Category Archives: AP US History

Slavery, Then and Now

Note for APUSH students: I’ve made and used this post before to help my other students research slavery. I know it will help you as well. Let me know if you have any questions. Please feel free to comment.

Note for US2 students: In order to understand racism, segregation, and the Civil Rights Movement, let’s look at how it started – with slavery. Now think: which came first, racism or slavery?

Slavery is one of the worst chapters in American history, but understanding it – or attempting to – helps us learn more about ourselves and the world we live in today.   In US History I, we’ve taken a good, hard look at slavery – then and now.  We’ve learned that there were over 35,000 recorded slave voyages, that slave women had all of their children forced into slavery, and that slavery still exists in the world today for over 27 million people.  There’s so much more too.  We’ve learned about slavery through the personal stories of Harriet Jacobs, Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, Louis Hughes, and more.  These real stories make the story so much more personal.

More than memorizing facts and dates, we’re learning as a class to ask deep questions about then and now.  Why did the majority of presidents before Lincoln own slaves?  Why did Thomas Jefferson father slave children?  Why did George Washington not free his slaves while he was alive?  What is the relationship between slavery and racism?  Which cam first?  How did it end?  How cane racism end?  What keeps people in slavery today?  Who is fighting to free people from slavery today?  What can we do about it today?

Here’s some of the sites we’ve used so far.  Click on the picture to go to the site, and let me know what you think about the information inside, or any questions you have.  Thanks.

Blog 31: Cotton Kingdom

Slavery proved to be one of the worst chapters in our nation’s history.  Dealing with this legacy is something that has shaped our identity and created patterns within race relations for hundreds of years.  Racism and slavery are two sides of the same coin.  How do you teach it?  That’s the issue.  That’s what we’re going to take a look at in this chapter.  If you’ve noticed, it is structured a bit differently than other chapters.  Not only is it thematically divided, but it is also built along a continuum from the perspective of the owners to those who either fought or found freedom.  It is well written.  Let’s take a look.

THE EXPANSION OF SLAVERY IN A GLOBAL ECONOMY (359)  In the introduction, there are a couple main points worth mentioning: cotton was king, most whites didn’t own slaves (75%) and the South was geographically diverse but predominantly agriculturally driven in its economy.  Remember those points.  Now, on to the topic.  Notice one of the first points brought up: per capita income in the South in 1860 was one of the highest in the world.  Ouch.  Why? C-O-T-T-O-N: the fabric of our lives, right?  Notice also that cotton production on its own doesn’t produce wealth.  There’s a global trading network that our cotton fits right into – and that makes it profitable.  Where would the South be without the British navy on its side?  Do you think that we would do so well if we were still fighting off the British and the French, as we did in the early 1800’s?  Finally, there are some important points at the end.  One is that slavery became entrenched economically and the second is that slavery began a domino effect – causing links that others did not want to break – even for moral reasons.  Your book doesn’t mention that Great Britain banned the slave trade and slavery by the 1830’s – and yet they still took in the cheap cotton.  Think about all of the businesses in the global marketplace today that sell products from sweatshops that consumers in the US buy.  Makes you go ‘Hmm…’

SLAVERY IN LATIN AMERICA (359)  Hey, Portugal gets slammed!  Well, it was one of the first nations to begin the slave trade and one of the last nations to give it up.  Note that in comparison, you book states that,

“Historians used to argue that because of restraints of Catholicism, Roman legal codes, and the greater frequency of racial intermarriage, slavery was more benign and less barbaric in Spanish Latin America than in the United States, and that slaves enjoyed more dignity as people. Though it is true that Latin American slaves had more religious holidays and days of rest than in the North, and that caste distinctions based on gradations of color were more prevalent, it is now thought that slavery was just as harsh, if not more so, and that differences within Latin America and between Latin and North American slavery were more economic, demographic, and regional than religious and cultural.”

This is an interesting point about the changing nature of historical scholarship.  What do you think caused historians to change their minds?  Moral relativity?  Political dynamics?  Class consciousness?  Let’s talk about it.

Another interesting point that is not mentioned here is that Latin America actually imports more slaves than the colonies, but by 1860, the US has over 3 times as many slaves as some other nations.  Families and slave codes make the difference.  Look at the intermarriage statistics in Latin America, though, and compare them to the US.  Racism and slavery – two sides of the same coin.

