Jefferson vs. Hamilton (ch. 1)

Reading: Noble Cunningham, Jefferson vs. Hamilton, 1-27

In the opening chapter of this book, Cunningham blends his own commentary with excerpts from Hamilton and Jefferson in order to explore the fundamental principles of these two men. While Jefferson and Hamilton certainly shared many values, they parted ways on a number of key issues. Perhaps most significantly, they held different beliefs about the ability of “the people” to make good political decisions.

We have enough evidence before us to ask and answer a few important questions:

  1. How might Jefferson’s and Hamilton’s different backgrounds and experiences have shaped their political points of view?
  2. Judging from these sources, what were Jefferson’s main political principles? What were Hamilton’s?
  3. What major differences of opinion separated Jefferson and Hamilton, even before their scuffle over national economic issues?
  4. Whose reflections on the national government turned out to be more prescient?

Gordon Wood, The American Revolution, Parts V & VI

Reading: Wood, The American Revolution, pp. 91-135.

In these two sections on “Republicanism” and “Republican Society,” Wood puts forward his argument that the American Revolution was indeed revolutionary, and not simply because the colonies gained independence. The revolution had several unforeseen consequences. Having rejected their king, the Americans began questioning other forms of hierarchy as well. While they by no means overturned all social hierarchies, they nevertheless created the most egalitarian society of European origin in the western world.

Wood comes from (and helped create) a school of thought that places heavy emphasis on the role of a “republican ideology” in both precipitating the revolution and in reshaping post-Revolutionary America. (The republican ideology has also been labeled as “Whig” or “country” ideology, because of its roots in a 17th- and 18th-century political movement in Britain that downplayed the authority of the crown.) Perhaps the dominant element of the republican ideology was the belief that liberty was fragile and had to be jeolously guarded, lest it be wiped out by corrupt, power-hungry leaders. (For more on the republican ideology, follow this link.)

Republicanism was not the only ideology at work, however. As they shrugged off their allegiance to the crown, the revolutionaries also tended to follow Thomas Paine in rejecting monarchy and aristocracy altogether. Instead, they accepted the principle articulated in the “Declaration of Independence” that “all men are created equal” and in possession of certain fundamental rights. The revolution thus encouraged egalitarianism, within certain limits.

The notion that all people have a basic set of rights is part of the ideology of “liberalism,” which Wood also refers to. It’s important to note, here, that today we use liberal to label politicians and voters who tend to support government regulation and intervention. But the classical liberalism of the revolutionary period did no such thing. The liberalism that Wood writes about was an ideology that was suspicious of government power and that valued individual rights and liberty above all else.

Republicanism and liberalism constituted overlapping worldviews that reshaped how many Americans thought and behaved during the revolutionary and early republic periods. People of the time, however, did not use these labels (at least not quite in the same way that historians use them).

Perhaps the most important questions to ask, using these two sections, are:

  • What kinds of social, political, economic, and religious changes were wrought by the revolution?
  • What impacts did the revolution have on the lives of different groups of people?
  • Position Papers

    (Note: These guidelines are for the Position Papers for the Early American Republic course.)

    Three times during the semester, you will submit a 2-page “Position Paper” both on paper and to the D2L dropbox. The schedule in the course syllabus specifies the due dates and topics.

    Follow these guidelines for each position paper:

