Table of Contents
United States History, Vol 1, Sixteenth Edition
Unit: Colonial Society
- Issue: Is America Exceptional?
YES: Seymour Martin Lipset‚ from “Still the Exceptional Nation?” The Wilson Quarterly (vol. 24, pp. 31–36, 40–45 (edited) 2000)
NO: Thomas Bender‚ from A Nation Among Nations: America’s Place in World History (Hill & Wang‚ 2006)
Seymour Martin Lipset (1922–2006) claims that the United States remains an “outlier” nation in that it is much less welfare-oriented‚ the federal government taxes and spends less‚ Americans are more heavily influenced by Protestant Christianity‚ and Americans benefit from a higher rate of mobility into elite positions than is the case in other developed nations. Thomas Bender claims that the concept of American exceptionalism encourages an intellectual and moral isolation that prevents the history of the United States from being placed in a broader‚ global context that recognizes no single national norm.
- Issue: Was Conflict Between Europeans and Native Americans Inevitable?
YES: Kevin Kenny, from Peaceable Kingdom Lost: The Paxton Boys and the Destruction of William Penn’s Holy Experiment (Oxford University Press, 2009)
NO: Cynthia J. Van Zandt, from Brothers Among Nations: The Pursuit of Intercultural Alliances in Early America, 1580–1660 (Oxford University Press, 2008)
Kevin Kenny argues that European colonists’ demands for privately owned land condemned William Penn’s vision of amicable relations with local Native Americans to failure and guaranteed hostilities that ultimately destroyed Indian culture and produced the extermination of even the most peaceful tribes in Pennsylvania. Cynthia J. Van Zandt claims that trade alliances between English colonists and Native Americans continued despite military hostilities between the two groups and fell victim not to racial or cultural differences, but rather from conflicts among the various European nations vying for hegemony in the New World.
- Issue: Was the Colonial Period a “Golden Age” for Women in America?
YES: Gloria L. Main, “Gender, Work, and Wages in Colonial New England,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 51 (January 1994): 41–42, 52–66
NO: Mary Beth Norton, from “The Myth of the Golden Age,” in Carol Ruth Berkin and Mary Beth Norton, eds., Women in America: A History (Houghton Mifflin, 1979): 37–46
Gloria Main notes that New England women were highly valued for their labor and relative scarcity in the early colonial period and that their economic autonomy increased in the years during and following the Seven Years War as more women entered the paid work force and received higher wages for their work. Mary Beth Norton challenges the “golden age” thesis by insisting that women in colonial America, whether white, black, or Native American, typically occupied a domestic sphere that was lacking in status, physically debilitating over time, and a barrier to educational opportunity or political power.
- Issue: Were Socioeconomic Tensions Responsible for the Witchcraft Hysteria in Salem?
YES: Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, from Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft (Harvard University Press, 1974)
NO: Laurie Winn Carlson, from A Fever in Salem: A New Interpretation of the New England Witch Trials (Ivan R. Dee, 1999)
Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum argue that the Salem witchcraft hysteria of 1692 was prompted by economic and social tensions that occurred against the backdrop of an emergent commercial capitalism, conflicts between ministers and their congregations, and the loss of family lands, which divided the residents in Salem Town and Salem Village. Laurie Winn Carlson believes that the witchcraft hysteria in Salem was the product of people’s responses to physical and neurological behaviors resulting from an unrecognized epidemic of encephalitis.
- Issue: Was There a Great Awakening in Mid-Eighteenth-Century America?
YES: Thomas S. Kidd, from The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America (Yale University Press, 2007)
NO: Jon Butler, from “Enthusiasm Described and Decried: The Great Awakening as Interpretative Fiction,” Journal of American History (September 1982)
Thomas Kidd insists that preachers such as George Whitefield engineered a powerful series of revivals in the mid-eighteenth century that influenced all of the British North American colonies and gave birth to a spirit of evangelicalism that initiated a major alteration of global Christian history. Jon Butler claims that to describe the religious revival activities of the eighteenth century as the “Great Awakening” is to seriously exaggerate their extent, nature, and impact on prerevolutionary American society and politics.
- Issue: Was the American Revolution Largely a Product of Market-Driven Consumer Forces?
YES: T. H. Breen, from The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence (Oxford University Press, 2004)
NO: Carl Degler, from Out of Our Past: The Forces That Shaped Modern America, 2nd ed. (Harper Collins Publishers, 1959, 1970)
Professor T. H. Breen maintains that “the colonists’ shared experiences as consumers provided them with the cultural resources needed to develop a bold new form of political protest”—the nonimportation agreements which provided “a necessary if not causal link” to the break with England. Professor Carl Degler argues that the American Revolution was a political rebellion led by a group of reluctant revolutionaries who opposed parliament’s attempt to impose taxes without the consent of the colonists.
