This course explores the American struggle to establish a republic on a national scale. We will examine the politics, economy, social structure, and culture of the union created by the American Revolution and the bitter but creative debates over the meaning of the revolution and the proper form of republican government. Although we will pay special attention to Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, we will explore the conditions of all Americans: men and women, rich and poor, slave and free, Indian and settler. Because contemporary America owes much to the conflicts and compromises, accomplishments and failures of the early republic, understanding that period will deepen your perspective on our place in time.
This course also means to develop your abilities to reason critically from diverse evidence and to argue persuasively in support of your conclusions. So we will emphasize the interpretation of primary sources, analytical papers and participation in discussion.
There are three assigned books: (1) Merrill D. Peterson, ed., Thomas Jefferson: Writings (New York: Library of America, 1984) [only available in hardcover $21.05] (2) Alan Taylor, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 (New York: Norton, 2013); (3) Harry L. Watson, ed., Andrew Jackson vs. Henry Clay: Democracy and Development in Antebellum America (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 1998). The reading averages 90-120 pages per week, but primarily consists of primary documents which need close, careful attention.
There will be two lectures per week, on Monday and Wednesday, and a discussion section on Thursday or Friday.
In addition to active participation in discussion, the course requires a mid-term exam, final exam, a document analysis, and a paper based on documents and due in three installments (of 1, 2-3, and 6-8 pages each).