WHITE AND BLACK MIGRATIONS IN THE SOUTH (361)  A brother of a friend of mine actually is a professor and wrote a book on the internal slave trade.  I’ll bring it in if you want.  It’s something not really mentioned in most texts when I was in high school.  There’s a great amount of information on this from narrative history.  If someone wants an extra credit project, let me know.

SOUTHERN DEPENDENCE ON SLAVERY (362)  This section focuses almost exclusively on the economic role that slaves played in different fields, but mostly in agriculture.  Notice the title of the section, though, and think about its meaning.  Was slavery necessary for the economic health of the nation?  Was the nation dependent on slavery?  If so, why?  If not, then why was it continued, if not for its economic role?  At the end of the section is the piece that most texts include from DeBow’s Review, which talks about how the South needs to change.  These are important points that connect to the economic development AFTER the Civil War devastates the Southern economy and it has to rebuild.  Some people in history can’t avoid the ‘I told you so’ moments.

PATERNALISM AND HONOR IN THE PLANTER CLASS (362)  This section is brief, but talks about the relationship between a code of honor and the racism explicit in how ‘good whites’ take care of their slaves.  The justification for oppression is spread throughout history: in American schools on Native American reservations, in working conditions in factories by owners, in South Africa by the white government, etc.

SLAVERY, CLASS AND YEOMAN FARMERS (364)  Look at who owns the slaves.  There’s also an interesting narrative story here about a slave-owner.  What’s the message between the lines?  Notice the tension between poor whites and plantation owners?  It’s like a give and take in terms of power, but below it all is the slave system.  Even the poorest white was still white.  This is the institutionalized racism that doesn’t go away once the 13th Amendment ends slavery.  Do elements of this tension blurred class and race relations still exist today?

THE NON-SLAVEHOLDING SOUTH (366)  OK.  Non-slaveowning farmers were not the poorest, but they had a tough time making a living as well.  They are also most of the fighters in the Confederacy once war breaks out.

 

 

Blog 21: Indian-White Relations

Was there a chance of co-existence?  That’s the big question that is asked when studying Indian-White relations during this period.  Was it profit that doomed the Native Americans?  Was it racism?  Was it a symptom of power, where technology provides an advantage from one side to another?  Let’s see.

THE GOALS OF INDIAN POLICY (291)  What were the goals, implicit and explicit?  Think of it as a question of ends and means.  Was assimilation an end or a means towards an end?  What about treaty arrangements?  Was it only about the land?  The other question is whether one policy or another changes with the wind.  In other words, was there a consistency of policy or were policies politically expedient, depending on circumstances?

Your text also talks about one of the most effective weapons against Native American tribes: rum.  Then there’s the factory system, or trading posts.  Finally, Christianizing the Native Americans.  Oh, there’s education too.  Let’s see if I get this right: assimilation, treaties, trading posts, rum, education, missionaries, etc.  All in an attempt to reduce the Native Americans to a non-threat on the frontier?  Or some other objective?  What was the real goal?  What do you think?

STRATEGIES OF SURVIVAL: THE IROQUOIS AND THE CHEROKEE (295)  What is their solution?  Assimilation, full steam ahead, and it doesn’t work.  But there’s another message here.  It’s about the nature of democracy and power – and how the two relate to one another.  Is it possible that the Cherokee could have asserted their natural born rights against the will of the majority, or does democracy only mean that those in power have authority?

PATTERNS OF ARMED RESISTANCE: THE SHAWNEE AND THE CREEK (296)  There are different stories here with the same end, but one of the most perplexing is that of the Cherokee helping Jackson fight against their enemies, the Creek, at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.  It was the largest slaughter of Native Americans in US History and Jackson would not have won without the help of the Cherokee.  Why would they do this?  Was Pan-Native Americanism a complete myth?  The deeper issue in the history of human relations is the ethical question of doing what you believe to be right versus saving yourself.  Are there other examples of this in US History?

 

 

Blog 20: Nation of Regions

How much does geography shape identity? Consider that the early republic established many norms for the nation before the Civil War. Technology, communication, transportation, jobs, homes, the land, relationships, and more were all established in this time of tremendous change. Where would you live if you could choose a particular region?

