Archive for the ‘AMU’ Category

Final Exam: Ancient Rome

Marcus AurelisI had my final for my Ancient Rome class this past Thursday.  Being an idiot, I didn’t bother to login to the classroom until the day it was due, only to discover that I needed a proctor.  Hmmmm, this sounds strangly familiar.  In may do me some good in the future to read the syllabus a little more carefully.  But I probably won’t.  Anyway, after scrambling Sunday evening and Monday morning, I was able to secure the good graces of my professor and my stand-by proctor and was allowed until this past Thursday to take the final.  Here it is, complete with grade and feedback.

Question 1 (Worth 50 points)

In 200-300 words discuss how Augustus secured his hold over the institutions of Rome and established one man rule of the vast Roman Empire. Be sure to address how he neutralized the senate, gained control of the army, and promoted the arts and religion as allies in his quest for total control.

ESSAY SUBMISSIONThe Senate was already weakening by the time Augustus came to power. Civil wars had sapped its political strength, though it still retained a great deal of prestige. Augustus realized that the appearance of a functional Senate was critical in keeping law and order and in legitimizing his power in the eyes of the people and so instituted policies that gave this impression, while maintaining its actual political impotence, subject to his control. The Senate was stripped of its power in foreign affairs, military policy and financial duties. He also added more regulation regarding who could be a senator, creating an order of property qualified members and their sons, including reducing the number of Senators to 600. Other symbolic measures were to forbid the wearing of the laticlave by the sons of knights, as this was to be reserved for Senators and their sons. These measures succeeded in keeping the Senate prestigious, but not politically strong enough to challenge the emperor.Augustus realized that to retain control of the Empire, he had to retain control of the army. Having distinguished himself on the battlefield in the days of the Second Triumvirate he had the bonus of being already revered by most in the army. Add to this that all soldiers swore the sacramentum to him alone and that he chose the legions’ legates and the provincial governors, he all but guaranteed himself the loyalty of the army. The authority he exercised made him the over-general, if you will, all battles being fought for him and in his name, thus all victories were his. In addition he made provision for his veterans by way of a pension.

Augustus also saw the value in religion to advance his quest for power. Though himself religious, and in fact a restorer of many of the traditional religious rites, he was not opposed to exploiting it for political gain. To at once restore the priesthoods and elevate himself, he took on the titles of all the notable ones. He was also not above associating his reforms with their similar religious counterpart. In all this, he paved the way for the imperial cult. He claimed to be the son of a deity, his adoptive father Julius Caesar had been deified, and building on Hellenistic influences only helped to proliferate the concept of the imperial cult.


He also rebuilt much of Rome, always gave command of large armies to relatives, maintained proconsular powers in all of the provinces that contained legions.

Points earned on this question: 48

Question 2 (Worth 50 points)Edward Gibbon believed that the Roman Empire reached its zenith under the Antonine Emperors. In 200-300 words express your opinion concerning the Antonines and Gibbon’s theory. Cite specific examples of successes and failures. Be sure to include the following elements: foreign and miliatry policy, the economy, the arts and domestic political policy.

ESSAY SUBMISSIONEdward Gibbon is probably correct in his assessment of the Antonine Empire being the height of Rome. The Five Good Emperors’ rule was characterized, mostly, by peace and economic prosperity. Upon Commodus’ ascension to Emperor, a perceptible downward slope is evident.Under the Antonines, most provinces were prosperous economically. Agriculture had always been Rome’s greatest source of wealth, and still was under the Antonines, but the areas of industry and commerce also flourished. Mines and quarries were springing up all throughout the Empire. Manufacturing was also developing. Things like textiles, furniture, and glassware, among others began to be produced in relatively larger quantities. They were nothing on the order of the modern world, but beginning to grow. Commerce also expanded as trade routes to the east and Africa complemented those already extensively in place within the Empire.

The army at the time of the Antonines was a mostly defensive army. Its job was to protect the Empire from outside invasion. As such, it was often numerically smaller than at other times. This was partially offset by the high standards of training required and also by the use of forts, walls, and other defensive structures. There were in fact barbarians within the frontiers of the Empire, but these were to be integrated into the citizenry and protected thusly. Those barbarians outside the frontier were the enemy and must be kept at bay. Throughout the Antonine Empire this goal was attained. The threat of force by the Roman legions was as much an asset to defense, and peace, as the legions themselves were.

