We the Teachers

Session 20: Lincoln and Civil Liberties

Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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Focus

Lincoln claimed to be fighting a war that would lead to “a new birth of freedom,” yet some claim he violated civil liberties on an unprecedented scale. How can a war for liberty be reconciled with such violations of civil liberties? Were the steps he took during the war constitutional? Why or why not? Compare and contrast Taney’s opinion in ex parte Merryman and Lincoln’s apologia in his letter to Erastus Corning and the New York Democrats.
Readings

Session 19: Lincoln’s Election, Secession, and the Civil War

Prof. Allen Guelzo:  

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Focus

As Lincoln recounts the early history of the federal government, what authority did it exercise over slavery? What problems do southerners have with the Republican Party, and how does Lincoln respond to their charges? Why does Lincoln claim that the southern disposition during the 1860 election year was to “rule or ruin in all events”? What is his advice to Republicans as they face opposition over the slavery controversy? In his address to the New Jersey Senate, why does Lincoln call the American citizenry God’s “almost chosen people”? What is Lincoln’s declared agenda as the incoming president? Why does he think secession unjustified and illegitimate? What is Lincoln’s view of the authority of the Supreme Court? What does Lincoln mean by “the better angels of our nature”? How does Lincoln think the country can avoid civil war?

Session 18: The Rights and Wrongs of Secession

Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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Focus

What reasons did Southern secession commissioners give for seceding from the Union? What reasons did Alexander Stephens give in defense of the Southern Confederacy?
Readings
Supplemental/Optional Readings
  • McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, chap. 8
  • Mackubin Thomas Owens, “The Case Against Secession”

Session 17: The Causes of the Civil War

Dr. James M. McPherson:  

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Focus

Why did the South secede? Why did secession lead to war? For a half century the northern, free states coexisted politically in the same nation with southern, slaveholding states. Why and how did that national structure fall apart in the 1850s? Was this breakdown inevitable, or could wiser political leadership have prevented it? Why did the election of Abraham Lincoln as president precipitate the secession of seven lower-South states? Why did both sides prefer war to compromise? Could this terrible war have been avoided? Could the positive results of the war (Union and freedom) have been achieved without war?
Readings
  • James M. McPherson, “What Caused the Civil War?,” North and South, IV (Nov. 2000), 12-22, and response to this article in subsequent issues of North and South.
  • Hans L. Terfousse, The Causes of the Civil War, 91-125 (excerpts from Ramsdell, Potter and Current).
  • Charles B. Dew, “Apostles of Secession,” North and South, IV (April 2001), 24-38.

Session 16: Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858

Prof. Allen Guelzo:  

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Focus

Contrast Lincoln’s understanding of the relation between public opinion and political rule with that of Stephen Douglas. What does Douglas mean by “diversity” and how does he use it to attack Lincoln’s alleged doctrine of “uniformity”? Why does Douglas think Lincoln is wrong to criticize the Dred Scott opinion? How does Lincoln answer Douglas’s charges? What does Lincoln mean by the “moral lights” of the community? In the second debate, how does Lincoln force Douglas into a quandary regarding popular sovereignty and support for the Dred Scott opinion? (See Douglas’s argument about “unfriendly legislation.”) In the seventh debate, what is Lincoln’s understanding of the Founders’ views regarding slavery? How does Lincoln show that the rhetoric of Douglas makes him a kind of abolitionist in practice?
Readings
Supplemental/Optional Readings:

Session 15: Lincoln Confronts Stephen Douglas’s Popular Sovereignty

Prof. Allen Guelzo:  

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Focus

What does Stephen Douglas mean by “popular sovereignty”? Why does Lincoln view the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 as a reversal of American policy towards domestic slavery? How does “indifference” about the spread of slavery amount to “covert real zeal” for its spread? How does Lincoln justify previous national compromises with slavery? What is Lincoln’s definition of self-government and how does it inform his political rhetoric and policy proposals? What is Lincoln’s definition of democracy? What role does Lincoln think the Declaration of Independence plays in contemporary political practice? Why does Lincoln advise against a Republican call for repeal of the fugitive slave law? What connection does Lincoln make between liberty, union, and the Constitution?

Session 14: Abolitionism and Constitutional Self-Government

Prof. Allen Guelzo:  

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Focus

According to Garrison, what is wrong with gradual abolition of slavery? Does he think the Constitution is pro-freedom or pro-slavery? Why does Garrison not endorse political reform as the cure for the nation’s ills? What is the key principle that Lincoln proposes for the “fusion” of various political interests into a new party? Contrast Lincoln’s approach to eliminating slavery with Garrison’s. What does Lincoln mean by comparing America to “a house divided against itself”? What is Frederick Douglass’s view of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution? Does he view blacks in the United States as Americans? What do blacks in America need to flourish as human beings and as citizens? Why is Lincoln not an abolitionist?
Readings
Supplemental/Optional Readings:
  • Jaffa, Crisis of the House Divided, chaps. 7-8
  • Diana Schaub, “Frederick Douglass’s Constitution”