THE NORTHEAST (284) What are the characteristics of the Northeast? Is it based on the people or the geographic conditions? Reading through the text, also take a look at how the land is used. Firewood, for instance, was burned at huge numbers. Livestock was precious. Also consider the map on the bottom of page 285. Notice where early industries are located. Is there a pattern? Also, think about what’s important to remember in a map in your AP text. Look for those relationships… not just want it says specifically but what inferences you can make from the information on the map. That’s the key. We’ll do a lot of that in class this year.

THE SOUTH (287) Cotton, cotton, cotton. On of the first important points you should note in your text is the list provided at the beginning of the section. This is a good study technique: look for lists. Often your book puts ideas together for a specific reason. Here it is: “A fortuitous combination of circumstances fueled the transformation: the growing demand for raw cotton by textile mills in England and the American Northeast; wonderfully productive virgin soil; a long, steamy growing season; an ample supply of slave labor; and southern planters€™ long experience in producing and marketing staple crops.” Also notice the statistics of change. Notice that the text mentions cotton production in one year and then another. There’s lots of inferences there. Think about the change; don’t just memorize it.

TRANS-APPALACHIA (288) 900,000 settlers move west in just 20 years? Holy moley! That’s a huge demographic transformation. Consider how this affects different themes in US History. Here’s the list of themes. Look at it and then think about this one issue. How many themes can you connect to this section? How about some of the other sections?

Oh, there’s another quote I’d like you to consider: “In this constantly shifting borderland, people of different ethnicity, race, class, and regional origin mingled together, their conflicting social, economic, and cultural values often generating tension. But as they built new communities, they fashioned new ways of life, in the process strengthening belief in America as a land of opportunity.” Think about the ‘land of opportunity’ message. It’s true, for some, that there was widespread opportunity, but also consider the other side and then the question… Does opportunity for some have to come at a cost to others? Are there other situations like this in US History? Are there examples where this question is not true?

THE NATION’S CITIES (289) Cities grew. Bye, bye Jefferson’s vision of America. Hey, what’s up! to Hamilton’s vision. 30% of the nations population was in interior cities by 1830. Wow. That speaks volumes about the growth of the internal trade network, transportation and migration. Cities are very American, though, and so the question has to be asked about how much of a role they played in the development of a distinct American culture and identity versus that role of the frontier and farms.

 

 

Blog 19: Foreign Policy

1) Break free of a dependence on Europe, 2) clear the Great Lakes of British troops and 3) protect American interests on the high seas.  What’s the common factor in all of these objectives?  Is it defensive or offensive?  Does the US have similar goals in 2009?

JEFFERSONIAN PRINCIPLES (276)  Your text states that one of Jefferson’s goals was peace.  Let’s think about this for a minute.  First, I believe that.  Jefferson realized his geopolitical position and he also was a man of principles.  Second, Jefferson wanted to protect and promote American interests.  This deserves some thought.  What tools and what methods will a US president use to achieve that end?  Is it acceptable to use force to promote trade?  Is it acceptable to protect American interests at the cost of something else, like slavery?  These are questions that all presidents face, and the same was true of Jefferson.  Do you believe that Jefferson should have done more to protect US interests against England and France?

STRUGGLING FOR NEUTRAL RIGHTS (276)  So what did Jefferson do?  He and Congress ushered the Non-Importation Act through and then there was the Chesapeake Affair.  Then the Embargo Act.  Was being neutral worth the loss?  Was a war worth the risk?

 

 

Blog 18: Agrarian Nation

Ever wonder what it was like to live on a farm 200 years ago?  In many ways, you can see an example from the PBS website for their series called Colonial House.  Check it out.  What about Lewis and Clark?  There’s a good website here on their expedition.  Now, on to the analysis.

THE JEFFERSONIAN VISION (274)  What’s the vision?  It was expansion!!  Yes, it deserves two exclamation points.  Expansion of land, expansion of slavery, expansion of trade, expansion of settlers – all was expansion.  You know, it’s very peculiar that your book mentions Malthus.  He’s been used over and over again in sociological and economic terms to define the population explosion and resource allotment based on ‘use to society’.  He spreads this idea that there’s only so much land to go around.  Jefferson didn’t simply want to spread the territory though.  The text mentions that there were subversive motives as well.  Jefferson wanted to protect the borders against foreign influence and also weaken the Federalist’s support in Congress.  Well, he did both.  Go, Jefferson.

