Tag Archives: midterm

Midterm Examples

In preparation for the final essays, below are some examples of midterm essays that answered the questions well. I have added a few comments at the end to highlight what is strong and what could be improved upon in the essays.

I. Compare and contrast different interpretations and methods related to the history of the American Revolution.

The American Revolution is one of those events in history that wasn’t caused by a single event, but the culmination of many smaller events that would help cause the breakout of war between the American colonist and the British. Historians writing about the American Revolution have many similar and different interpretations and methods which they use to show the mindset of the people during this time period and also to get a sense of why the events leading up to the American Revolution occurred and why the revolution itself occurred. The methods that are used by historians help to influence the ideas and interpretations they express in their writings. Historians such T.H. Breen, and Fred Anderson as you will see use similar and different methods in order to help show the causes of the Revolution.

One method that is commonly used by many historians when talking about the American Revolution is the use of sources written by and about the upper elites in America and in Britain. These include people like Washington, Jefferson, and members of the British upper class. These sources usually express their anger or protest to political and economic issues that have affected them and their fellow colonists because of the British authority. When historians use these types of sources in their articles they are using them and interpreting them to show that the revolution was caused by the British enforcement of harsh taxes and the taking away of their rights as British citizens. Fred Anderson in his article “Britain’s Victory Exposed the Need for Greater Control” although he doesn’t use American upper class and how they felt about the British policies, he does talk about the British upper class in the colonies who had to enforce strict laws on the colonists in order to establish control which would help increase the tension that was already building. He states “…that Amherst-soon to become Sir Jeffery, knight of the Bath-began in the name rationality and economy to reverse the openhanded policies that had produced such remarkable cooperation between the colonists and the empire and the Indians.”[1] Anderson uses this in order to show how British officials imposed their will upon the colonist which in turn angered many colonists. Anderson’s quote also shows a reason why many colonists may have took action against the British. This new and sudden change in policy towards the colonies helped to create strict and stubborn opposition to such new policies. The actions of a British official in colonial America like those of Amherst are being used by Anderson in order to show his interpretation of that in the quest for more control over the colonies the British had to enforce polices that many colonist didn’t like and because of these policies many colonist became enraged with the British after the French and Indian War. This anger would help build the tension between colonist and the British that would eventually lead to the protest and violence that would be used by the American colonist to the policies that were going to be put in place.

T.H. Breen in his book American Insurgents, American Patriots uses a different a different method of analysis toward the causes of the Revolution. Unlike Anderson, Breen uses the experiences and actions that were taken by the common people mostly those from the middle and lower classes. He does this in order to show his interpretation that the common people had just as big a role in the War of Independence as those famous upper class individuals such as Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, etc. Breen uses the experience and actions taken by a New Hampshire farmer Matthew Patten, his family and his small community who unlike many upper class patriots didn’t join the fight against the British for political or economic reasons, but for the sake of his own lifestyle and for the sake of him, his families and his communities livelihood. Breen in his book express the idea of the role of people like Patten, his family and his community when he writes, “Through the lens of Patten’s diary we witness insurgency in small scattered communities-communities that could not claim to have been the birthplace of a single celebrated Founding Father-evolving into a genuine war against Great Britain.”[2] Breen is saying in this quote is that the Founding Fathers although they had a major role in the revolution they didn’t do everything that was needed for the revolution to be successful. Breen is saying that what the Founding Fathers didn’t do was fight on the front lines during the war this was the job of many lower and middle class colonist that risked everything in order to fight for their way of life. Like Patten and the people of his community these people are usually overlooked and not given the credit they deserve because without them as Breen states throughout his book the Revolution would have never been possible let alone successful. Similarly like Anderson, Breen also has the interpretation in his book that the implementation of British policies on the colonies which was used by the British in order to take back control over the colonies was a major factor in the development of the revolution. When the British occupied Boston and were taxing the colonist on many of their imports and exports we can see their attempt to control the colonists and enforce their will upon them.  Breen shows how the people in local communities in and around Boston reacted to such attempts at control of the colonist when he writes, “Without a clearly defined command structure, thousands of anonymous farmers from small inland towns took the law into their own hands and within a short time had dismantled imperial authority outside Boston, now an occupied city surrounded by irregular forces.”[3] As we can see from Breen’s quote the attempts by the British to establish their control and dominance over the colonies lead many ordinary people to take action against the British. We can also see how Breen and Anderson although they are using two different methods to analyze the revolution they both have similar interpretations of the effects British attempt at control had on the colonists.

As you can see the works of Breen and Anderson are very important works when trying to figure out what happened to cause the Revolution and why the revolution was successful. The methods and interpretation used by both of these historians as you have seen are similar and different in certain ways. These interpretations and methods of analysis of the American Revolution used by these two authors allows us to see two distinct and contrasting views that can  help to show us the mindset of the colonists and the British during this time period and to give us a sense of why the events leading up to and during the revolution occurred.

Comments: While the thesis in the introduction could be more specific, the essay highlights the use of different sources and how that shapes interpretations of the Revolution well in the body of the essay. The body paragraphs could be broken up to enhance clarity.