The Antonine Emperors saw themselves, for the most part, as the divinely guardians of Rome. They saw as their duty to protect and guide Rome. As such, they were absolutely confident that they alone were the ones to be in control. The Senate remained, but was more or less an administrative body and than a legislative one. The Emperor was in supreme control.


The great gift of the Antonines was that they solved the question of succession by adopting talented heirs. This avoided the curse of civil war and allowed the empire to prosper in peace.

Points earned on this question: 45

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Ancient Rome: An Exam

Caesar AugustusAs you may have noticed, my current class on Ancient Rome has not been a goldmine of postable material.  I don’t have a lot of writing assignments, just a multiple choice weekly quiz.  That wouldn’t make for very compelling blogging.  However, I did have my mid-term last week, which consisted of four essay questions.  I present those to you now.

 But before I do, a funny, or at least mildly amusing, story about the exam.  I have until the end of each Sunday to finish my quizes and exams for the week.  I’ve found the texts for this class to be pretty dry and less than engaging, so I rarely complete the readings for each week.  All the quizes are open book and/or note, so on the Sunday the test is due to be finished, I’ll look at the questions and then skim the book and the internet for the answer.  I’ve gotten all B’s so far in this manner.  Well, Sunday I logged in and clicked on the exam link only to discover that this was the week of the mid-term.  Instead of about 25 multiple choice questions, there were four essay questions, each requiring an answer 300 to 500 words in length.  Long story short, the test took me a lot longer than I had expected as I had to cram some major research into a very short period of time.  A couple of the questions were pretty easy, as they dealt with one specific event.  Others called for me to discuss the developement of things over time, a much more difficult thing to research in the little time I had.  When I finished, I wasn’t too confident.  I didn’t think I’d completely bombed it, but wasn’t sure if I had pulled off the B which is crucial since my work will only pay for my classes if I finish with at least a B.  I got my results today.  I got a 94 out of 100.  That’s an A in case you didn’t know. This is not going to be good for my study habits.  Anyway, here’s the exam, my answers, and the professors responses.

Question 1 (Worth 25 points)

Discuss the development of Roman religious and family values and how they were impacted by the introduction of Greek culture and philosophy into Roman society after 200 BC.

ESSAY SUBMISSION:  Family and religious life was very important to the Roman. Marriage was primarily an institution which had as its purpose the continuing of the family line, the passing on of moral characteristics and the honoring of the ancestors. The family was ruled by the paterfamilias, the oldest living male of the family, who headed the household and had absolute authority of everyone in it, including that of life and death. The household would include the paterfamilias’ sons and their wives and children. The sons of the paterfamilias’ sons would marry, but it was rarely for love. Marriages were typically arranged affairs and a loving relationship was believed best to be cultivated over time afterward. The wife was subordinate to the husband. The husband had control over his own family only, not all members of the household, which was the right reserved for the paterfamilias. Divorce, adultery and other practices that damaged the family were looked down upon, as was infertility. However, as Helleniztion of the culture increased, the family unit began to deteriorate. Divorce became more acceptable and marriages without children became increasingly more common and acceptable.In addition to the worship of ancestors in the home, Roman religion was varied. In the early days of the Republic it owed much of its tradition to Etruscan mythology. The gods of this mythology were not personified like those of the Greeks and there worship involved many ceremonies and sacrifices. After the conquest of Greece, as Rome became more Hellenized, the Greek gods began to be integrated into Roman religion, not in a direct sense, but in syncretization to Roman gods. For example, the Roman ruler of the gods Jupiter is associated with the Greek ruler of gods, Zeus.


Good answer.

Points earned on this question: 25

Question 2 (Worth 25 points)Describe and discuss the factors that lead to the Roman Revolution of 133-31 BC.