  • Begin with a brief introductory paragraph that introduces the topic and provides basic historical context.
  • State your thesis at the end of the introduction. Rather than vaguely signaling a position, your thesis statement should be quite specific.
  • Somewhere near the beginning of the essay, define the key terms in question. For the first paper, for instance, you will need to define democratic. (It’s best to use your own words or to quote a historian, rather than quoting a dictionary.)
  • Your essay should BRIEFLY quote (and paraphrase) the assigned primary and secondary sources in order to provide evidence and examples for your claim.
  • Adhere to the Writing Rules posted on this site.
  • In order to keep the attention focused on the subject at hand (events that transpired long, long ago), please avoid using the first person.
  • Avoid oversimplifying the issue in order to put up a strong argument; instead, show various perspectives on the issue at hand. Strengthen your argument by qualifying it, rather than by exaggerating its merits.
  • Use Chicago-style footnotes or endnotes to cite your sources. See p. 193 (section 42) of Diana Hacker’s Pocket Style Manual, which is a required text for the course. Be sure to format your notes using footnote/endnote style, rather than bibliographic style. Also, be sure to observe the rule (42a) about subsequent references. The first citation of every source should give complete information. Subsequent citations should include only the author’s last name, a shortened title, and the page number. Finally, don’t torture yourself by trying to format footnotes manually; your word processing software should have an “insert footnote” function. (Click here for help with inserting notes in MS Word.)
  • Take care to avoid plagiarism. Review my plagiarism guidelines. Remember that you must use quotation marks to indicate that you have borrowed language directly from a source, and you must quote accurately. Stick to the assigned readings as your sources.
  • Gordon Wood, The American Revolution, Part I

    Wood’s opening section on the “Origins” of the American Revolution quite fittingly takes us back to the 1760s, to the end of the “French and Indian War,” which was actually a small part of a global war for empire between Britain and France and their respective allies.

    As Wood shows us, that war may have ended with British victory in 1763, but rest of the decade was tumultuous both in British America and in the British Isles. In British North America, the war was followed by Pontiac’s Rebellion, the Paxton uprising, and the creation of the Proclamation Line, which assuaged American Indians but offended colonial land speculators and would-be trans-Appalachian settlers. Meanwhile, the colonial population was growing rapidly, and new settlements were being created at an astonishing pace. Conflicts between eastern and western colonists became a problem not only in Pennsylvania (the site of the Paxton uprising) but also in the Carolinas, where vigilante “Regulator” movements challenged established authority. (pp. 11-12.)

    In the midst of this colonial tumult, a disordered imperial administration began imposing new taxes and regulations upon the North American colonies in an attempt to raise desperately needed funds. As the aggrieved colonists petitioned and protested against these new measures, it became clear that they had developed their own ideas about how they fit into the British empire, and their conception did not fit with Parliament’s vision of the how the empire should work.

    The colonists began collectively expressing their understanding in 1765 with the “Declaration of Rights” of the Stamp Act Congress, which had been attended by delegates from 9 colonies. They spoke just as loudly (to British officials) via mob action that prevented the Stamp Act from going into effect. They also exerted economic pressure through consumer boycotts. These combined measures succeeded in swaying Parliament to repeal the Stamp Act, but Parliament also declared its right to legislate for the colonies “in all cases whatsoever” — leaving little doubt of their self-conceived supremacy. (pp. 28-30)

    I see several important questions to ask about this section of the book:

  • Why were the colonists so adamantly opposed to Parliament’s attempts to exercise its power after 1763?
  • How did the colonists understand their place in the empire?
  • How and why had the colonists developed a self-conception that was so out of touch with Parliament’s understanding of the empire?
  • If you would like to read another primary source on this subject, take a look at John Dickenson’s Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania (1767), which was very influential.  (See especially letter two.)

    The Early American Republic

    This page is for students taking my UWGB course on the Early American Republic. Students in this course should become familiar with the following resources:

    Course Postings (I will regularly make posts regarding the course readings. You can earn credit for posting a substantial comment on my posts. You can continue or question a line of thought, add additional information, etc.)

    Writing Rules (Adhere to these rules for all written assignments. You can also browse for other advice on writing.)

    Position Papers (Instructions for the assigned position papers.) Links (This page includes links to most of the online course readings, including anything marked “www” in the syllabus. Use the “tags” on the right side of the page to find readings for each unit. You can also browse the tags here.)

    D2L (Log in here to download materials, upload essays, and track your grades.)

