History Essay

Unit 4 Essay Instructions: Partisan Politics

Introduction

At the time of ratification of the U.S. Constitution, the new American nation of the early nineteenth century found its citizens divided in their political views. Those who favored a strong central government and thus a restriction of the powers possessed by the states belonged to the Federalist Party; those who believed that the Constitution should be interpreted so as to limit the power of the national government, thus giving additional power to the states, joined the Republican Party. The Federalists, therefore, espoused a nationalistic view; the Republicans, though they would not deny the efficacy of a national government, believed that definite rights should be reserved to the states. This activity will help you better understand how ideals embraced at the time of the nation’s founding still effect contemporary American society as well as help you develop skills in critical thinking and organization. (Meets Course Objectives: 7, 9, and 12)

Primary Sources

  • Debate on the First National Bank, Select Documents Illustrative of the History of the United States, ed. William MacDonald (1905), p. 76-98.
  • Alien and Sedition Acts or 1798, Select Documents Illustrative of the History of the United States, ed. William MacDonald (1905), p. 137-148.
  • Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, Select Documents Illustrative of the History of the United States, ed. William MacDonald (1905), p. 148-160.

Directions

This is a two-part activity:

(1) You must write an essay explaining the political philosophy of either the Federalists OR the Republicans and

(2) You must participate in a follow up discussion addressing the questions listed below.

PLEASE NOTE: The Federalist and the Republican Parties only emerged after George Washington became president; they are not the same thing as the Federalists and the anti-Federalists who debated the ratification of the new Constitution in 1787 and 1788. Moreover, this paper is not about the debate over the ratification of the Constitution, but about how and why national leaders broke into two political factions (or parties) as the Washington and Adams administrations sought to deal with domestic and foreign policy issues. So when addressing the Constitution, you should be thinking about the role the “necessary and proper clause” and the Tenth Amendment played in how these parties viewed the Constitution.

Part 1: Essay

For your essay, you must read the primary sources listed above and examine them for a Federalist OR a Republican point of view. Then you must write an essay explaining on the political philosophy of ONE of these parties.

Focus Question:

Your essay should address the following questions: What did the party believe about the role of the government and why did they adopt these views?

Format:

Your essay should have an introduction, supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion. The introduction should present your thesis (i.e., your answer to the question listed above) and the conclusion should summarize your findings. In the supporting paragraphs, you should include specific examples(quotations or paraphrases) from the primary sources for this activity.

You must also follow the conventions of grammar, style, and citations covered in a freshman level composition course. Regarding grammar and style, you should proofread your work carefully because spell and grammar check do not catch all errors. FYI: It is best to write about the past in the past tense as the events you discuss have long since ended. If you struggle with grammar and spelling, you have the option to submit your essay to Smarthinking Online Tutoring for assistance. Regarding citations, you must provide citations for all of the information that you looked up in your sources and you must include a works cited page for those sources.

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