ESSAY SUBMISSION:  The Roman Revolution of 133-31 BC was the beginning of the end for the Republic. Economic problems had been plaguing the Republic for years due to the almost constant war-making and conquests that had taken place in prior centuries. The Republics borders were burgeoning, but at what cost? At that time peasants had made up most of the foot soldiers in the Roman army. As the wars continued to rage and they were kept from their homes, those homes and farms would often fall into the hands of others, usually the wealthy. Upon returning from battle, they would find themselves landless and without work. The economic landscape was becoming increasingly unbalanced and without a thrifty peasantry from which to form an army, the Republic was in danger of weakening what had been one of its greatest strengths, the army. Reforms were needed.In 133 Tiberius Gracchus was elected tribune and though he did not fit the profile of a revolutionary, having come from a very wealthy and prestigious family, he would set in motion reforms that would foster jubilation among the poorer classes, and anger among the wealthy. He proposed land reforms that would put a cap on the amount of public land a person or family could possess. The superfluous land would than be parceled and distributed to the lower classes. Since many Senators were the ones who now possessed these disputed public lands, Tiberius knew that his measure would have difficulty getting voted through the Senate, so he took it directly to the people. The Senate tried to get Marcus Octavius, a fellow tribune with Tiberius, to block its passage, but Tiberius had him deposed. Tiberius then angered the Senate even more when he ran for the tribune for a second consecutive time, breaking the annual tradition. This act coupled with the fact that the three-man commission to administer the land reforms consisted of Tiberius, his brother Gaius, and his father-in-law lead the Senate to call a meeting to discuss Tiberius’ attempt for a second tribune run. At the meeting factions for and against Tiberius broke into a fist fight. Soon the anti-Tiberius faction, lead by Publius Scipio Nasica, marched to where Tiberius was and killed him and 300 of his followers.


The death of the Gracchi introduced violence into the Roman political process that would eventually lead to the fall of the Republic.

Points earned on this question: 22

Question 3 (Worth 25 points)Discuss the causes, conduct and results of the Second Punic War.

ESSAY SUBMISSION:  The Second Punic War officially began with Hannibal’s sacking of the city of Saguntum. The city was far south of what even Rome declared as its northern most border, in Hispania, but was under the protection of Rome. This was probably due to the fact that the area was rich in silver. Rome had sent an envoy to Hannibal warning him to leave the city alone. Hannibal was insulted by this Roman meddling in his sphere of influence. Add to this that the Romans and Carthaginians had been at war no more than twenty-three years before this and that, according to legend, Hannibal had pledged to his farther, Hamilcar Barca, an undying hatred for Rome and the tensions were clearly high between the two sides. Hannibal attacked Saguntum in 218, but it wasn’t until about a year later that Rome finally responded demanding Hannibal’s surrender. He refused.His first move was the now famous trek across the Alps, with his war elephants, to invade Italy on their doorstep in hopes of fracturing Rome’s allies away from her. Hannibal lost many of his men and most of his elephants on the journey, but still won tremendous victories in Italy, most notably at Cannae where his army killed over 50,000 Romans while losing only 6,000 of his own men. Despite this and other major victories, Hannibal lacked the men and equipment to force surrender from Rome itself and the war dragged on for sixteen years.While doing well in Italy, Carthage was having more difficulty in other theaters. Rome had expanded the war into Hispania which prevented Hasdrubal Barca, Hannibal’s brother, from sending reinforcements. Eventually, Hasdrubal was forced to retreat into Italy and was finally killed in battle. Fighting also went on in Sicily where the Romans held sway with relative little difficulty.

After forcing Hasdrubal out of Hispania, a Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio, better known as Scipio Africanus, took the fight to Carthage. He invaded the African coast which forced Hannibal, still unable to decisively defeat Rome or splinter her allies, to return home. Scipio and Hannibal faced off in the Battle of Zama where Hannibal was defeated.

The war ended Carthage as a significant threat to Rome. It had military limits imposed on it and when it did try to raise an army fifty years later to defend itself from Numidian encroachments on its land, Rome once again crushed it. The results were quite the opposite for the victor. Rome would become the undisputed ruler of the Mediterranean and would continue to grow in power.


Good answer.

Points earned on this question: 25

Question 4 (Worth 25 points)Discuss the development of the Roman Army from its early days as a citizen militia to the professional armies of the 1st century BC.

ESSAY SUBMISSION:  The Roman army at its peak was one of the most powerful military forces the world has ever known. Though it was always a cornerstone of the Roman way of life and political culture, it was not static in its makeup or constitution. It changed with the times, just as Rome itself underwent changes. Before the Republic the legio were conscripted and the Greek phalanx was the preferred method of battle. From the earliest days of the Republic, the army was made up only of Roman citizens who could afford to purchase their own equipment, much like the hoplites of Greece. Servius Tullius instituted a census in the 5th Century and the people of Rome were divided into classes during that time period, according to wealth, and it stands to reason that the army was divided into corresponding “classes” also. The wealthiest had the best equipment, armor, shields, spears, and so forth, while the lowest class might be armed with only a sling. Serving was an honor and a duty and the wealthiest often served the most as they had the most to lose if Rome were to be conquered. Enlistments were usually shorter than they would be in the late Republic. An army would be raised for a campaign, and then released to go back home for the growing season. As the wars of the Republic began to expand and the borders began to widen, longer enlistments were required and men would sometimes be in service for twenty years or more.At the end of the second century BC, Gaius Marius would institute reforms that would transform the army into a large standing professional army. There were many poor and unemployed citizens who likely had served in the army before, only to return home from a years long campaign to find their land had been usurped. The Marian reforms looked to make this group into a standing professional army whose equipment could be provided by the state. In addition, all Italian provinces were granted full citizenship, which created a larger pool of men from which to create a large standing army, as well as a larger tax base to help finance it.