    American Civil War: Books and Films


    James McPherson, What They Fought For (1995)  {This is a very brief analysis of why the rank and file soldiers (from both sides) fought in the war. JM drew extensively on letters written by soldiers. This book does a pretty good job, as far as it goes, of capturing some of the intellectual and cultural reasons that men went to war–as opposed to the politics that led to the war. But as one of my graduate school mentors pointed out to me, there are more “primal” forces that drove men to enlist but that aren’t revealed in their letters or in this book.}

    James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (1988)  {This is a lengthy and very popular, yet scholarly, account of the origins and course of the war.}


    Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage (1895)  {Crane was not even born at the time of the Civil War, but he had listened to plenty of stories about the war, and he was able to tell a story that rang true.}

    E.L. Doctorow, The March (2005)  {Doctorow tells a great story about Sherman’s “March to the Sea,” and he steps into the perspectives of Yankees, Rebels, and freed slaves.}

    Michael Shaara, Killer Angels (1974)  {This book is a classic modern novel about Gettysburg.}

    Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain (1998)  {This novel only marginally deals with the war itself, but it’s one of my favorite pieces of historical fiction, less for the romantic plot device than for the epic nature of the story.}


    Glory (1989)  {As far as I know, this is the best film about the Civil War. It tells the story of a famous black Union regiment.}

    The Civil War: A Film by Ken Burns (1990)  {This is the documentary series that made Ken Burns famous. We have it in Media Services. The explosive sound effects are too corny for my tastes, but this is a good documentary with great images.}

    Gettysburg (1993)  {This film is based on Shaara’s Killer Angels. It’s by no means perfect, but it does a nice job depicting troop movements at Gettysburg.}

    Cold Mountain (2003)  {Not as good as the novel, but decent viewing.}

    Gods and Generals (2003)  {This is a prequel to Gettysburg. I can’t say that I really liked it, but it’s an attempt to capture the feeling of the war.}

    Sherman’s March  {This is a short and interesting online movie about Sherman’s march.}

    (c) 2007 David Voelker

    Syntactical Indeterminacy

    You do get a few hits for this phrase if you Google it, but I recognize that it probably needs to be defined.

    Syntax refers to a language’s rules about how words fit together in a sentence. Many of these rules go unstated most of the time.

    If I were to rephrase the previous sentence as follows, you would know that I wasn’t following the rules of English syntax:

    Go unstated most of the time many of the rules.

    Few native speakers of English would say such a thing. (Yoda’s native tongue was not English.) But native speakers do sometimes write sentences whose syntax suffers from indeterminacy: it starts out heading in one direction but then takes an unexpected — and ungrammatical — turn, leaving readers scratching their heads and forcing them to start over.

    When I encounter such a sentence, I find myself mentally repunctuating it as I read it for the second or third time. Read this sentence carefully:

    Abraham Lincoln was in his forties as a national crisis erupted over slavery, going back into politics for this reason, Lincoln ran for the senate and the presidency.

    Did you notice any problems? This sentence is a form of run-on known as a comma splice. Furthermore, it suffers from syntactical indeterminacy. If you were indeed reading every word, you probably assumed that the phrase “going back” was going to refer to the crisis over slavery. Instead, the (imaginary) writer started over with a new independent clause that had no syntactical connection to the previous independent clause. The comma should have been either a period or a semicolon (which indicates a full stop in most situations).

    If you were skimming over the words (barely reading), you might not even notice such an error, but if you were reading carefully, you probably had to stop in your tracks, go back, and reread. As far as I can tell, the human brain can only track one syntax at a time, so it doesn’t do so well when the syntax suddenly shifts. Creative writers, of course, sometimes play syntactical tricks on their readers, but if you are writing to argue or describe or explain, you probably don’t want to throw up roadblocks to reader comprehension.

    To avoid syntactical indeterminacy when you are integrating quotations into your own sentences, and thus into your own syntax, you need to make sure that the syntax of your sentence matches up with that of the quotation. Just because you are quoting does not mean that the rules of syntax no longer apply!

    Usually, if you are quoting part of a sentence, you can find a way to work it naturally into your own sentence, with no special punctuation. For instance:

    The 1848 Seneca Falls “Declaration of Sentiments” echoed the Declaration of Independence, stating that “all men and women are created equal.”

    If you are quoting more than one independent clause, however, you need to set the quotation off with a colon, thus separating the syntax of your sentence from that of the quotation. If you don’t use a colon in such a situation, you create a run-on. In other words, if a quotation starts inside your own syntax, it must end there, too. Here’s an example of an error:

    In his second inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln noted the surprising length and severity of the Civil War, “Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease.”

