Purpose This assignment fulfills a requirement, issued by the College Board, that students evaluate the work of professional historians. In Apush land

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AP U.S. History


U.S. History Controversial Issue #1

Was the American Revolution a Conservative Movement?


This assignment fulfills a requirement, issued by the College Board, that students evaluate the work of professional historians. In APUSH land, we choose to do this by evaluating the work of historians that surround “controversial” topics in U.S. History.


The formation of the United States, with all of its George Washington’s, Benjamin Franklins, Thomas Jefferson’s, and such, is arguably an important and celebrated topic in the study of U.S. History. Never mind that colonization was itself still a “new” thing in the eighteenth century. That a foreign country would send people to “claim” land and actively settle it and govern it from afar was a generally new concept in the 1500s—at least for Europeans. (Chinggis Khan had done this much earlier, and perhaps most successfully, when the four Khanates had been established in east Asia.) But, from the Western European perspective, colonies were novel; a group of people breaking from the parent country and declaring independence was both earth-shattering and unprecedented. Add to that the system of self-government that was developed in the new United States, along with the features of the Constitution and the establishment of a national government, and the feat is certainly laudable. It was new, innovative, and a departure from all that came before it. Or was it?

From Taking Sides:

“Was the American revolution a true revolution? The answer may depend on how the term revolution is defined. Strict constructionists, for example, perceive revolution as producing significant and deep societal change, while loose constructionists define the term as ‘any resort to violence within a political order to change its constitution, rulers, or policies.’ Historians agree that American Revolutionaries fulfilled the second definition because they successfully fought a war that resulted in the overthrow of their British rulers and established a government run by themselves. However, historians disagree over the amount of social and economic changes that took place in America.”

About the selection:

Historian Carl N. Degler argues what is called the neoconservative view of the American Revolution (not to be confused with the term “neocon,” which is used to describe the conservative political ideals held by many Republicans of today, notably George Bush and many members of his administration), “maintaining that the upper-middle-class colonists led a conservative Revolution that left untouched the prewar economic and social class structure of an upwardly mobile people.”

Your assignment

Read the selection “A New Kind of Revolution,” by Carl N. Degler, which is from his book Out of Our Past: The Forces That Shaped Modern America. This excerpt appeared in Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in American History, Volume One (9th edition).

As you read through the assignment:

  1. Consider the following: what is the definition of liberal? What is the definition of conservative? (As you look these up, because you undoubtedly will, do not consider definitions that surround political ideology, such as what a Republican or Democrat would believe). After all, the controversy at hand surrounds this question.

  1. Complete the Issue Evaluation form; the format for completing this is indicated on the back. This needs to be typed. (Remember, if you have a computer malfunction for any reason, you have two options. You may e-mail me the assignment as a back-up for trying to e-mail it to yourself and printing it at school. Or, you may hand-write the assignment, which is acceptable on a limited basis in the event of an electronic problem.)

Format your assignment exactly as you see here.



Issue Evaluation

Format your Issue Evaluation as follows:
Make the font for your headings in bold.
Write your responses in complete sentences.
Your points should be summarizations of the information in the reading selection.
You should not use extensive quotations from the work. Brief quotations are fine.
Approach your points as if the reader of your Evaluation has not read the selection.


Author’s Thesis:

Author’s Evidence:



Discussing the what the author concludes about the significance of the topic will require an inference on your part. That is, you will have to ask yourself “what did this author want me to know when I was finished reading.” Your answer will give you the significance.




Author’s conclusion about the significance of the topic:

After reading the selection, what counter-arguments could you offer as a rebuttal to the points made by the author? Provide at least two counterarguments. For each, you must thoroughly explain a) what your counterargument is and b) reasons why the counterargument is valid—with direct reference to the points you are countering in the article. As always, remember the questions “HOW” and “WHY.”

A good place to look for ideas that can help you form your counterargument comes from the background information on the topic. Hints as to what you can say against the author are there.
Even if you agree with the author, you still need to provide your two points for counterargument. To be a truly informed and educated person, you always need to know what could be said against something you believe so that you are truly able to defend that belief.

Thomas Paine

APUSH, Period 9

September 17, 2007

Issue Evaluation
Title: Common Sense
Author: Thomas Paine
Author’s Thesis:

In the work, Common Sense, Thomas Paine argues that the thirteen British North American colonies should unite and declare their independence from the mother country. Maintaining the current political state, according to Paine, is both disastrous and is in violation of natural law.

Notice how the author uses only the last name on the second reference.

Author’s Evidence:

  1. P
    The author has summarized without quotations.
    aine argues that any claim that America’s future security (whether economic, military, or other) is dependent upon maintaining political connections to Great Britain is “fallacious.” For evidence, Paine asserts that America has flourished—and would continue to do so—whether any European country had any involvement in the region.

  1. Paine argues that the motive for British “attachment,” as he calls it, is motivated by nothing more than a selfish self-interest, and that British involvement in the affairs of North America is not mutually beneficial. He notes that any potential military threat to Americans occurs only because of their association with Great Britain.

(Of course, you’re going to list three more pieces of evidence in your “real” assignment.)

Author’s conclusion about the significance of the topic:

The first point with the single underline, identifies the point that is being argued against.

he author has concluded that the subject of independence is of dire importance to the colonists. The colonists have only a short and unique timeframe in which to act upon any impulse of independence. It is “common sense,” when considering the laws of nature and of God, to declare independence and to institute a new state.

  1. P
    The point with the double underline identifies the actual counter-argument. It states what the author thinks is incorrect about the historian’s point.

    The italicized text indicates the author’s HOW and WHY explanation. The author tells the reader the way in which the point made is incorrect.
    aine states that Great Britain has protected the colonies only because of her own self-interest, and not because of any genuine “care” for the inhabitants of British North America
    . His claim is skewed and distorted, and does not account for the fact that the British established the colonies for the sole purpose of economic gain. Of course, protection is provided as a means of ensuring the survival of their investment. At no time in the history of British colonization did the British claim anything to the contrary of the economic motive. Paine ignores facts and history in making this claim.

  1. Paine likens the actions of the British as being some sort of animalistic act of a mother toward a child. However, Paine fails to consider that in any parent-child relationship it is the parent who determines what is best for the child. The child lives under the “rule” of the parent. Even considering the unintentional effects of salutary neglect, the British never issued a proclamation or royal decree that guaranteed the colonists the rights of citizens. Paine, again, distorts truths to provide inflammatory, propagandistic rhetoric to stir up his readership.

Do not format your text as you see in number one. The formatting (such as the underlining, and the italicized text) is included to highlight the components that are required in your Counterargument response. Rather, your response should resemble the formatting seen in number two.

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