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Documents in Detail: Gettysburg Address

 

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The last TAH.org Webinar for 2017 took place on December 13th, with a discussion of the Gettysburg Address. Drs. John Moser, Jon White, and Dan Monroe discussed the words and ideas in Lincoln’s most famous speech. The place of Gettysburg, as a site of national reconciliation, helped to solidify Lincoln’s words in American history and myth, was introduced as location of the famed, pivotal battle. Lincoln’s singular place in American history was also discussed, and when and how the words of the Gettysburg Address contributed, in the years close after his death, to his central position in our story.

The panelists also brought Lincoln’s response to the Dred Scott case, and other addresses and writings over time, into the discussion, demonstrating consistency by Lincoln on several key issues over time.

A books mentioned is Awaiting the Heavenly Country: The Civil War and America’s Culture of Death, by Mark Schantz, which delves into significant changes in American traditions related to death, burial, and memorial wrought by the Civil War.

Access this program’s archive page here.

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Documents in Detail: What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?

 

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15 November’s Documents in Detail webinar was about Frederick Douglass’s What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?, his oration delivered on 5 July 1862. There were some technical difficulties in the first minutes of the program, which resulted in one of the panelists being a few minutes late. Otherwise, it was an interesting discussion of the occasion on which Douglass spoke, his place as one of the leaders of the abolition movement in the 19th Century, and the importance of the ideas he expressed in the speech.

Access the program archive page here

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Documents in Detail: Monroe Doctrine

 

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18 October’s Documents in Detail program focused on the Monroe Doctrine – that which gave rise to the politics that led to it, what it said and meant, and how it represented a growing sense of American identity in the world and a guide for relations with other countries at the time, throughout the rest of the 19th Century, and even to today.

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Documents in Detail: Federalist 51

 

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One of the most famous of The Federalist, number 51, penned by James Madison in February 1788, tackles the issue of how to build a system of government that is forced to check itself in order to prevent it from becoming tyrannical. Along with Federalist 51, the panelists discussed specific Antifederalist writings that addressed the same issue, bringing together an array of documents that orbit the same concerns.

About 30 minutes into this program, Dr. John Moser was dropped by the Webex system, and was able to rejoin a few minutes later. The panelists continued the discussion uninterrupted.

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Documents in Detail: Declaration of Independence

 

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The first Documents in Detail session for the 17-18 school year took place on 30 August 2017, with a discussion of the Declaration of Independence. Among the many topics and questions discussed were Jefferson’s idea of an “American Mind,” the issue of Jefferson’s authorship – which was no widely known for years after the document was written – and the many local declarations of independence, hundreds of which were written by towns, churches, and civic groups during the first half of 1776.

The panelists fielded questions about the choice of Jefferson as the primary author and the input and impact of other delegates to the Second Continental Congress, and pointed out that Jefferson’s use of Locke’s ideas and language acted as “18th Century hyperlinks,” which virtually any reader would recognize as important ideas, if not also as the works of John Locke. Also of interest was the discussion of the parts that were left out of the final, accepted draft and the first draft.

This program could work well with students as well as teachers and anyone interested in learning more about why the document was written, what it meant, and what it still means.

Books mentioned include Edmund Morgan’s American Freedom, American Slavery, Jay Fliegelman’s Declaring Independence: Jefferson, Natural Language, and the Culture of Performance, and Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf’s “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of Imagination.

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Documents in Detail Webinar Archives

TAH.org has completed the pilot season of Documents in Detail, with five episodes now available in our archives. Teachers, students, and citizens from around the country have downloaded podcasts or watched the YouTube videos from these five episodes a combined total of over 1200 times since January. Consider looking back at this last season and listening to or watching some of the programs you missed, or even ones you attended. Think about how you could use the documents for each with your students. Many teachers from around the country are using archived webinars with their students, in some cases flipping their classrooms by having students read some of the documents and watch the programs themselves outside of class, reserving class time for Socratic discussions and other activities.