Session 13: The Rule of Law, Slavery, and the Future of Self-Government

Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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Focus

What is “reverence for the laws” and why does Lincoln think it is so important to “the perpetuation of our political institutions”? Who or what is the “towering genius” that poses the greatest threat to American self-government? What does Lincoln’s criticism of “old school” temperance reformers suggest about the proper mode of political debate for a self-governing people? What role does Lincoln believe religion plays in a self-governing society?
Readings

The Constitutional Convention as a Four-Act Drama: Act 4

 

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This course consists of four session, each rooted in a video presentation by Dr. Lloyd in front of a teacher audience, focused on a specific topic and drawing from a selection of relevant documents.
Each session’s post includes a list of Scenes within the given Act, with dates listed within each Scene – this helps expand on the metaphor of the Constitutional Convention as a drama. Most every day includes a link to information about what happened on that day, mostly drawn from Madison’s Debates, the most comprehensive and accurate record of the Convention.
As you watch the video for each session, take notes on Dr. Lloyd’s insights about the Convention, the contributions of different delegates, topics discussed, and decisions made. Then expand on your notes by going through the different documents linked from the post. This way, you’ll learn directly from Dr. Lloyd, and you’ll clearly see where his ideas are found in the documents.
Scene 1: The Brearly Committee Report
  • Sept. 1 The final push
  • Sept. 3 Article XVI revisited
  • Sept. 4 Brearly Committee reports 9 propositions
  • Sept. 5 Brearly Committee reports 5 propositions
  • Sept. 6 Brearly Committee and the Electoral College
  • Sept. 7 Discussion on the Presidency
  • Sept. 8 Treaties, Impeachment and Money Bills
  • Sept. 10 Randolph articulates his difficulties
Scene 2: The Committee of Style Report: A Preamble and 7 Articles
  • Sept. 11 How about this and how about that?
  • Sept. 12I s this different from Committee of Detail report?
Scene 3: The Discussion of the Committee of Style Report
Scene 4: The Signing of the Constitution

Session 12: Lincoln and 21st-Century America

Drs. Lucas Morel and Allen Guelzo:  

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Focus

In the face of modern-day critics from both the Right and the Left, does Lincoln still “belong to the ages”?
Readings

Dr. Gordon Lloyd’s Constitution Day Presentation

 

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Dr. Gordon Lloyd, Professor Emeritus of Pepperdine University and Senior Fellow at the Ashbrook Center, took time on 17 September of this year to talk with a group of people about the history and importance of the United States Constitution, in honor of the 228th anniversary of its signing.

Presidential Academy: The Gettysburg Address and the Civil War

TeachingAmericanHistory.org is proud to offer the second part of our Presidential Academy documents-based survey course of American history and American political thought through iTunesU, iTunes, and this blog.

This segment of the course, consisting of 12 sessions, focuses on the Civil War and Reconstruction, with the ideas expressed in the Gettysburg Address at the foundation of study. The first session in this part of the course will be posted on Tuesday, 29 September.

Presidential Academy was a grant-funded program that TAH.org presented to groups of teachers who met and studied in three cities over two weeks, with discussions rooted in three separate documents. The first days were in Philadelphia, beginning with the American Founding, through the Declaration of Independence. Additional documents and ideas were addressed and analyzed throughout the several sessions there before the group moved on to Gettysburg and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Finally, the group moved to Washington, D.C., and study of modern America, with Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech as the focal point.

Each session is made up of a set of readings, all linked from its blog post, and usually one lecture. Guiding questions and focus issues are at the foundation of each week’s study. A list of the session titles for Part 2 of the course is below, along with the dates on which each will be published on this blog, and the audio made available through iTunes. You can subscribe to our iTunes Podcast feed by clicking here. The entire course, divided into the three major sections – Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and Washington – is already available on iTunesU.

Session 12: Lincoln and 21st-Century America, 29 SEP
Session 13: The Rule of Law, Slavery, and the Future of Self-Government, 6 OCT
Session 14: Abolitionism and Constitutional Self-Government, 13 OCT
Session 15: Lincoln Confronts Stephen Douglas’s Popular Sovereignty, 20 OCT
Session 16: Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858, 27 OCT
Session 17: The Causes of the Civil War, 3 NOV
Session 18: The Rights and Wrongs of Secession, 10 NOV
Session 19: Lincoln’s Election, Secession, and the Civil War, 17 NOV
Session 20: Lincoln and Civil Liberties, 24 NOV
Session 21: Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, 1 DEC
Session 22: “A New Birth of Freedom” and Lincoln’s Re-Election, 8 DEC
Session 23: Frederick Douglass – Reconstruction and the Future of Black Americans, 15 DEC

We invite you to deepen your knowledge of American history through this series, and use these materials in any way that will benefit you and your students.

