Readings: 17. Soame Jenyns: The Objections to the taxation consider'd, 1765; 18. John Dickenson: Letter 2, from Letters from a Farmer, 1767-1768; 19. Samuel Adams: The Rights of the Colonists, 1772 

7. Due Oct 9: Based on these readings, what were the arguments in favor of changing the Articles of Confederation or reinventing the national government? Readings: 28. Publius (James Madison), Federalist Paper #10 1788; 29. Henry Knox, Letter to George Washington 1786; 30. The Virginia, or Randolph, Plan 1787

8. Due Oct 30: What were Jefferson's primary fears about the Whiskey Rebellion? What did he believe were the underlying causes? Reading: 34. Thomas Jefferson, Letter to James Madison (On the Whiskey Rebellion), 1794

9. Due Nov 6: Compare the way Lewis and Clark describe the Indians to the way Henry Marie Brackenridge did just a few years later. Readings: 35. Journal Entries from Lewis and Clark: Encounters with the Indians; 37. Brackenridge, Henry Marie, Journal of a Voyage up the Missouri River, 1811 (Here is an alternate version if that link does not work.)

10. Due Nov 13: How does Black Hawk's interpretation of American westward expansion differ from that presented in popular culture today? Reading: 42. Black Hawk's Surrender Speech, 1832

11. Due Nov 20: How did working in the textile mills affect the lives of young American women? Readings: 45. Harriet Robinson: Lowell Mill Girls, 1834-1848; 46. Female Workers of Lowell (1836); 47. Letters of John and Elizabeth Hodgdon (1840)

12. Due Nov 20: Read Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay "Self Reliance." Find and individual from U.S. history prior to the end of the Civil War (1865) who you believe fulfills the spirit of this essay, and explain why. Reading: 48. Ralph Waldo Emerson: Self-Reliance

13. Due Nov 25: Read at least three of the slave narratives found in reading #54. Compare the ways in which the narrators describe their lives as slaves. In what ways are they similar, and how do they differ? What about language - do they use different words to describe slave life? Do they speak the same? Reading: 54. American Slave Narratives: An Online Anthology

14. Due Nov 25: Two of the most important voices in the debate between North and South were John C. Calhoun and, of course, Abraham Lincoln. Read the two speeches linked here, and compare their positions. What do they see as the basic issues in the debate? Who do they hold responsible for the conflict? What do they see as the possible solutions and outcomes? Readings: 57. John C. Calhoun, The Southern Address, 1849; 58. Abraham Lincoln: "A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand," June 1858