As a result of the Marian reforms the new legionaries looked to their commanders for loot and retirement benefits and their loyalty was to the commander not to the state.

Points earned on this question: 22

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SlaveryCompromise of 1820

One such crisis arose in 1819.  The territory of Missouri requested statehood in the
Union.  In the House of Representatives, James Tallmadge of New York sponsored a plan to restrict slavery in Missouri though it had sought to join the Union as a slave state.  At this point in the young Republic, the balance in the Senate between slave and
free states was even.  Neither side was anxious to see favor tipped in the direction of the other.  A compromise was put forward in which Missouri would be admitted as a slave state, and Maine, then a part of Massachusetts, would be admitted as a
free state, thus preserving the balance in the Senate.  Also, the bill would prohibit slavery in the rest of the Louisiana Purchase territory north of the southern border of Missouri, save for Missouri itself.  Initially the bill was thwarted, but through the efforts of Henry Clay and others, the compromise was finally agreed upon in 1820.

As with most compromises, neither side was completely pleased and as Kennedy et al. (2002) have said, “the morality of the South’s ‘peculiar institution’ [slavery] could not be swept under the rug” (p. 246).  Though the compromise calmed immediate tensions, it only increased the chasm, political and moral, between the anti-slavery North and the pro-slavery South.  With the borders of the young nation expanding ever rapidly, the question of slavery and it’s affect on sectional balance was becoming more and more troublesome.  Writing to a friend after the compromise Jefferson said of slavery, “we have a wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him nor safely let him go” (as cited in Kennedy et al., 2002).


The Nullification Crisis


Sectional concerns were acutely conspicuous during the Nullification Crisis in the early 1830’s.  Nullification was not a crisis over the existence of slavery, but rather a tariff.  The Tariff of 1828 was passed in order to protect Northern manufacturers from imported goods from Europe.  The South was a major importer of European goods, as well as a supplier of foodstuffs to Europe, and as Remini (1989) noted many in the South saw the tariff as an abuse by “a government that used its power to pass legislation detrimental to part of its constituency” (p. 65).  Encouraged by John Calhoun, the South Carolina legislature passed the South Carolina Exposition to protest the tariff.  In 1832 the legislature called a convention in which they, as Kennedy et al. (2002) have stated, “solemnly declared the existing tariff to be null and void within South Carolina” (p. 264).  They further declared that should the federal government use force to collect the duties, “the state would secede and ‘forthwith proceed to organize a separate Government’” (Remini, 1989, p. 69).  In an alarming harbinger of things to come, Bennet (2006) has observed that “some ‘nullies’ even struck medals bearing the inscription: ‘John C. Calhoun, First President of the Southern Confederacy’” (Jefferson Davis was the actual first president of the Confederacy). President Andrew Jackson would have none of it and threatened to use force if necessary and declared that “disunion by armed force is treason” (as cited in Remini, 1989, p. 70).  Again, Henry Clay worked to ease tensions by guiding a compromise tariff through Congress ending the crisis.

Regarding the future of slavery, nullification had certain and definite ramifications.  It provided a precedent for a possible mechanism by which a state could secede should the federal government attempt to pass laws restricting slavery.  If other Southern states had joined South Carolina in its efforts the imbroglio may not have been resolved as relatively peacefully as it was.  The crisis also served to drive a further wedge between the North and an already suspicious South.  Through Clay’s guiding conciliatory hand and Jackson’s firm rhetoric secession had been avoided.  But as Jackson would observe, “Nullification is dead.  The next pretext will be the negro or slavery question” (as cited in Remini, 1989, p. 72).