The Constitutional Convention as a Four-Act Drama: Act 3

 

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This course consists of four session, each rooted in a video presentation by Dr. Lloyd in front of a teacher audience, focused on a specific topic and drawing from a selection of relevant documents.
Each session’s post includes a list of Scenes within the given Act, with dates listed within each Scene – this helps expand on the metaphor of the Constitutional Convention as a drama. Most every day includes a link to information about what happened on that day, mostly drawn from Madison’s Debates, the most comprehensive and accurate record of the Convention.
As you watch the video for each session, take notes on Dr. Lloyd’s insights about the Convention, the contributions of different delegates, topics discussed, and decisions made. Then expand on your notes by going through the different documents linked from the post. This way, you’ll learn directly from Dr. Lloyd, and you’ll clearly see where his ideas are found in the documents.
Scene 1: The Structure and Powers of Congress
  • August 6 Twenty-Three Articles presented
  • August 7 Article IV and the suffrage issue
  • August 8 Article IV deliberated
  • August 9 Article V dissected
  • August 10 Article VI and Pinckney’s property qualifications
  • August 11 Article VI continued
  • August 13 Reconsideration day and Dickinson’s remark on experience
  • August 14 Article VI and ineligibility
  • August 15 Reintroduction of Council of Revision
  • August 16 Deliberation of the Enumeration of Congressional powers
  • August 17 Deliberation of the Enumeration of Congressional powers
  • August 18 Creation of the Committee of 11
  • August 20 Article VII and the Issue of Rights
Scene 2: The Slavery Question and Creation of the Judiciary
Scene 3: Adoption of the Report; Creation of Brearly Committee

Session 11: The Federalist Papers – Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches

Dr. Chris Flannery:  

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Focus

What qualities did Publius expect or take for granted in the American people who would be living under the proposed new constitution? In what ways was the constitution a response to these qualities? What qualities did Publius expect in the people who would serve respectively in the House of Representatives, the Senate, the office of President, and the Supreme Court? How did the functioning of each of these branches and of the constitution as a whole involve the operation of these qualities? What are the relations of the composition, powers, mode of selection, and tenure of office of the House of Representatives, Senate, Executive, and Judiciary to the political purposes these offices were meant to serve and to the overall purposes to be served by the constitution? How, in particular, do any of these elements contribute to the effective functioning of the separation of powers?
Readings

The Constitutional Convention as a Four-Act Drama: Act 2

 

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This course consists of four session, each rooted in a video presentation by Dr. Lloyd in front of a teacher audience, focused on a specific topic and drawing from a selection of relevant documents.
Each session’s post includes a list of Scenes within the given Act, with dates listed within each Scene – this helps expand on the metaphor of the Constitutional Convention as a drama. Most every day includes a link to information about what happened on that day, mostly drawn from Madison’s Debates, the most comprehensive and accurate record of the Convention.
As you watch the video for each session, take notes on Dr. Lloyd’s insights about the Convention, the contributions of different delegates, topics discussed, and decisions made. Then expand on your notes by going through the different documents linked from the post. This way, you’ll learn directly from Dr. Lloyd, and you’ll clearly see where his ideas are found in the documents.
Scene 1: Derailment over Representation of States and People
  • June 20 John Lansing questions legality of the Amended Plan
  • June 21 Specifics of House Representation discussed
  • June 22 Specifics of House Representation discussed
  • June 23 Ineligibility requirements for members of Congress
  • June 25 The purpose of the Senate
  • June 26 Specifics of Senate Representation discussed
  • June 27 Resolutions 7 and 8 discussed
  • June 28 Luther Martin resumes his “discourse” on the role of the States
Scene 2: Contours of Compromise: Partly Federal, Partly National
  • June 29 Ellsworth: “we were partly national; partly federal”
  • June 30 Loose talk of division and disunion
  • July 2 Creation of the Gerry Committee
Scene 3: Independence Day Contemplation
  • July 4 “When in the Course of Human Events”
Scene 4: The Gerry Committee Compromise Proposal Discussed
  • July 5 The Compromise Proposal has three components
  • July 6 Debating the merits of proportional representation
  • July 7 Sherman reinforces case for equal representation of States in Senate
  • July 9 Distributing 56 seats in the House to the 13 States
  • July 10 North – South, Large – Small discussion
  • July 11 The census and representation
  • July 12 “Blacks equal to the whites in the ratio of representation?”
  • July 13 Representation in the SenateConfederation Congress Passes the Northwest Ordinance
  • July 14 Does partly national, partly federal make sense?
Scene 5: Decision Day on the Connecticut Compromise
  • July 16 Connecticut Compromise accepted (5 – 4 – 1)
Scene 6: Return to the Amended Virginia Plan; Committee of Detail Created
  • July 17 The Supreme Law of the Land and the Presidency
  • July 18 Discussion of Resolutions 11 – 16
  • July 19 Reconsideration of the Presidency
  • July 20 More disputation over the Presidency
  • July 21 The Council of Revision revisited
  • July 23 Resolutions 17 – 19 debated
  • July 24 Controversy over the Presidency
  • July 25 More discussion on the Presidency
  • July 26 Constitutional Convention adjourns with the creation of a 5 member Committee of Detail

50 Documents That Tell America’s Story

Required reading for students, teachers, and citizens.

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