Unit: Revolution and the New Nation
- Issue: Was the Second Amendment Designed to Protect an Individual’s Right to Own Guns?
YES: Robert E. Shalhope, from “The Armed Citizen in the Early Republic,” Law and Contemporary Problems (vol. 49, Winter 1986, pp. 125–126, 132–141 (edited)
NO: Lawrence Delbert Cress, from “A Well-Regulated Militia: The Origins and Meaning of the Second Amendment,” in Jon Kukla, ed., The Bill of Rights: A Lively Heritage (Library of Virginia, 1987)
According to Robert Shalhope, in eighteenth-century America the Second Amendment guaranteed individuals the right to own guns in order to maintain freedom and liberty in a republican society by fulfilling their communal responsibilities within a “well-regulated militia.” Lawrence Delbert Cress argues that British common law and the laws of the various state legislatures in the United States during the 1780s were designed only to permit armed and “well-regulated militia” to protect citizens from domestic insurrections as well as from tyrannical rule by the national government.
- Issue: Was President Jefferson a Political Compromiser?
YES: Morton Borden, from “Thomas Jefferson,” in Morton Borden, ed., America’s Eleven Greatest Presidents 2nd ed. (Rand McNally, 1971)
NO: Lance Banning, from The Jeffersonian Persuasion: Evolution of a Party Ideology (Cornell University Press, 1978)
Morton Borden argues that President Thomas Jefferson was a moderate and pragmatic politician who placed the nation’s best interests above those of the states. Lance Banning argues that Jefferson and his supporters were ideologically committed to westward expansion, the elimination of the national debt, and the eradication of the pro-British trade policies established by his Federalist opponents.
- Issue: Did the Election of 1828 Represent a Democratic Revolt of the People?
YES: Sean Wilentz, from The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln (W. W. Norton, 2005)
NO: Daniel Walker Howe, from What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848 (Oxford University Press, 2007)
Bancroft Prize winner Sean Wilentz argues that in spite of its vulgarities and slanders, the 1828 election campaign “won by Andrew Jackson produced a valediction on the faction-ridden jumble of the Era of Bad Feelings and announced the rough arrival of two distinct national coalitions.” Daniel Walker Howe denies that Jackson’s victory represented the coming of democracy to the United States and claims that, in the dirtiest campaign in American history, Jackson won on his personal popularity as a military hero and appealed to the agrarian virtues of an earlier age, while John Quincy Adams lost on a program of planned economic development and a diversified economy led by the national government.
- Issue: Did the Industrial Revolution Provide More Economic Opportunities for Women in the 1830s?
YES: Nancy F. Cott, from The Bonds of Womanhood: “Woman’s Sphere” in New England, 1780–1835 (Yale University Press, 1977)
NO: Gerda Lerner, from “The Lady and the Mill Girl: Changes in the Status of Women in the Age of Jackson,” The Majority Finds It’s Past: Placing Women in History (Oxford University Press, 1979)
According to Professor Nancy F. Cott, when merchant capitalism reached its mature phase in the 1830s, the roles of the middle-class family became more clearly defined, and new economic opportunities opened within a limited sphere outside the home. According to Professor Gerda Lerner, while Jacksonian democracy provided political and economic opportunities for men, both the “lady” and the “mill girl” were equally disenfranchised and isolated from vital centers of economic opportunity.
Unit: Antebellum America
- Issue: Was Antebellum Temperance Reform Motivated Primarily by Religious Moralism?
YES: W. J. Rorabaugh, from The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition (Oxford University Press, 1979)
NO: John J. Rumbarger, from "The Social and Ideological Origins of Drink Reform, 1800-1836," in Profits, Power, and Prohibition: Alcohol Reform and the Industrializing of America, 1800–1930 (State University of New York Press, 1989)
W. J. Rorabaugh points out that in the first half of the nineteenth century, evangelical Christian ministers portrayed liquor as the tool of the Devil and developed temperance societies as socializing institutions to ease social tensions and anxieties that contributed to alcohol consumption. John J. Rumbarger concludes that nineteenth-century temperance reform was the product of a pro-capitalist market economy whose entrepreneurial elite led the way toward abstinence and prohibition campaigns in order to guarantee the availability of a more productive work force.
- Issue: Was the Mexican War an Exercise in American Imperialism?