Compromise of 1850


America’s ever expanding borders once again brought the free/slave state question to the fore.  When California applied for statehood, the Senate balance was once again evenly split between free and slave states.  California was applying as a free state and thus threatened to tip the political balance toward the Northern free states.  In addition, fugitive slaves were becoming an increasingly bothersome problem for Southern planters and they began calling for stricter fugitive slave laws.  Kennedy et al. (2002) have written that, “’fire-eaters’ in the South were voicing ominous threats of secession” (p. 396).  Once again, Henry Clay played a crucial role.  Along with Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas, Clay once again proposed a series of compromises to solve the nation’s ills.  California would be admitted as a free state, but the remaining territories from the Mexican Cession, much of it claimed by Texas, would be formed without any slavery restrictions.  The people of these territories would be allowed to choose slave or free through popular sovereignty.  As another concession to the South, stricter fugitive slave laws were proposed.  The compromises were fiercely debated in Congress.  At one point Vice President Milliard Fillmore and Thomas Hart Benton became involved in a “heated exchange [that] became so emotionally charged that Senator Benton was nearly shot by Compromise floor leader Henry Foote of Mississippi” (“Compromise of 1850, n.d.).  The compromises eventually passed and a tenuous “cease-fire” on the issue was initiated.

The results of the Compromise of 1850 would prove to further long-term tensions regarding slavery while quelling short-term worries.  The new, harsh laws regarding fugitive slaves would serve to galvanize Northern abolitionists and would lead “many who had previously been ambivalent about slavery [to now take] a definitive stance against the institution” (“The Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Act,” n.d.).  Even with the new laws, many in the South were troubled about how to keep the balance in the Senate.  Kennedy et al. (2002) remarked, “If they could not carve out new [slave] states out of the recent conquests from Mexico, where else might they get them?” (p. 398).  Perhaps most importantly, the compromise delayed a possible armed conflict in a period when the North would develop “exponentially more miles of railroad, steel production, modern factories, and population” (“The Compromise of 1850,” n.d.).  These advantages would prove decisive in the coming Civil War.

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SlavePart II of our look at slavery in America focuses on the War of Independance and the Constituion.  Please submit any thoughts or questions in the comments section. 


The American Revolution


For slaves, the Revolution was not as much a struggle for the right to cast a vote or have only fair taxes levied, but the right to live as truly free.  The African American Registry has noted, “that men fought not only for the idea of political liberty, but also for personal liberty” (“Blacks barred from continental army,” 2005).  Consequently, many slaves sought to escape and join the fight on the side of “whichever army promised them personal liberty” (“The Revolutionary War,” n.d.).  The British were only too willing to recruit runaway slaves into their ranks.  George Washington initially banned the recruitment of blacks, free or slaves, into the Continental Army, but as times worsened and manpower grew short, he rescinded the order and blacks were recruited.  In an ironic twist, the Revolution would be the last time the United States would field an integrated army until after World War II.  There were those in the Patriot camp who saw service in the army as a gate to emancipation—and a way to fill the depleting ranks.  As Ellis (2004) has pointed out, “John Laurens proposed arming 3,000 slaves in South Carolina and offering emancipation in return for service to the end of the war” (p. 162).  This measure was voted down, but over the course of the war about 5,000 blacks served the American cause, slave and free.  Arsenault (n.d.) has noted that their reasons for joining varied significantly:

Initially, many masters forced their slaves into service.  Others joined later upon the promise of freedom in exchange for service.  Many free blacks chose to serve for the same reasons that the German and Irish did—the promise of food and wages when steady employment was scarce.  Still others rallied to the American cause attracted by the rhetoric of freedom and equality.  They fought, in part, so that those ideas would have to expand to include them, too.

Sadly, many slaves seeking the freedom the Declaration had claimed was for all men ended up back in shackles after the war.  Ellis (2004) has stated that after the war Washington “insisted on the return of all escaped slaves in British custody to their respective owners” (p. 163).



The United States Constitution     


Though the word “slave” or “slavery” does not appear in the Constitution of the United States, the issue was very much alive during the Constitutional Convention of 1787.  Spalding (2002) pointed out that, “by the time of the U.S. Constitution, every state (except Georgia) had at least proscribed or suspended the importation of slaves”; however, the Southern states were by means ready to put an end to slavery itself.  The difficulty for the framers of the Constitution then was to craft a document that would bind the states into an effective union without offending sectional sensitivities.  Slavery was as big a sectional sensitivity as there could be.  One of the main questions was how the slave populations of the Southern states should be counted.  As slaves, they had no vote to cast.  Should they then be counted as part of the population in regards to representation in the legislature?  As Kennedy, Cohen, and Bailey (2002) stated, “the North replied ‘no,’ arguing that, as slaves were not citizens, the North might as logically demand additional representation based on its horses” (p. 180).  A compromise was reached in which a slave would be counted as three-fifths of a person thus conceding to the South a portion of their human property for the purposes of representation and increased political power. 


