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American History DBQ Essay Example

American “Revolution” Discussion

What did the Revolutionary Generation say the ideals were?

The ideologists of the American Revolution believed that any government is hostile to freedom and seeks to establish a spiritual monopoly. They were trying to protect the citizens from the government and its merger with a church. These principles has defined the American attitude to the country, its political system and its role in the world. They have had a significant impact on the world, in particular on the French Revolution. Until now, any democratic movement refers to the great thoughts, once formulated by the founding fathers: “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (Zinn, 2005, p. 54). The main purpose of the revolution was not the overthrow or even fixing the existing social order, but the protection and assertion of political freedoms, which were under threat due to the expansion of the legal system.

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Except the power, the freedom lies in wait for another danger - a union of secular and spiritual tyranny, which was seen in spreading the Anglican Church. In the merger of church and state, the American revolutionists saw the foundation of tyranny, from which they fled. Eventually, the principle of separation of church and state became the basis of the American Constitution, which was the result of nearly a century of debate.

One of the main topics of the discussion of the problems for the Revolutionary Generation was the protection of freedom of self-interest and corruption. They saw this protection in the size of the republic, assuming that the greater the republic, the greater the variety of opinions and groups that would oppose the usurpation of power by someone.

The National Period

What were the major arguments against the Constitution put forth by the Anti-Federalists?

People, who opposed the ratification of the Constitution, according to which the federal government had to be created, were called the anti-Federalist. The anti-Federalist position was based on the ideas that emerged over 2000 years ago. These ideas are related to the issue about the kind of society, which is the most suitable for the republican form of government. Unlike the Federalists, the Anti-Federalists had developed a plan for the organization of the new government. The majority of Anti-Federalists were old Americans, who were raised on the ideas of republicanism. One of these ideas was the idea that the supreme authority in the country should be the legislative branch, consisting of elected representatives of the people.

Their representatives were mainly small farmers. Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Patrick Henry were the most famous Anti-Federalists. They advocated the idea of ?? Bill of Rights and minimum intervention of the federal government in the affairs of the state. They saw its purpose only in international activities. Patrick Henry declared that the absence of the Bill was the most absurd thing that the world had ever seen (Foner, 2011, p. 275).

The Anti-Federalists opposed the authoritarian national government, fearing that it might take away their rights, including the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As extreme Republicans, who formed the first state constitutions, Anti-Federalists felt a deep distrust of political power. Throughout the debate about ratification, they warned that public officials would use their positions to extend the authority. Anti-Federalists insisted that “a very extensive territory cannot be governed on the principles of freedom” (Forner, 2011, p. 275).

Reform Movements

Were all of these movements really "reform" movements? That is, did all of these movements want substantive change in society or were they efforts to achieve a more uniform, homogenous society?

The post-Revolution period is characterized by the appearance of a large number of reform movements. According to Foner (2011), “abolitionism was only one of the era’s numerous efforts to improve American society” (p. 454). Abolitionism was a social movement of the late XVIII-XIX centuries for abolishing slavery in the United States. The

Abolitionists had emphasized the relevance of their struggle with the revolutionary ideals of the past, which originated in the era of the base of the American state. Over time, there had been internal contradictions in the camp of the abolitionists. Black activists accused white adherents of racism; women were extremely reluctant when they were allowed to participate in the movement.

The first wave of feminism grew out of the abolitionist movement. Like modern feminists, these women worked for the abolition of slavery. However, they found that their political activity was not too welcome. When the war began, women abandoned their feminist’s activities and directed all their efforts at patriotic work.

All reformers were hoping to change the way of American life. The reform movements included the struggle with liquor consumption, labor unionism, and restoring social harmony by declining the gap between poor and rich people (Foner, 2011, p. 455). For example, farmers organized Anti-Rent movement, which goal was to prevent the eviction of landlords (Zinn, 2005, p. 159). Thus, the reformers were working together in order to create new uniform, homogenous society through social changes.


Identify the different types of resistance to slavery. Which ones were the most common, the most effective, and the most demonstrative?

The slaves faced the intention of the state and local authorities to preserve the slavery. Therefore, they had to show a desire for freedom through outright rebellions. However, in the USA, slaves’ revolts were frequent events. This fact does not mean that Afro-Americans serenely accepted the system of slavery. In the Old South, there were many forms of slave resistance: “from individual acts of defiance to occasional uprisings” (Foner, 2011, p. 443). This resistance created constant problems to the slaveholders.

According to Foner (2011), “day-to-day resistance” or “silent sabotage” was the most common expression of the slaves’ resistance (p. 443). This kind of resistance includes doing bad work, abusing animals, breaking tools, i.e. destroying the routine on the plantation. Some slaves made their masters believe in their illnesses in order to avoid work. The theft of food was another way of expressing the hostility to slavery. Serious crimes, like poisoning, arson, armed assaults, were less frequent. The slaves, who succeeded in running away, were the biggest threat to the whole slavery system.

A widely known case of slaves’ seizing freedom was the capture of Amistad. In the summer of 1839, schooner La Amistad transported captured blacks from Havana to the United States with a view to their subsequent sale into slavery. At that time, export of slaves was under the ban. Fifty-three Negroes rebelled, seized the ship and demanded to return to Africa. The Negro rebels were returned to Africa, the hearing in the Supreme Court followed, which resulted in the decision that they had been brought into the United States illegally.

