American History Through the Civil War

  • 0/5 Stars
Course Level:
Course Length:
15 weeks

Course Description

Welcome to HIST 212, American History through the Civil War.  For the next fifteen weeks we will explore a variety of topics in the early history of the United States and its antecedent, the thirteen mainland colonies of British North America.  With the understanding that we cannot achieve anything close to comprehensive coverage of every major development in the 258 years between the founding of Jamestown and the surrender of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, we will proceed more or less chronologically.  Along the way, we will read and discuss selections from more than one hundred of the era’s most interesting and important documents.  Students will learn to use these documents as windows into a distant past, to understand what the documents can and cannot tell us about a world long-since vanished, and to draw meaningful lessons for our own time.  In short, a core course such as this should convey basic knowledge of the people, places, events, and ideas that comprise the Early American historical narrative while at the same time giving students the ability to comprehend that narrative by introducing them to the historian’s craft.    

I wish all of you the best of luck and look forward to a wonderful semester.

Required Reading

There are no books to purchase for HIST 212.  All course readings will be provided.  See course schedule.

Course Requirements and Grading

Exam #1 (in-class bluebook essay only)                                                  20%

Exam #2 (in-class bluebook essay plus take-home essay)                              40%

Two short papers (2 pp. each) plus final Civil War paper (4 pp.)   20%

Class participation                                                                                            20%


93-100 = A           90-92 = A-            87-89 = B+           83-86 = B              80-82 = B-            77-79 = C+          

73-76 = C              70-72 = C-            67-69 = D+           63-66 = D             60-62 = D-            59 and below = F

Regarding Academic Dishonesty

Rest assured that your instructor will follow all university guidelines regarding academic dishonesty.  In short, cheating of any kind will result in an F for the course, along with possible suspension or expulsion from Ashland University.  If you have questions about what constitutes plagiarism, please ask or visit the Writing Center webpage.  For help with all writing-related questions, again, ask your instructor, or, if you need additional outside help, please do make an appointment with the Writing Center.

Student Disability Services

Students who require academic adjustments for this class should contact me to discuss reasonable accommodations.  It is best (though not required) for the student to request such accommodations early in the semester.  The student must present the proper paperwork from Disability Services to document the need for academic adjustments.

 Random Things You Should Know

--I will not accept papers via e-mail.

--When papers or exams are returned to you at the end of a class period, please take them home and read my comments before inquiring about your grade.  If, after having read these comments, you still do not understand why you received the grade you did, feel free to ask me about it via e-mail the next day, during my next scheduled office hours, or at an appointed time.

Note: When sending an e-mail to a professor, future employer, casual acquaintance, or any other human being who is neither a close friend nor a member of your immediate family, it is polite to address the e-mail’s recipient with a greeting ( “Dear…”)  and then sign off with something like “Sincerely,” or “Best wishes,” or, in England, “Cheers,” etc.  Do not compose professional e-mail correspondence as though you’re sending a text message.  I will ignore any such student e-mail that arrives in my Inbox. 

--If you have a question for me that you wish to have answered before the next morning, please make sure to send me an e-mail before 6:00 P.M.  Any e-mail messages I receive after that time likely will go unanswered until the next day.

--Students should feel free to ask any and all questions except two: 1) “When do we get our tests back?” and 2) “I missed class yesterday.  Did we do anything important?”  Either question will result in an F for the course—or, at minimum, a professorial frown.

--Please do not begin rustling papers and packing up your belongings with five minutes remaining in class; it is distracting to other students, and there isn’t a spot on campus to which you cannot travel from any other spot on campus within ten minutes—that is, as long as you’re not walking and texting at the same time.  On the other hand, I do not intend to hold you longer than the fifty-minute period, so do feel free to stop me if I’ve run over the allotted time. 

--I demand politeness.  It is impolite to send or receive text messages, check Facebook, or perform any of the other functions for which some students use their electronic devices during class time.  If I catch you doing any of these things, I will call you on it, and I will consider your transgression when calculating your final grade.


(Tentative) Course Schedule and Readings

There are no books for purchase in HIST 212.  You may access the assigned readings by clicking on the links below each item on the syllabus. 


Week One

August 23            Course Introduction and Assessment


August 25            Early Virginia

George Percy, Observations Gathered out of a Discourse of the Plantation of theSouthern Colony in Virginiaby the English, 1606.