A second constitutional issue concerning slavery was the slave trade.  As stated above, nearly all states had already restricted the importation of slaves or abolished it all together.  However, in order to placate the South, particularly South Carolina and Georgia, the Constitution would not prohibit “the migration or importation of such persons [slaves] as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit” until 1808.  The states could, restrict the slave trade as they saw fit, but the federal government was prohibited from doing so for two decades.

A third key issue was the question of fugitive slaves.  What will the law require of a free-state found to have a runaway slave within its borders?  The Privileges and Immunities Clause was thus inserted which required fugitive slaves in free-states be returned upon their master’s request.

These three concessions seem a heavy human price to pay as a sop to Southern interest.  How could someone like James Madison who once wrote that he “thought it wrong to admit in the Constitution the idea that there could be property in men” (as cited in Spalding, 2002) allow conditions that led to slavery’s perpetuation?  The answer can again be found in the words of Madison, this time to the Constitution ratification convention of Virginia:

Great as the evil [slavery] is, a dismemberment of the Union would be worse. If those states should disunite from the other states for not indulging them in the temporary continuance of this traffic, they might solicit and obtain aid from foreign powers.

 The Constitution made no clear condemnation of slavery, but it did not endorse it either.  Frederick Douglass, the former slave and prominent abolitionist, said about slavery and the Constitution in 1864, “Abolish slavery tomorrow, and not a sentence or syllable of the Constitution need be altered” (as cited in Benet, 2006). It would take until the year after this statement by Douglass for this to occur, nearly eighty years from the Constitutional Convention.  Those years would see one crisis after another concerning slavery.

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SlaveryFor my History class, I had to write an eight to twelve page paper tracing the hisotry of slavery in America, covering several specific events.  The following, posted in a series over several days (no one wants to read a 12 page research paper in one sitting), is my response.  For the record I scored a perfect 200 out of 200.

The United States of America was founded on such principles as, enumerated in the Thomas Jefferson authored Declaration of Independence, the equality of all men and their natural right to pursue that which makes them free and happy.  But were the words “all men are created equal” intended to convey what they seem to say at face value?  Did in fact the Framers mean all men, regardless of color?  Or was it white men of means and property?  And is “all men” to be understood in a generic sense; that is, to include all women as well?  That question is for a different paper.  The issue at hand here is slavery.  How and why could a nation built on a principle, a revolutionary one, of the basic equality of all men, have maintained for nearly a century an institution as unquestionably antagonistic to that very principle and debased as slavery?  Why did the men who courageously and eloquently defied the King of England in the name of liberty not see fit to liberate those who toiled in their fields?  Indeed, many of the Founders were slaveholders themselves, including three of the first four Presidents.  While they often spoke and wrote about the evils of slavery, in a letter to Robert Morris, George Washington wrote, “there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of [slavery]” (as cited in Ellis, 2004, p. 163)., political expediency and fear of the dissolution of a still-fragile Union prevented the fledging government from addressing the issue head on.  As a result, the bondage of blacks persisted.  The purpose of this paper is trace the history of slavery in America focusing on ten key events and government rulings:  the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, the Constitution, the Compromise of 1820, the Nullification Crisis, the Compromise of 1850, the Dred Scott decision, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 13th Amendment.


The Declaration of Independence


What exactly did Thomas Jefferson mean when he wrote that “all men are created equal”?  Though himself a slaveholder, Jefferson excoriated King George III in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence for having “waged cruel war on human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither” (as cited in “Declarations of Independence, 1770-1783,” n.d.).  The Constitutional Foundation noted that “some scholars believe that Jefferson agreed with the Scottish philosopher, Francis Hutcheson, that all men are born morally equal to one another and that ‘Nature makes none masters, none slaves’” (“The Declaration of Independence and Natural Rights,” 2001).  If all men are naturally equals, what prevented the seemingly morally necessary immediate emancipation of slaves?  Though Spalding (2002) reported that Jefferson “proposed legislation to emancipate slaves in Virginia” while serving in the House of Burgesses, a measure that was defeated, Middlekauf (1982) explained that later Jefferson believed that “slavery had so poisoned affections of both blacks and whites as to make their living together—as equals—impossible” (p. 338).  Jefferson, as well as other slaveholding, yet liberty loving Founders, acknowledged the wrongs of slavery and it’s debasing of human beings, both slave and master, but did not believe that outright emancipation was a plausible solution at the time of the Declaration.  In their estimation the struggling would-be nation was just not ready to handle the new challenges that it would bring.  Others simply refused to agree to relinquish their vast free work force purely on economic grounds.