THE WINDFALL LOUISIANA PURCHASE (274)  What can be said about this?  It is a big chest-thumping story of American nationalism.  Look how great we are!  We bought lots of land really cheap!  The political reality is more complex.  France could not protect its territory militarily.  Napoleon needed cash.  The Spanish were losing hold on their empire in Mexico.  In a few years, Mexico would declare its independence, along with many other nations in Latin America.  The US was weak, but growing.  Could France turn the US as an ally against the British?  If the US is focused westward, would its attention loosen in the Atlantic?  These are all real questions concerning foreign policy motives.

OPENING THE TRANS-MISSISSIPPI WEST (275)  The text says remarkably little about the Corps of Discovery.  It is such a compelling tale.  Check out these websites to learn more about their journeys as well as those of Zebulon Pike.

  • http://lewis-clark.org/
  • http://www.nationalgeographic.com/lewisandclark/
  • http://www.lewisclark.net/
  • http://lewisandclarkjournals.unl.edu/
  • http://www.pbs.org/lewisandclark/
  • http://www.zebulonpike.org/
  • http://www.tamu.edu/ccbn/dewitt/pikejour.htm

 

 

Blog 17: Restoring Liberty

Welcome to the swamp.  That’s basically the look of Washongton DC in the first few years.  This is the image of the beginning of the Jeffersoniam administration, but it was much more complicated than that.  The US was a growing nation.  Congress met in 8 different towns before this.  Now there was an official capitol.  The US could spread out, but look at the title: Restoring Liberty.  Does that imply that liberty didn’t exist under the Federalists?  It’s a tricky title.  Think about what you read and how it is presented.  Is there a bias here?

THE JEFFERSONIANS TAKE CONTROL (271)  Jefferson wanted to set an impression of his new term in office.  He had dinner with guests at a circular table.  He rode a horse rather than riding in a coach.  He believed in getting rid of social protocols.  He was also the first president to play the role of the party leader.  This would set yet another precedent.

POLITICS AND FEDERAL COURTS (272)  Here we see how Jefferson’s supporters try to do what the Federalists were doing in the Adams administration: removing their political opponents.  In the Jeffersonian’s case, it was through impeachment.  With the Federalists, it was through the Sedition Act.  You also begin to see the fight over the courts.  This is a direct challenge to the checks and balances system and it bears close scrutiny.

DISMANTLING THE FEDERAL WAR PROGRAM (272)  A couple main points here: Jeffersonians clean house.  They dump the Sedition Act.  They reduce the size of government.  They change back the Alien Acts.  They declared that property was best controlled by the states (no wonder there what he was talking about… hint: chains and whips).

 

 

Blog 16: Crisis Deepens

Jefferson and Adams have been friends, colleagues, enemies and rivals over the many years of their lives.  That they die on the same day is one of the most remarkable coincidences of the American story.  It’s also uncanny that they both die on the 50th anniversary f the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  Odd.  Maybe aliens were involved.

THE ELECTION OF1796 (265)  This is a short section because the main focus is the election, which is bitter and short.  Adams wins and basically Jefferson goes home.   He doesn’t effectively do anything as vice-president and leads the opposition from Monticello.  Lines are drawn, which leads you, the student and the reader to wonder about the nature of our political system – specifically the opposition party.  Consider the history of opposition leaders from Barry Goldwater to Newt Gingrich, and others.  Is our democracy strengthened by partisan and ideological division?  Perhaps, yes.

THE WAR CRISIS WITH FRANCE (266)  This is about the XYZ Affair and the insult to American honor.  What isn’t mentioned in your text is that the French also wanted a loan of $12 million and an apology to France in Adams’s message to Congress.  Bribes were not uncommon.  Washington had bribed a Creek chieftan and had ransomed American sailors from Algerian pirates.  This, however, was too much.  Just to get to talk to the French was going to cost money.  France was pushing the little US around, and Adams didn’t want to have any part of it.  Diplomacy was never his strong suit.  Yet another thing your book failed to mention here is that an American businessman, George Logan, goes to France to smooth over relations in 1798.  He did get some sailors released and did get the approval to send over a new American ambassador, but he didn’t have permission to do any of this.  Congress passed the Logan Act to prevent us citizens from negotiating with foreign governments as a result.  Adams also increases the size of the navy from 3 to 33 in three years.  It’s ridiculous that your book includes none of this.