John Rolfe to Sir Thomas Dale, 1614


August 27            Early New England

                                John Calvin, Letter to the King, from Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1536

Dedham Covenant, 1636

The Examination of Mrs. Ann Hutchinson, 1637


Week Two         

August 30            Cavaliers and Rebels

                                Bacon’s Manifesto, 1676

William Berkeley’s Declaration and Remonstrance, 1676

Bacon’s Declaration in the Name of the People, 1676

Robert Beverley on Bacon’s Rebellion, 1704[5]


September 1      Puritans and Indians

Increase Mather, A Brief History of the War with the Indians in New England…

Edward Randolph’s Description of King Philip’s War, 1685


September 3      Conquest and Quakers: The Restoration Middle Colonies

                                Excerpts from George Fox’s Writings

Edward Burrough, A Declaration of the Sad and Great Persecution of the People of God, Called Quakers, in New England, for the Worshipping of God, 1661 (read pp. 3-16 only)


Week Three

September 6      Dominion of Witches

Commission of Sir Edmund Andros for the Dominion of New England, April 7, 1688

Cotton Mather, Memorable Providences Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions, 1689


September 8      British Constitution

Sir Robert Filmer, Patriarcha, or the Natural Right of Kings, 1680, Ch. 1, no. 1; Ch. 2, nos. 16-18; Ch. 3, no. 1

Algernon Sidney, Discourses Concerning Government, 1698, Ch. 1, Sec. 1, 5 and 10; Ch. 2, Sec. 3 and 16


September 10   Stono

 “Report from William Bull re: Stono Rebellion”

“A Commons House of Assembly Committee Report, in a Message to the Governor’s Council, November 29, 1739”


Week Four

September 13   Quintessential American?  Benjamin Franklin and the Enlightenment

                                The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

                                Chapter One:

                                “Dear son…known to be the author.”

                                “This bookish inclination…determined to endeavor at improvement.”

                                Chapter Three:

                                “Sir William Keith…friendly manner imaginable.”

                                Chapter Five:

                                “When we came to the Channel…passed by his administration.”

                                Chapter Six:

                                “Before I enter upon my public appearance…determined to preserve it.”

                                Chapter Seven: All

                                Chapter Eight: All

                                Chapter Ten: “In 1739 arrived among us…lasted to his death.”



September 15    Great Awakening

                                George Whitefield, “The Eternity of Hell-Torments”



September 17   Albany Plan and Great War for Empire

                                Albany Plan of Union, 1754


                                The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

                                Chapter 12: All


                                Benjamin Franklin, A Narrative of the Late Massacres…(1764)

“On Wednesday, the 14th of December, 1763…the Sense those People have had of such Actions.”



Week Five

September 20   Taxation without Representation

Virginia Resolves of 1765


                                Richard Bland, “An Inquiry into the Rights of the British Colonies,” 1766


                                John Dickinson, Letter Two from Letters from a Pennsylvania Farmer (1767)



September 22   Corruption and Conspiracy


September 24   Crisis

                                Resolves of the New York Sons of Liberty, December 15, 1773


                                Boston Port Act, March 31, 1774


                                Thomas Jefferson, A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774)


Week Six

September 27   Independence

                                Edmund Burke, On Conciliation with the Colonies, March 22, 1775


                                Paul Revere, Memorandum on Events of April 18, 1775


                                British Account of Bunker Hill, June 22, 1775


                                Olive Branch Petition, July 5, 1775


                                Proclamation, by the King, for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition, August 23, 1775


                                Resolves and Recommendations of Congress, May 10 and 15, 1776


                                Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776



September 29   Leftovers/Review


October 1            Exam #1


Week Seven

October 4            Revolutionary War

Memorandum on Meeting between Lord Howe and American Commissioners, September 11, 1776


                                George Washington to General Charles Lee, November 30, 1776


                                Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, December 19, 1776


                                Fredericka Charlotte Louise, The Defeat and Surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga, 1777


                                The French Alliance, February 6, 1778


                                Benedict Arnold, Letter to the Inhabitants of America, October 7, 1780


                                Royal Gazette, “Our Last Will and Testament,” January 31, 1781


                                Cornwallis to Clinton, October 20, 1781



October 6            Confederation and Peace

                                Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union


                                The Definitive Treaty of Peace, 1783



October 8            Constitution and Ratification

                                Constitution of the United States, 1787


                                Elbridge Gerry’s Objections, October 18, 1787


                                Brutus I, October 18, 1787



Week Eight

October 11          Constitution and Ratification

                                Federalist 10 (Madison), November 22, 1787


                                Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, December 20, 1787


                                Virginia Ratifies, June 25, 1788


                                New York Ratifies, July 26, 1788


                                Bill of Rights, 1791




October 13          Alexander Hamilton: American Prime Minister?