Slavery was in fact a key catalyst in the events that lead the colonies to declare their intentions to leave the auspices of the British crown.   Even after Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill, the Continental Congress was reluctant to make this declaration.  Many more conservative leaders still yearned for some sort of compromise and reconciliation with the Crown.  As Middlekauf (1982) stated, the Congress “hesitated to act while a remnant of its membership retained hope that negotiations that might heal terrible wounds…were possible” (p. 322).  A series of events in the late months of 1775 and early in 1776 changed all that.  One of these grievous acts was Lord Dunmore’s, the royal governor of Virginia, Proclamation, given in November 1775.  Middlekauf (1982) noted that, “early in [November] he called upon the slaves of Virginia to rebel and promised them their freedom if they joined forces and fought their masters” (p. 322).  This announcement, which played on underlying planter fears, coupled with the shelling of Norfolk, and the pamphlet Common Sense, written by Thomas Paine, would push the Congress, and the people, ever closer to claim their independence.  It is ironic that a call for those who were oppressed to rise up against their oppressors, helped to inspire many of those same oppressors to rise up against their government, all in the name of freedom.

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John CalhounFor this assignment for my History class we had to choose a crisis the country faced sometime before 1877.  I chose the Nullification Crisis, something probably not very well known, but crucial in the years leading to the Civil War.  The reading I’ve doing in this class lately has been a lot about the Compormise of 18xx, or the Such-and-Such Act, or the John Doe vs. a state decicsion.  It may sound boring but it’s actually pretty interesting.  How is a tariff act passed 150 years ago interesting?  These types of decisions and the ensuing showdown’s between the federal government and the states set the precidents and definitions for the democracy we know today. It’s important to understand that the way democracy works today didn’t just get that way after the last shots of the Revolution were fired.  It had to develope and mature.  It’s also important to understand how “sectional” the nation was in the antebellum (pre-Civil War) years.  If you lived in Virgina, Virgina was your home first, not the United States of America.  This attitude was especially prevelent in the South.  Prior to the Civil War, no crisis reflected this more than the Nullification Crisis.

1) What was the controversy?

The controversy was nullification. Nullification is an act by which a state will nullify or invalidate a federal law within its borders that it deems unconstitutional.

2) Why was it controversial? [At least a paragraph]

Nullification was controversial because it asserted the states’ power over the federal government. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison had first conceived of the idea of nullification in their Kentucky and Virgina Resolutions, written secretly in 1798. The resolutions were written in response to the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts of that same year. In essence, the resolutions stated that the federal government was a compact among the states, thus the states had the final say on what laws were unconstitutional and could then nullify them. This however was not the major controversy of nullification. That would come in the late 1820’s and early 1830’s when South Carolina would attempt to nullify the Tariff of 1828.

3) What were the opposing views and what groups represented those views? [At least a paragraph for each view]

Planters in the south, especially South Carolina, were enraged over the Tariff of 1828, which they called Andrew Jacksonthe Tariff of Abomination, as they saw it as protecting the manufacturers of the Northern states at the expense of the South. They feared retaliatory tariffs in foreign markets that were primary importers of Southern foodstuffs as well as raised prices on imported manufactured goods from Europe. The new, less protectionist Tariff of 1832, signed into law by President Andrew Jackson, did little to assuage the anger of South Carolina and John Calhoun, Jackson’s vice president and a South Caronlinan, urged nullification of the tariff…annonymously.

Jackson, though not a die-hard tariff-ist, refused to allow South Carolina to flout the federal government and declared that South Carolina “stood on the brink of insurrection and treason.” He sent a small fleet of ships off the coast of Charelston and threatened to collect the tariff duties by force if necessary. In early 1833 Congress passed the Force Bill authorizing the President to do just that. The crisis was finally cooled when Henry Clay drew up a compromise tariff that both sides could agree to. It is often called, aptly, the Compromise Tariff.

4) What do you think?

