Write an essay on ONE of the questions listed below. Be sure to answer the questions “why” and “how,” and to illustrate your essay with specific facts.
1. The regional divisions in America between North and South are frequently considered the most important. Slavery and the legacy of slavery are given as the usual reasons for this. However, the divisions between the commercial and industrial East, and the frontier and agrarian West, were for most of American history even more important.
Trace these important east-west divisions from colonial times until the beginning of the Second World War.
Be sure to mention Jefferson’s and Hamilton’s visions of America’s future. You should also make reference to the French and Indian War, Shays’s rebellion, the Louisiana Purchase, the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, and the Jacksonian revolution.
Consider as well East-West tensions from 1870 to 1914 (created by railroad construction, industrialization, the gold standard and massive immigration). How were these differences revealed in the cultural and political divide (between the “two Americas”) of the 1920s? How were they reflected in the 1928 presidential election between Al Smith and Herbert Hoover?
How were these revealed again in 1940-1941, during the foreign policy debate about the war in Europe? What are the fundamental reasons for this division in each period? To what extent do these divisions, continue to exist today, and why?
How might these reveal themselves in current national politics?
2. Why were the Founding Fathers suspicious of strong central government? What were their assumptions about the nature of the federal government, state government, and the freedom of individual citizens? What kind of power did the Federal government originally have? What kind of power did the states originally have? Which was more powerful?
In what ways did Abraham Lincoln violate the rights of states? In what was this a break with the past? What was his justification for doing this?
What is Progressivism? In what way is this a break with traditional American notions about weak government? How can you account for this change? What for example was the difference between Jackson’s destruction of the central bank, and Woodrow Wilson’s creation of the Federal Reserve Board? Was the creation of an income tax just? Who was this supposed to help, and who did it hurt? How does this fit with traditional notions of weak government?
Trace “Progressive” federal legislation from the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt (1900-1908) through that of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945). Why were Franklin Roosevelt’s programs so popular?
What kind of power does the Federal government have today? What were the most important reasons for the increase of federal interference in the states from the 1860s through the 1960s? Give specific examples. What powers have been left to the states today? Is this appropriate?
What are the different views about government interference in America today? How can you account for these differences?
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