Thomas Jefferson, Memorandum on the Compromise of 1790

                                Alexander Hamilton, Notes on the Advantages of a National Bank, March 27, 1791

James Madison, “Government of the United States,” 1792

Philip Freneau, “Rules for Changing a Limited Republican Government into an Unlimited Hereditary One,” June 4 and 7, 1792


October 15          Calamities: French Revolution, Neutrality and the Genet Affair

                                The Pacificus-Helvidius Debate, 1793



Week Nine

October 18          Fall Break


October 20          “By the Light of My Own Burning Effigies”: Jay’s Treaty and its Consequences

                                Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, September 6, 1795


Alexander Hamilton’s “Camillus” Essays, 1795-96

Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, June 4, 1798

Sedition Act, July 14, 1798

Virginia Resolution of 1798


October 22          Federalism’s Abyss: The Revolution of 1800

                                Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801


Fisher Ames, “Falkland, No. 2,” February 6, 1801

                                Thomas Jefferson to Levi Lincoln, October 25, 1802


Week Ten

October 25          Jeffersonian Ascendancy: Robbers and Pirates

                                Thomas Jefferson to John C. Breckenridge, August 12, 1803


October 27          Failure and Vindication: The War of 1812

                                President Madison’s War Message, June 2, 1812


October 29          Revolution’s End?  Foreign Policy and the Monroe Doctrine

                                Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, October 24, 1823


                                Monroe Doctrine, December 2, 1823



Week Eleven

November 1       Era of Not-So-Good Feelings

Debate in Congress over the Tallmadge Amendment to Missouri Enabling Bill, February 1819

Annals of Congress, 15th Congress, Second Session, 1169-1214


November 3       Democracy and the Lurid Administration

                                John Quincy Adams, State of the Union Address, December 6, 1825

“Upon this first occasion of addressing the Legislature of the Union…welfare of your country.”



November 5       King Andrew: The Return of Parties

                                Andrew Jackson’s Case for the Removal Act, December 8, 1829


                                Letter from Chief John Ross of the Cherokee, 1836


                                Andrew Jackson, Bank Bill Veto, July 10, 1832


                                Henry Clay, Speech on President Jackson’s Veto, July 10, 1832



Week 12

November 8       King Andrew: Politics and Petticoats

                                South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification, November 24, 1832


                                Andrew Jackson, Proclamation Regarding Nullification, December 10, 1832



November 10    Slavery and the Federal Government

                                [David] Walker’s Appeal…to the Coloured Citizens of the World (1830)

                                Article IV, “Our Wretchedness in Consequence of the Colonizing Plan”


                                William Lloyd Garrison, Editorial Regarding Walker’s Appeal, January 8, 1831


                                The Confessions of Nat Turner…(1831)


                                John C. Calhoun, Slavery a Positive Good, February 6, 1837



November 12    Manifest Destiny and Mexico

                                James K. Polk, Third Annual Message, December 7, 1847


                                Abraham Lincoln, Speech against the Mexican War, January 12, 1848



Week 13

November 15    Compromise and Fugitives

                                Henry Clay, Speech on Preserving the Union, 1850


                                John C. Calhoun, Speech against Clay’s Compromise Measures, 1850


                                Compromise of 1850


                                Fugitive Slave Act of 1850



November 17    Kansas

                                Abraham Lincoln, Speech on the Repeal of the Missouri Compromise, October 16, 1854



November 19    Dred Scott

                                Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)



Week 14

November 22    Exam #2 (take-home essay also due as part of second exam)


November 24    Thanksgiving Break—No Class


November 26    Thanksgiving Break—No Class


Week 15

November 29    War and Emancipation

                                Two Papers Regarding the Justifying Causes of Secession


                                Constitution of the Confederate States of America, March 11, 1861


                                Alexander Stephens, Cornerstone Speech, March 21, 1861


                                Richmond Examiner, “We are Fighting for Independence, Not Slavery,” August 2, 1864


                                Abraham Lincoln to Horace Greeley, August 22, 1862


                                Final Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863


                                Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863



December 1       Turning Points

First Lieutenant Granville C. West, “Personal Recollections of the Chickamauga Campaign” (1913)

                                William T. Sherman to James M. Calhoun, et al, September 12, 1864



December 3       Meaning and Legacy

                                Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865


                                Civil War paper (4 pp.) due