While the Tariff of 1828 may well have been protectionist and more favorable to the North, nullification set a dangerous precedent. It was a key element of the states rights/federal government debate and layed the ground work for secession and the Civil War. It should have come as no surprise that South Carolina was the first state to secede.

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I had intended to post Part II of the WWI question last night, but got caught up doing movie reviews on Life of Ando.  So to slake your ravenous historical thirst in the meantime, here is my assignment from my history class this past week.  If you’re really into American history and how the politics of the early Republic shook out, Jefferson vs. Hamilton is a great study.  It’s also a little, I guess comforting, to know that as bad as we think today’s politicians are,  politics was always a very dirty game.  Like Bismarck said, “Laws are like sausages.  Better to not see them being made.”  And as Ecclesiastes says, “There’s nothing new under the sun.”

1) How did the political philosophies of these men differ?

Most clear thinking Americans could probably tell you at least the rudimentary facts of who Thomas Jefferson was. Far fewer would likely have a definite idea of who Alexander Hamilton was and what his contributions as a Founding Father were. Yet his conception of an American government was just as important as that of Jefferson. Both founders foresaw the new nation as a great future power, and both had very different maps of how to get it there.

Jefferson believed the nation’s strength lay in its agricultural roots. He favored an agrarian nation with most powers reserved for the states. He was very opposed to a strong central authority and believed that the people were the final authority in government. Jefferson also encouraged active support for the French Revolution

Hamilton favored a strong central authority. He believed a strong government was necessary to provide order so that business and industry could grow. He envisioned America becoming an industrial power. To this end he sought to establish a national bank and fund the national debt in order to establish firm base for national credit. Hamilton believed that the government should be run by those who were educated and wealthy rather than by “the mob.” He opposed involvement in the French Revolution and worried Jeffersonians by appearing, and maybe even being, too cozy with Britain.

2) How was the conflict between Jefferson and Hamilton a significant factor in the emergence of political parties?

The Jefferson/Hamilton conflict helped give rise to political parties by polarizing factions on opposite political sides. Those who backed Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans supported states rights, a strict reading of the Constitution, and support for the French Revolution. Those who back Hamilton’s Federalists preferred a much stronger central government, an “elastic” reading of the Constitution, and a hands-off approach to the French Revolution.

3) Which view do you think was best for the US – Hamilton’s or Jefferson’s – and why? [This part should be several paragraphs long]

I don’t know if either view could be considered better or worse for America. Forced to choose, I would probably lean toward Hamiltonian ideas, but I believe both served a vital and necessary role in forming the government. Hamilton was a visionary and saw the potential of a great industrial power. His support of a strong central authority was a key reason the young nation was able to sustain itself in the early days, especially in such crises like Shayes Rebellion. One reason he may have felt as strongly as he did was his service in the Revolutionary War. Being one of Washington’s staff, he experienced first hand the difficulty the Continental army had with an ineffectual congress to keep it fed and supplied. The weak congress was not able to raise funds to pay for supplies because it had no real power.

For all his vision and innovation, Hamilton’s ambition may have carried him too far if left unchecked. The federal government may have become too powerful and curbed the rights of citizens, which in fact did happen to a degree during the Adams administration. Jefferson and his policies provided an important counter balance to Hamilton. Jefferson’s support of states’ rights and agriculture helped to offset the influence of the Hamilton-supporting merchants and manufacturers. However, without Hamilton’s counter-balance Jefferson’s policies may have left the government weak and ineffectual to deal with major crises both at home and abroad.

Each viewpoint needed the other to create a government that would be strong enough to protect itself and it’s people from internal and external strife, but not so strong that it would infringe on the rights of the people as enumerated in the Bill of Rights and in the Revolutionary spirit. These issues, of course, weren’t resolved or ceased to be relevant after Hamilton and Jefferson left the scene. These are still very much the issues we deal with even now, over 200 years later. As much as we might dislike, or even hate, the position of the “other” party, without some balance both sides would undoubtedly abuse their power…more than they already do.

4) List at least 3 sources in proper bibliographic format. No Wiki sources.

Frank, Mitch. “Jefferson vs. Hamilton or Group Hug.” American Partisan. Dec. 28 2006. http://www.american-partisan.com/cols/frank/111799.htm

“Hamilton vs. Jefferson.” Dec. 28 2006. http://countrystudies.us/united-states/history-41.htm

Kennedy, David, Lizabeth Cohen, Thomas A. Bailey. The American Pageant. Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 2002.


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