YES: Walter Nugent, from “California and New Mexico, 1846–1848: Southward Aggression II,” in Habits of Empire: A History of American Expansion (Alfred A. Knopf, 2008)
NO: Norman A. Graebner, from “The Mexican War: A Study in Causation,” Pacific Historical Review (August 1980)
Professor Walter Nugent argues that President James K. Polk was a narrow-minded, ignorant but not stupid individual with one big idea: use the power of the presidency to force Mexico to cede California and the current Southwest to the United States. Professor of diplomatic history Norman A. Graebner argues that President James Polk pursued an aggressive policy that he believed would force Mexico to sell New Mexico and California to the United States and to recognize the annexation of Texas without starting a war.
- Issue: Was John Brown an Irrational Terrorist?
YES: James N. Gilbert, from “A Behavioral Analysis of John Brown: Martyr or Terrorist?” in Terrible Swift Sword: The Legacy of John Brown (Ohio University Press, 2005)
NO: Scott John Hammond, from “John Brown as Founder: America’s Violent Confrontation with Its First Principles,” in Terrible Swift Sword: The Legacy of John Brown (Ohio University Press, 2005)
James N. Gilbert says that John Brown’s actions conform to a modern definition of terrorist behavior in that Brown considered the United States incapable of reforming itself by abolishing slavery, believed that only violence would accomplish that goal, and justified his actions by proclaiming adherence to a “higher” power. Scott John Hammond insists that John Brown’s commitment to higher moral and political goals conformed to the basic principles of human freedom and political and legal equality that formed the heart of the creed articulated by the founders of the American nation.
Unit: Conflict and Resolution
- Issue: Was the Civil War Fought Over Slavery?
YES: Charles B. Dew, from Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War (University of Virginia Press, 2001)
NO: Gary W. Gallagher, from The Union War (Harvard University Press, 2012)
Charles B. Dew uses the speeches and public letters of 41 white southerners who, as commissioners in 1860 and 1861, attempted to secure support for secession by appealing to their audiences’ commitment to the preservation of slavery and the doctrine of white supremacy. According to Gary W. Gallagher, the letters of white northern soldiers during the Civil War reveal a limited concern about the institution of slavery and an often open hostility toward the use of African American troops that reinforces the conclusion that their main motivation was saving the Union.
- Issue: Are Historians Wrong to Consider the War Between the States a “Total War”?
YES: Mark E. Neely, Jr., from “Was the Civil War a Total War?” Civil War History (vol. 50, December 2004)
NO: James M. McPherson, from “From Limited to Total War, Missouri and the Nation, 1861–1865,” in Gateway Heritage; Magazine of the Missouri Historical Society 12 1992
Professor Mark E. Neely, Jr., argues that the Civil War was not a total war because President Lincoln and the Union military leaders, such as General William T. Sherman, respected the distinction between soldiers and civilians, combatants and noncombatants. In addition, the North did not fully mobilize its resources nor engage in centralized planning and state intervention as was typical of twentieth-century wartime economies. Professor James M. McPherson argues that the Civil War was a total war. While conceding the distinction between combatants and noncombatants, he insists that the war accomplished the abolition of slavery and the extinction of a national state system—the Confederacy.
- Issue: Was Abraham Lincoln America’s Greatest President?
YES: Phillip Shaw Paludan, from The Presidency of Abraham Lincoln (University Press of Kansas, 1994)
NO: Melvin E. Bradford, from Remembering Who We Are: Observations of a Southern Conservative (University of Georgia Press, 1985)
Phillip Shaw Paludan contends that Abraham Lincoln’s greatness exceeds that of all other American presidents because Lincoln, in the face of unparalleled challenges associated with the Civil War, succeeded in preserving the Union and freeing the slaves. Melvin E. Bradford characterizes Lincoln as a cynical politician whose abuse of authority as president and commander-in-chief during the Civil War marked a serious departure from the republican goals of the Founding Fathers and established the prototype for the “imperial presidency” of the twentieth century.
- Issue: Did Reconstruction Fail as a Result of Racism?
YES: LeeAnna Keith, from The Colfax Massacre: The Untold Story of Black Power, White Terror, and the Death of Reconstruction (Oxford University Press, 2008)
NO: Heather Cox Richardson, from The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post–Civil War North, 1865–1901 (Harvard University Press, 2001)
LeeAnna Keith characterizes the assault on the Grant Parish courthouse in Colfax, Louisiana on Easter Sunday in 1873 as a product of white racism and unwillingness by local whites to tolerate African American political power during the era of Reconstruction. Heather Cox Richardson argues that the failure of Radical Reconstruction was primarily a consequence of a national commitment to a free labor ideology that opposed an expanding central government that legislated rights to African Americans that other citizens had acquired through hard work.