[1] Fred Anderson, “Britain’s victory exposed the Need for Greater Control” in Major Problems in the Era of the American Revolution, 1760-179, ed. Richard D. Brown, Benjamin L. Carp, 3rd edition, Wadsworth, 2012, 54.

[2] T.H. Breen, American Insurgents, American Patriots, (New York, Hill and Wang, 2010), 9 .

[3] Breen, 87-88

Question IIa. Compare and contrast different methods used by the colonists to resist parliamentary reforms in the 1760s and 1770s.

Prior to the start of the American Revolution, there were different attitudes towards Parliament by the colonists about Parliament’s taxes. The founding fathers had taken a legal approach to file grievances against Parliament such as Washington’s letter of protest to Parliament about land restrictions. [1] Although George Washington had taken a legal approach ordinary colonists took matters into their own hands and used violence against Parliamentary proclamations and reforms. The colonist’s violent approach was more successful in the resistance of parliamentary reforms than legal rhetoric.

Legal rhetoric was the method that most founding fathers used to protest Parliament’s actions and reforms. They used the law to help their cause in resisting Parliament’s proclamations with the intention for parliament to reverse its policy. One example was the creation of the Stamp Act congress after the Stamp act was passed by Parliament. The act required all colonists to pay a tax on all printed-papers the colonists used including newspapers, playing cards and legal documents. The Stamp Act congress sent a petition to parliament outlining why the Stamp Act Congress was allowed to petition parliament as well as why parliament should rebuke the law.

In the petition, the Stamp Act congress wrote, “That his majesty’s subjects in these colonies are entitled to the same inherent rights and liberties as Natural born citizens of the United Kingdom…that it is the right of these colonies to petition the king or either house of parliament.”[2] The Congress asserted that citizens of British America were entitled to the same legal status as citizens born in the natural land of United Kingdom Proper. It was based on legal equality that they argued the Stamp Act was not legal since no one from the colonies had representation during the vote or passage of the Stamp Act. The Stamp Act Congress therefore claimed the colonists were taxed by their local legislature only and not by Parliament because the colonist had some say in their legislature. [3] The Petition along with its notion of legal equality was refuted when Parliament issued a statement in where it stated that Parliament’s rule was above all else and it is Parliament not the colonial legislature that will decide for the colonies. [4] Parliament’s statement refuted the notion of legal equality of Natural born citizens and British American colonists that led to British American colonists becoming second-class citizens in terms of legal equality.

Most colonies did not wait for Parliament’s reaction to the Stamp Act Congress to illustrate their displeasure. Many had felt like second-class citizens would the passing of the Stamp Act, which was why New York Colonist violently protested against the Act. The New York Colonists mobbed together, attacked the stamp collectors, and forced many stamp collectors to resign from office. [5] In this instance, Violence earned a greater result than legal rhetoric because the colonists were attacking Stamp Collectors and making them fearful of their position that ultimately led them to resign. If the Stamp Collectors resigned, there was no one to collect the tax so the violence in New York. Such chain of reactions helped the repeal of the Stamp Act One newspaper claimed ‘the decline of British influence in America may be dated from the repeal of the Stamp Act’.[6]

Violence conducted by the colonists was used as means to obtain a goal, like the protest of the Stamp Act along with the eventual removal of the Act. Another such example was the North Carolinian Regulators who had taken arms against the Royal Governor of North Carolina to protest corruption.[7] The Regulators had used violence with respect to British Tradition, which was a way of communication. [8]

Although colonial violence was critical to the protests of Parliament’s actions, it was not the only form of protest. There were several nonviolent protests such as boycotts and non-importations. One example was the Charleston merchants’ non-importation in1769. Nonviolence was instrumental in the protests to parliament as well but violence had played a bigger key than legal rhetoric. The Stamp Act Congress could not use legal rhetoric to make its case to Parliament as British Citizens while Colonial violence was what affected the British. The Declaration of Independence had occurred after the battles of Lexington and Concord and after the Boston Tea Party.

Comments: This essay has a specific and analytical thesis and is clearly organized to prove the argument. It could be strengthened by adding more examples to each section (legal and violent methods).

[1]George Washington to William Crawford, September [17] 1776. The Papers of George Washington; the colonial series, ed. W. W. Abbot and Dorothy Twohig (Charolettesville) University of Virginia, 1993

[2] English Historical Documents Ed. David C Douglas (London, 1979), 9:642-73

[3] English Historical Documents

[4] Declaratory act, 1766, the statues at large… 1761 ed. Danby Pickering (London) 27:19-20

[5] David. Colden to the Commissioners of the stamp office, London Oct. 26 1765, the colden letter books, 1765-1775 vol. 2, collection of new York historical society [1877]: 50-52

[6] Breen, Chapter 2 p 62.

[7] Lee, Wayne E. Crowds And Soldiers In The Revolutionary North Carolina: The Culture of Violence In Riot And War (Gainesville): university press of Florida, 2001

[8] Lee