We the Teachers

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

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

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.

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

Session 10: The Federalist Papers – The Sum of Power and the Separation of Powers

Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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Focus

What is “delicate” about the two questions raised at the end ofFederalist 43? “The time has been when it was incumbent on us all to veil the ideas which this paragraph exhibits. The scene is now changed, and with it, the part which the same motives dictate.” What does Publius mean by this last sentence in the penultimate paragraph of 43? What articles and clauses of the Constitution are discussed in 43 and 44? How, in Federalist 43, does Publius defend the Convention’s proposal to supersede the Confederation “without the unanimous consent of the parties to it”?
Why, in the American representative republic, should the people “indulge all their jealousy and exhaust all their precautions” against the legislative branch? What are Publius’ criticisms of Thomas Jefferson’s suggestions for maintaining the separation of powers? Why does Publius think that it is necessary to have the “prejudices of the community” on the side of even the most rational government?  What kinds of prejudices is he thinking of? “[I]t is the reason of the public alone that ought to controul and regulate the government. The passions ought to be controuled and regulated by the government.” How does Publius reconcile this principle with the republican principle that government “derives all its powers directly or indirectly from…the people”? Why would “an extinction of parties necessarily [imply] either a universal alarm for the public safety, or an absolute extinction of liberty”? What is the principle of separation of powers? What is the greatest threat in the American republic to separation of powers, and why is this the greatest threat?
Readings

Session 9: The Proposed Constitution of 1787 and Its Defense in The Federalist Papers

Dr. Chris Flannery:  

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Focus
What is the structure of the argument of The Federalist? What improvements in “the science of politics” did Publius think necessary to make the republican form of government defensible? What isFederalist 10′s republican remedy for the problem of faction? What are the defects of the Confederation, according to Publius? Why is there “an absolute necessity for an entire change in the first principles of the system”? What “inducements to candor” and to the “spirit of moderation” does Publius present in Federalist 37-38? What were the difficulties “inherent in the very nature of the undertaking referred to the [constitutional] Convention”? What are (some of) the ingredients of republican government? Of good government? How is the proposed government both federal and national according to Publius in Federalist 39? How, in Federalist40, does Publius answer the question of “how far the conventions were authorized to propose such a government”?
Readings

Session 8: The Constitution and American Self-Government

Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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Focus

How does the Constitution work? How do constitutional means produce constitutional ends? How do the principles of the regime work their way into the mechanisms of the federal government? What role does public opinion play in constitutional self-government?

Session 7: The Constitutional Convention pt3 – The Committee of Detail Report and the Close of the Convention

Prof. Gordon Lloyd:  

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Focus

Who was elected to the Committee of Detail and what has been their position so far with respect to the republican and federal issues? How does the Committee on Detail Report differ from the original and amended Virginia Plans and what significant recommendations did it make? Who was elected to the Slave Trade Committee and what had they said about slavery up to that point? How did the slavery provisions undergo changes during the deliberations?

Session 6: The Constitutional Convention pt2 – The Connecticut Compromise

Prof. Gordon Lloyd:  

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Focus

What accounts for the persistence of the New Jersey Plan supporters despite their defeat earlier? What are the arguments against the “legality” and “practicality” of the Amended Virginia Plan? When and how did the Connecticut Compromise emerge as a viable alternative? How did the “partly national, partly federal” concept enter the discussion? Why did Madison argue that the issue facing the delegates was not small states vs. large states but the slavery question? What is the significance of who was elected to the Gerry Committee? Who changed their minds and why during this month long discussion over representation? Who favored and who opposed the Connecticut Compromise? What else, besides the representation issue, was discussed during this part of the Convention?

Session 5: The Constitutional Convention, pt1 – The Alternative Plans

Lecture, Prof. Gordon Lloyd:  

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Focus

Of what significance were the rules adopted by the Convention? In what respects did the Virginia Plan represent a new constitution rather than a mere revision of the Articles? What were delegates’ initial reactions and questions concerning the Virginia Plan? What parts of the Plan were rejected or amended? What did the delegates mean when they spoke of a national government as opposed to a federal government? What different principles animate the New Jersey and Virginia Plans and the Hamilton Proposal? Why were they even introduced? What are the arguments for representation of the states, as opposed to the people, in the federal government? Consider the discussions of the executive power, bicameralism, and the role of the judiciary in the context of “republican principles.” What do “republican principles” say about the sources of power, the powers, and the structure of the federal government? Is Madison’s extended republic argument a departure from republican principles?

Session 4: The Revolutionary Era

Lecture, Dr. David Hackett Fischer:  

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Focus

How did the American colonists define liberty and freedom as they sought to secure their independence from mother England? During the Revolutionary War, what difficulties did the Americans face in fighting for liberty while maintaining the supremacy of civilian over military authority?
Readings
  • Fischer, Washington’s Crossing

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