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HIST 312/FALL 2022 – PAPER ONE
Read the prompt below and write a well-crafted essay that demonstrates familiarity with both historical context and historical evidence. Make use of the sources assigned in this class. DO NOT use outside sources. You will receive no credit, even if you cite them. Further guidelines follow after the prompt.
Background: Protection of “liberty” (understood in the British sense of “natural and civic rights”) figured high on the Founding Fathers’ agenda. Both Federalists and Antifederalists sought to create a republic whose institutions would be guarantors of personal freedoms and rights. However, liberty in the young American republic proved to be an elusive reality for many people. The federal government guarded jealously its authority, and often restricted or fully denied basic rights to groups perceived as threats to its grip on power, finances and resources. Political rivals, common folk, slaves, immigrants, Catholics, native tribes, etc. experienced at some point the federal ire.
Your task: Write an essay in which you explain and evaluate the tense relationship between the liberty ideal as envisioned by the Founding Fathers and its actual practice. Discuss the following cases: the Whiskey Rebellion, the Alien and Sedition Acts, and either slavery (focus on the situation right before, during and after the Independence War, including constitutional debates and decisions) or the relationship with the Native American tribes (focus on the Trail of Tears and the Lakota Indians). Suggested length: five to six pages
READ the guidelines below BEFORE you START WRITING the paper!
This is an evaluation essay that asks you to provide an educated judgement on a complex historical situation by carefully examining the available data. Namely, you will have to analyze and assess the ways in which federal authorities acted when confronted with real opposition to their decisions or potential risks to their political, financial and economic interests. Your paper should NOT merely RETELL the events. To “discuss” is much more than story-telling: it means to explain WHY and HOW events happened, WHAT was at stake, WHO were the main actors, what were the major CHALLENGES and RESOLUTIONS, and the overall SIGNIFICANCE of what took place. If you merely bring together data without interpreting it, you will end up with an inadequate historical essay.
This type of writing prioritizes BREADTH over depth (i.e. it is wide in scope rather than explore issues in minute detail).
Be precise, clear and relevant. Do not assume your readers’ familiarity with the issues you tackle. Define terms, provide context, make inferences and draw conclusions. Your task is to break down a complex historical phenomenon into comprehensible parts, and show how they all connect together, how they influence and determine one another, and why they matter.
Rely solely on the materials assigned in this class. The goal is to prove your grasp of the issues and perspectives studied in the first half of the semester. This is not a research paper, so no new sources should be used.
The essay should begin with an introduction that includes a thesis statement. Since the thesis serves as a guide to your audience regarding the purpose, scope and direction of the paper, the best place for it is in the first paragraph.
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REMINDER: The thesis introduces the main argument, or contention, of an essay. Readers should be able to agree or disagree with it. In a historical essay, the thesis must make a historically defensible claim. The rest of the essay should substantiate this claim.
Avoid a lengthy, winding and fancy introduction. Briefly announce your topic, state your position on it (the thesis) and explain how you are planning to prove it. The ensuing paragraphs should introduce and discuss evidence in support of the thesis. FOLLOW THE RULE: one paragraph = one main idea. There is no predetermined number of paragraphs, you may have as many as needed to fully answer the prompt. The concluding paragraph should reiterate the main points of the essay, not bring up new ideas.
While you should make generous use of the assigned sources, you should NOT quote (i.e. write verbatim) from them, unless absolutely necessary to underscore a point you are trying to make. You should not have more than three brief quotations in the entire paper. You should only quote primary sources. Never quote the textbook or my lectures. Also, do not include random quotations simply to have a reason for citing a source. Your quotation should be helpful to your argument and well-integrated in the structure of the paragraph. You should also interpret it, not simply “drop” it there, and let your readers figure out why it has been used.
Overall, however, you should aim at paraphrasing (i.e. rewriting in your own words) the information you use from the sources, rather than quoting it.
Whether you quote or paraphrase, always acknowledge your sources. Use the in-text citation style to do so: e.g. …. (Klooster, 48). …. (Zinn, 86). …. (McClanahan, 64). … (Hamilton, “To George Washington”). …. (“Black Hills 1880-1890”). … (Original Intent of Constitution, 026:16-027:08). …(Sherwan, 10/02 lecture).
The essay should be typed, 12 point font, double-spaced, 1 inch margins all around. Your name should appear on all pages. Title page and Works Cited page are not necessary.
The paper will be graded in terms of:
1) content: the relevance, accuracy, and completeness of your essay, which should be based entirely on the material assigned in this class (use of outside material will not be taken into consideration and will evidently lower your grade).
2) structure: the organization, coherence and clarity of your argument.
3) format: correct mechanics (proper rules of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization).
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