The biggest rebellion of the slaves was the uprising of Nat Turner. He started with the release of a few trusted servants. The rebels freed slaves and killed their owners. Before white militias could retaliate, the rebels killed 60 men, women and children. Turner believed that the revolutionary violence would serve as the awakening to the reality of the relationship of white slave-owning society.

The Original Borg: American Ideology, Westward Movement and ‘Progress’

Do we have to have these horrible things (slavery, Indian removal, WAR, etc.) in order to have "progress"?

The theory of progress is only the application of the general doctrine of evolution of human life, but evolution legitimizes the struggle for existence. Progress is not directly connected with the improvement of people's lives. The increase of development is the result of complications of labor activity. Therefore, the more complex the labor activity of the population is, the higher the level of development is. In other words, difficulties in the development of the state can contribute to its progress. This opinion can justify Indian removal in the United States.

A state is formed by stronger tribe’s conquest of the weaker one. As a result, slavery appeared: one tribe had victory in the struggle and became dominant; the other lost its freedom and found itself in the slavery position. In turn, slavery leads to the emergence of private property and classes. The transition from nomadic life to the agricultural, sedentary life is related to private property. “Without slavery, planters would be unable to cultivate the arts, sciences, and other civilized pursuits” (Foner, 2011, p. 425).

The wars existed throughout the history of mankind. It can be said that people are the only species on earth that has created a whole institute of wars - traditions, rituals, political concepts, philosophy, and even the art direction. Thus, it is natural to assume that if the war exists, it plays an important role in the development of civilization. The larger the scale of the war is, the more large-scale investments in new technologies of military-industrial complex, which can be used in civilian life, are. The more devastating consequences of the war are, the more ambitious subsequent reconstruction is. For example, fundamental innovations such as nuclear energy, computer, modern aircraft, were developed by the US to achieve victory over the enemies. The Internet was originally designed to help the United States withstand a nuclear exchange. Therefore, it can be suggested that American progress could not have had such temps without slavery, Indian removal, war, etc.

Discussion – The Civil War

Did the efforts of abolitionists lead to the Civil War or was the war a result of other things and the abolitionists just happened to be there?

The main cause of the American Civil War was slavery and the desire of the southern states to extend it to the north against the wishes of the northern states. The reason for a full-scale war was a battle of Fort Sumter and the subsequent separation of the seven southern states of the USA, which was contrary to the Constitution. The controversy surrounding slavery had been raised to the surface of public life in the course of the discussions on the rights of states and tariff policy. Additional factors that aggravate the relations between North and South were contradictions between the political parties, abolitionism, nationalism and local patriotism, territorial expansion, the economic crisis and the modernization of the economy in the prewar period.

It cannot be said that abolitionism was the main reason for the Civil War. To the mid-19th century, slavery gradually began to wither away, and although the process had been very slow, it still would have sunk into oblivion in a natural way without the civil war and the reconstruction of the South. However, the supporters of the abolition of slavery, the violent abolitionists did not notice the obvious change. They demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all slaves, not even thinking about the fact that such a hasty decision of the problem was especially cruel to the slaves. The eager supporters of abolitionism had to realize this fact in the days of Reconstruction, when thousands of blacks, who gained their freedom, simply did not know what to do with it.

However, during the first half of the 19th century, abolitionism had remained in the hands of fanatics and obsessive people, like John Brown. There was no mass movement. Moreover, slavery sympathies were very strong in the northern states, such as Illinois, where 331 slaves lived in 1840. A similar situation was in Indiana, where the population was in favor of the legalization of slavery. In Ohio, juries often ruled in favor of the slave-owners, who demanded the return of runaway slaves. Thus, the opinion that the desire of the population of the North to abolish slavery was the main cause of the Civil War has no proves. The reason for the Civil War was not a problem of freeing the slaves (at least it was not the direct cause). The war was caused by the determination of the North to prevent the division of the country and the separation of the southern states. Lincoln insisted that slavery was not the main cause of the conflict. Keeping the border slave states (Maryland, Delaware, Missouri and Kentucky) in the Union was more crucial (Foner, 2011, p. 548).

Discussion – Reconstruction

How did Southerners attempt to limit the freedom of former slaves? How did these efforts succeeded, and how did they fail?

When Southerners were able to choose the local authorities, they refused to admit social changes, which were produced by the reforms of President Lincoln, and issued the Black Codes that reproduced laws about slaves. These codes introduced many restrictions on the rights of blacks. Black population was deprived of the right for land ownership, freedom of movement, serving on jury, voting, freedom of choice of the employer. They allow the use of forced labor of black children. There was the establishment of special courts to deal with the cases of crimes committed by blacks. Some states restricted the set of occupations available for African Americans. Thus, the end of slavery did not mean the beginning of freedom (Foner, 2011, p. 601). The laws about the slaves that were adopted before the war lay at the basis of the Black Codes. However, unlike them, the Codes did not include corporal punishment widely.

In 1866, Lyman Trumbull, Senator of Illinois, proposed the Civil Rights Bill, which defined all people, who were born within the territory of the U.S., as American citizens regardless of race. Despite presidential veto, the Civil Rights Bill managed to become adopted. In 1868, The Fifteenth Amendment was adopted. It explicitly prohibited the restriction of active suffrage in terms of race, color, or connected with the provisions of the former slave.

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