THE ALIEN AND SEDITION ACTS (266)  Isn’t this against the 1st Amendment?  That’s the question always asked in history class.  If high school students can figure it out, don’t you think that Congressmen (and the Founders) could do the same?  Alexander Hamilton has other ideas.  What’s more interesting is how immigrants become political tools in this debate.  So much attention is focused on the Sedition Act, that it is almost overlooked.  Immigration ping pongs back and forth over the years as a hot political issue to inspire fear and to increase authority as time goes on.

LOCAL REVERBERATIONS (268)  Umm… is this a text section about President John Adams’s you-know-what?  Really?  C’mon.

THE VIRGINIA AND KENTUCKY RESOLUTIONS (268)  Here it comes.  This is the political beginning of the state’s rights issue that starts the Civil War.  It begins here.  Nullification – the ability of a state (in their mind) to override and negate a federal law.  It is the beginning of the state-compact theory, that states were and are the origin of the Constitution, not the people.  Where do you stand?  Is it the people or the state?

THE REVOLUTION OF 1800 (269)  Hamilton and Adams fought on a lot of issues, and this divided the Federalists.  The attacks on him were outlandish and would make talk-radio people today blush.  The result was a tie between Jefferson and Burr.  That was an embarrassment.  Hamilton helped Jefferson get elected by convincing Federalists that Jefferson would leave many Federalist office-holders in power in exchange for support.  Adams on his last days in office would appoint 42 judges in DC, as well as John Marshall.  It would mean the continuation of Federalist ideas for a long time to come – longer than the party would have to live.

 

 

Blog 15: Threatening World

What was the French Revolution and how did it influence Americans?  Did it change the history of our country or was it an international distraction? It was definitely bloody, and it definitely changed the world.  So did the revolution in Haiti, the first independent nation created by descendants of African slaves.  And finally, there were revolutions in Mexico and Latin America as nations south of the border fought for their freedom against Spain.  Sound familiar?  Once you begin a revolution, you never know where it will lead.  The United States were the first.  Now the dominoes fell.

THE PROMISE AND PERIL OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION (255)  How was the American and French Revolution similar and different? Here’s one site that offers a comparison.  The French Revolution, many historians suggest, was in some ways more influential than the American – but for our purposes, let’s think about it’s impact on the US.  It wasn’t as easy to just say that the American people either supported or didn’t support France or the French people.  As with all things in APUSH, it’s a lot more complicated than that.

In 1800, American ships carried an astonishing 92 percent of all commerce between America and Europe. The economic benefits were most evident in cities along the Atlantic coast but radiated as well into the surrounding countryside, where cargoes of agricultural and forest goods, as well as the provisions required by ships€™ crews, were produced.  America€™s expanding commerce, however, generated problems.

While England and France sought access to American goods, each was determined to prevent those goods from reaching the other, if necessary by stopping American ships and confiscating their cargoes. When locked in such a deadly struggle, neither belligerent was willing to bind itself by the formalities of international law guaranteeing neutral trade.

America€™s relations with England were additionally complicated by the Royal Navy€™s practice of impressing American sailors into service aboard its warships to meet the growing demand for seamen. This posed the difficult problem of protecting American citizens without getting drawn into the European conflict.

The French treaty of 1778 compounded the government€™s dilemma. It appeared to require that the United States aid France much as France had assisted the American states against England a decade and a half earlier. Americans sympathetic to the French cause argued that the commitment still held. Others, fearing the consequences of American involvement and the political infection that closer ties with revolutionary France might bring, insisted that the treaty had lapsed when the French king was overthrown.

So, this became a political issue dividing Hamilton and Jefferson supporters too.  It became complicated also by the fact that this international incident could (and would) establish a precedent in foreign policy.  It became the unspoken law of the land that the US would not interfere with European affair from Washington to Wilson (1917) in order to keep us out of ‘entangling alliances’.  Did Washington do the right thing?  National self-interest would say ‘yes’.  But to what extent can a leader of a nation direct a nation’s foreign policy in a democratic society without the consent of the people? This is a question Americans would struggle with for hundreds of years, and even now – as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan become semi-permanent fixtures of our collective memories.

DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTIONS IN EUROPE AND THE ATLANTIC WORLD (257)  Now it is Haiti’s turn – and the time for the leaders of the US to face the consequences of their racist economic system of slavery.  Revolutions against France were good, but black Africans declaring their independence was bad.  Notice that the US withheld recognition until after the Civil War.  Coincidence?  Hardly.

THE DEMOCRATIC-REPUBLICAN SOCIETIES (262)  Genet stirs up trouble and Washington responds.  The real story here, though, is the rise of committees and ‘societies’ modeled after the Sons of Liberty from the Revolutionary period.  Can a democratic society manage all of these diverse opinions?  It’s a test of Federalism.  Was there a possibility of continuing the Revolution?  Maybe the Anti-Federalists believed so.  Jefferson certainly did.  For that matter, so did Mao Zedong during theCultural Revolution in China.

JAY’S CONTROVERSIAL TREATY (264)  Can Jay win?  It doesn’t seem so.  While he addresses some issues, he leaves others untouched.  How do we know that treaties are in the interests of all Americans?  This is the trouble with complicated legislation and geopolitical decisions.  You can’t please them all.  In this case, though, Jay’s blunder again splits the nation into regions.  We’ll see over and over again how the early republic’s sectional identity creates many different challenges for each subsequent administration leading up to the Civil War.

 

 

Blog 14: National Republic

In the beginning of the nation, after the Constitutional Convention and and before Washington’s first administration, the people of the United States had lived through both glory and hardship.  As Dickens would write later, it was literally the best of times and the worst of times, all in one lifetime. Years from now, people would tell their stories of the first days, and their memories of the war and constitution-creating, in the early republic.

BEGINNING THE NEW GOVERNMENT (250)  Washington becomes the first president.  Did people in the new nation vote him into office?  Not really.  The Electoral College appoints him to the post.  As it turns out, no one ran against him.  Well, that’s an easy contest, right?  Notice the rest of the section?  It focuses on titles and ceremonies.  So much of history is filtered through images and visuals.  How do we ‘perceive’ the past?  That’s the key.  Still to this day, there’s so much fascination with the office of the presidency that I think its fair to say that many Americans focus on that rather than substance or policy.  What do you think?

THE BILL OF RIGHTS (251)  It’s almost sacrilegious to say so at this point, but the Bill of Rights were not a given in the early days of the republic.  Madison threw them together to get calls for another convention quieted.  Here’s a copy of the first draft of the original Bill of Rights.  Some got dropped obviously.  If you take a look at the news today, there is an article concerning how the upcoming Supreme Court cases could change our view of the Bill of Rights.  Even today, there is still interpretation of these 10 amendments.  How has the Supreme Court decided on cases concerning the Bill of Rights in the past?  Check out this listhere.  It’s super-comprehensive.  Wonder how the Bill of Rights affects you?  You should.  You never the know the true value of something until its gone…

THE PEOPLE DIVIDE (251) Whether you agree with him or not, Hamilton was a man of incredible intelligence and energy.  Check out his Report on Public Credit and his Report on Manufactures.  It’s deep stuff and you should study key components of them.  They shaped the development of this nation in profound ways. So, how should we look at this development?  How does Congress do business in the early republic?  Notice that lines are already being drawn concerning sectional divisions?  What about class division as well?   Hamilton wanted to do 3 bold things: 1) he wanted to assume the debts of the states, 2) he wanted to impose internal taxes and 3) he wanted to put tariffs on European imports.  All of these were so controversial that the only way they became supported was through Hamilton’s persuasive logic and political will.  He got the president to sign them and they became laws.  Now for the fallout.

THE WHISKEY REBELLION (254)  How would Hamilton get taxpayers to pay this Whiskey tax?  Umm… How about at gunpoint?  He led an army (the first united army) of over 13,000 to Pennsylvania to enforce the law.  How’s that for guts?  He’s Secretary of the Treasury for bleepin’ sake!  How would that go down today?  After that incident, there would be no more repeats of Shays’s Rebellion – and whiskey was taxed.