    Above, Lincoln’s sentences are simply spliced onto the previous sentence, creating a comma splice. Notice how the next example runs on:

    Much like the Declaration of Independence, the 1848 Seneca Falls “Declaration” included a long list of grievances, such as “He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise. He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice. He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men–both natives and foreigners.”

    This kind of error, unfortunately, does appear in copyedited, published writing. The problem here is that, technically speaking, the three independent clauses of the quotation have been inserted into the syntax of the original sentence, which creates a series of run-on sentences. Again, just because you are quoting does not mean that the rules of syntax no longer apply. All that this passage needs is a colon to set off the quotation. The rule-abiding reader will know that the colon constitutes a syntactical break.

    Writing Rules

    We know from folk wisdom and fables that appearances can be deceiving. Wolves sometimes wear sheep’s clothing, and good books sometimes have bad covers. Nevertheless, when it comes to your writing, appearance as well as content will shape your readers’ opinions of your work. The conventions of spelling and grammar may be mere conventions, but they are conventions that facilitate communication. Readers will notice if you fail to observe the rules. Sometimes a misspelled word or misused punctuation mark will alert your readers that you did not take the time to proofread. More seriously, an error may leave readers unsure of what you meant: content and style are not easily separated.

    Therefore, if you are taking a Writing Emphasis course, I will hold you accountable for the following five rules when grading your formal essays. I will deduct 0.5% from your grade for each violation of the rules below, up to a maximum of 8% per assignment. Make sure that you understand these rules!

    Each rule includes an UPPER-CASE abbreviation that I will use to indicate your errors when giving you feedback.

    For additional help, see Mary Rampolla’s Pocket Guide to Writing in History and Diana Hacker’s Pocket Style Manual.

    Writing Rules:

    1. Proofread (PRF)
    2. Complete Sentences (SENT)
    3. Gender-Inclusive Language (GIL)
    4. Integrate Quotations (IQ)
    5. Past Tense (PT)

    Wise Blood, 2

    Reading, Flanney O’Connor, Wise Blood, 117-231.

    The plot thickens in this second half of Wise Blood, as Haze’s preaching scheme collapses in violence and Enoch’s wise blood leads him also to violence and to devolution. These two plot lines intertwine at certain points, but they have very different ending points.

    As O’Connor follows Haze, she makes short work of his project to found the Church Without Christ, by having it generate both a doppelganger “Prophet” and Enoch’s crazy scheme for providing the “new jesus.” The Church Without Christ, with its would-be new jesus who is “without blood to waste” (140), represents Haze’s attempt to deny the existence of both sin and truth. Hoover Shoats (a.k.a., Onnie Jay Holy), tries to convince Haze that “if you want to get anywheres in religion, you got to keep it sweet” (157), and he thus offers an “up-to-date” “Holy Church of Christ Without Christ” (153, 151), which, he proclaims to the moviegoers, is “based on your own personal interpretation of the Bible” (153). Here and elsewhere, O’Connor is pretty clearly trying to attack various modern, watered-down forms of Christianity that don’t acknowledge human sinfulness and therefore have no need for grace or redemption. This strand of O’Connor’s critique has many facets that are worth exploring.

    By the end of the novel, however, something has happened to Haze, and he undergoes a significant transformation. The critical question to ask is, why does Haze change? And, what’s the nature of his change?

    Enoch, too, undergoes a major transformation as his storyline comes to an end. It’s worth asking again, what’s the deal with Enoch? What drives him? What is this “wise blood”? Oddly, the narrative voice comments directly (albeit negatively), on the symbolic meaning of Enoch’s final transformation. How might Enoch’s plotline (including this transformation) be fit into O’Connor’s larger critique. Absurd as Enoch’s story may be, it has a point.

    Ultimately, O’Connor does not use Wise Blood to make a positive statement about her vision of the good. Instead, she draws “startling figures” for her “almost-blind” (and presumably hostile) audience in order to expose the absurdity (absence of meaning) in modern (secular) culture. If this interpretation is correct, it raises the question, why might she have taken this approach to conveying her message?