We will begin our 17-18 season of Documents in Detail on 30 August, with the Declaration of Independence.

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Documents in Detail: Washington’s Farewell Address

 

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The last Documents in Detail webinar for the 16-17 school year took place on Wednesday, 17 May, and focused on George Washington’s Farewell Address. A good question that kicked off the discussion was simply why? That is, why is Washington’s Farewell Address so popular, so often read, and considered by so many over the last 200+ years to be so important. What’s so special about it? Scholars brought up the point that Washington, while very popular at the outset of his first term, experienced the first presidential controversies – the Jay Treaty, the problems within his own cabinet between Jefferson and Hamilton, to name but two – and many Americans questioned his decisions and leadership by 1796.

Also discussed were the various drafts of Washington’s address, the first of which was written mostly by James Madison at the end of Washington’s first term, when he seriously considered stepping down; and the one written by Alexander Hamilton in 1796. Both were based solidly on Washington’s ideas, however.

Additional suggested reading is from Ellis’s Founding Brothers, specifically chapter 4, “The Farewell.”

Access the full archives, with documents links, here.

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Documents in Detail: Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Address Delivered at Seneca Falls

 

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April’s Documents in Detail webinar was about Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s address to the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. Stanton’s use of John Locke, her view that women deserved the vote on moral grounds, and how greater involvement by women in society would improve society were all discussed, as well as the impact of her words alongside those of other women’s rights leaders.

Both scholars noted Stanton’s blunt style and her tendency to say things how she saw them, including when expressing reservations about Catholics and the error she believed the 15th Amendment to be, since it gave the right to vote to African-Americans and not women.

Access our podcast feed here, or our iTunes podcast here.

View the permanent program page, including the YouTube archive here.

 

Documents in Detail: James Madison’s Federalist 10

 

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Professors John Moser, Jason Stevens, and John Dinan discussed James Madison’s Federalist 10 in today’s webinar. The background, historical context, and meaning of the document were discussed at length, as well as its importance at the time it was written, and in the over two centuries since. The panelists discussed in detail Madison’s concerns with factions, especially majority factions, and how in a republic it was possible for a majority for a develop into a faction that would seek to trample on the rights of the minority. Additionally, a number of questions were asked about Madison’s assertion that an extended republic would be more conducive to protecting individuals’ rights than a small republic – a key piece of evidence presented by the Federalists in favor of the Constitution.

Access the full archives on the original program page; our YouTube channel; and our iTunes podcast.

For additional resources and documents, consider looking at TAH.org’s Federalist-Antifederalist Debates exhibit, or the exhibit on the Ratification of the Constitution by the states and people.

Documents in Detail: MLK’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail

 

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The second episode in our pilot webinar series, Documents in Detail, aired live on 15 February, with a focus on MLK’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail, of 1963. Among a variety of issues and topics, the program delved into the historical context around the letter, its perceived and actual audience, and the particulars of King’s citing of Abraham Lincoln in the letter. Teachers also asked questions about the role of King’s faith in the content and wording of the letter, and King’s relationship with other Civil Rights leaders, namely Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad.

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Access the full archive page for the program

Documents in Detail: Lincoln’s Second Inaugural

 

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TAH.org’s first Documents in Detail webinar aired on Wednesday, 25 January 2017, focusing on Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. Professors John Moser, Eric Sands, and Joe Fornieri discussed a number of perspectives on the document, from the prominence of Biblical language throughout, to the political impact of and reaction to the address. The scholars also discussed a counter-factual question regarding how Lincoln might have navigated the minefield of Reconstruction differently – and perhaps more successfully – than his successor, Andrew Johnson.

lincolninaugural-560x502Suggested further reading is Lincoln’s Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural, by Ronald White.

Access the full archive of the program, and related documents, here.

Access our podcast here.

Note: there is a slight echo on one scholar’s voice at about the 34-minute mark, which lasts for about 20 seconds. It is the only place where this audio issue came up during the program.

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