United States History

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United States History (Jones, Spring 2015)
This course is divided into 25 Major Topics. To complete the course, students must demonstrate adequate preparation for and mastery of each of these 25 Major Topics (MT) which are expressed through a series of prompts. For each MT, students will complete two distinct steps which are explained below: preparation and mastery. Grades for this course will be assigned relative to each students’ progress toward completing these steps in a timely fashion.

Course Grading Periods

MTs to be completed

Corresponding Grade

Weeks 1-3 (progress report)


4/4 = 100, 3/4 = 75, etc.

Weeks 4-6 (progress report)


8/8 = 100, 7/8 = 87.5, etc.

Weeks 7-9 (report card)


13/13 = 100, 12/13 = 92, etc.

Weeks 10-12 (progress report)


17/17 = 100, 16/17 = 94, etc.

Weeks 13-15 (progress report)


21/21 = 100, 20/21 = 95, etc.

Weeks 16-18 (report card)


25/25 = 100, 24/25 = 96, etc.

Final Exam

25% of the final mark

MT1: The Federalist Period (1789-1800) (pp. 84-91)

Presidents Washington and Adams faced many serious challenges during the early years of our national experience. I would like you to read Chapter 6 and identify three specific challenges (both foreign and domestic) that these two presidents encountered. Then I would like you to evaluate (or judge) how well they managed each of these challenges. For each challenge you identify, please be able to identify and explain specific efforts these Presidents made to address them. Likewise, when you judge the successes or failures of these presidents, you should provide specific evidence or examples to support your claims.

A useful way to organize a multi-part prompt like this is with a chart that clearly separates your tasks:

Key Challenges During the Federalist Period

Identify some specific efforts intended to address each challenge.

Were these specific efforts successful or unsuccessful? Why or why not?

Securing / consolidating our vast new territory (and frontier)

Staying neutral in foreign wars (between Britain and France).

Exercising the new powers granted to the Federal Govt.

When students fail to demonstration adequate or timely preparation for a particular topic, they will be assigned one or more supplementary questions (see below). To avoid these additional assignments, students should work to demonstration preparation and mastery of each topic in a timely fashion.

Supplementary Questions:

  1. Explain three key differences between the political views of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton.

  2. Explain three important traditions or precedents that Washington set as our first President that have shaped the office ever since.

  3. What was the XYZ Affair, and how does it relate to one or more of the broad themes of the Federalist Period?

  4. What were the Alien and Sedition Acts, and why did some states feel justified in refusing to obey these federal laws?

  5. What were the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, and what key power-struggle (which is a major theme in early American History) did they expose / provoke / aggravate?

  6. What two specific pitfalls did Washington warn the nation about in his Farewell Address (1797), and why did he choose these two particular problems to caution his countrymen about?

Students will be asked to make two oral, in-class demonstrations of what they have learned relative to each of the 25 major topics of this US History course. The first is intended as a demonstration of preparation, the second is intended to be a demonstration of content and concept mastery.
Preparation: Students are allowed to use their own notes relative to an assigned topic, but no textbooks or electronic devises will be permitted. Students will be asked to answer the prompt (oral, in-class) for a given topic. With their answers, students must demonstrate evidence of effort and preparation relative to the assigned tasks. Once the preparation step is met, students can move on to the mastery step.
Mastery: Students are not allowed to use any notes, books or electronic devises on this step. Students should have studied the notes that they produced during the preparation step to ensure that they are ready to demonstrate mastery. Students will be asked to answer the prompt (oral, in-class) for a given topic. Their answers must indicate clear evidence of practice, study, and an adequate understanding (content and concept) relative to the assigned tasks. Students are allowed to make as many attempts as necessary in order to demonstrate mastery.
MT2: Jeffersonian Democracy (1800-1815) (pp. 92-98)

Many historians have pointed out that the Election of 1800 was a key turning point in American History – indeed, Jefferson himself called it a “peaceful revolution.” Find two specific examples in Chapter 6 that show how Presidents Jefferson or Madison significantly altered our national course or policies (both foreign and domestic) and be able to explain the impact of those decisions. Then find two specific examples in Chapter 6 that show how Presidents Jefferson or Madison continued policies that were initiated by their Federalist predecessors (ironic?).

Supplementary Questions

  1. Jefferson’s vision for the United States was that it remain a “nation of small farmers” rather than become a commercial, manufacturing and trading power like Britain. Why?

  2. Why did Jefferson struggle with the decision to purchase the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803? What were the main reasons he ultimately decided to do so?

  3. What were three specific reasons that some Americans wanted war with Great Britain by 1812? Who were these “war hawks” and what was motivating them?

  4. What was the Hartford Convention? Who was part of this meeting, what specific grievances or demands did it produce, and why?

  5. What were three significant results of the War of 1812 for the United States? What new opportunities and new relationships did this victory produce?

MT3: The Era of Good Feelings (1815-1828) (pp. 99-111)

Historians call the decade following America’s success in the War of 1812 an “Era of Good Feelings” and an “Age of Nationalism.” Be able to explain why each of these labels is appropriate for this period by explaining specific efforts or events that reflect these sentiments of “good feelings” or “nationalism*.” However, there were also some events and developments during this period that expose growing tension and conflict within the United States. Identify and be able to explain at least two specific developments or events that expose that emerging tension.

*Nationalism (noun): 1. the force that tended to pull the various regions of the young United States together (the opposite of sectionalism). 2. intense national pride or patriotism, perhaps inspired by prosperity or success in war. 3. relating to the belief that the federal, or central, government ought to be strengthened at the expense of the states. 4. the perspective that the United States ought to project its power abroad in order to establish dominance within the Western Hemisphere, and to increase its status generally among European powers.
Supplementary Questions

  1. What is sectionalism, and how did it cause conflict within the US? Explain two sources and two consequences of sectionalism in the U.S. prior to 1850?

  2. Identify three of John Quincy Adams’ key accomplishments as US Secretary of State and explain how they were advantageous to the United States.

  3. Explain two ways that Chief Justice John Marshall used the Supreme Court to boost federal power in the early 1800s?

  4. What were the three distinct parts of Henry Clay’s American System, and how did each part help strengthen the nation’s sense of unity?

  5. What was the Monroe Doctrine? What was its purpose, and why did European powers generally abide by or respect it?

MT4: Jacksonian Democracy (1828-1840) (pp. 99-111)

As President, Andrew Jackson demonstrated a strong commitment to the interests of the “common man,” worked to strengthen the Presidency at the expense of the other branches of the federal government, and worked to strength the Federal government at the expense of the states. Identify and be able to explain two specific ways that Jackson demonstrated his support for the “common man,” two ways that he strengthened the presidency, and two ways that he strengthened the federal government.

Supplementary Questions

  1. What was “universal white male suffrage,” and how did this development shape Jackson’s political success and the second American party system (Democrats v. Whigs)?

  2. What was the “South Carolina Exposition,” and why did South Carolina threaten to leave the Union in 1832?

  3. Why exactly did the indebted farmers of the South and West so despise the Bank of the United States in the 1830s? Why did they distrust the BUS?

  4. What economic factors caused or contributed to the Panic of 1837, and how did President Van Buren attempt to fix this mess?

  5. How did the Whigs defeat Van Buren in 1840? What specific factors, strategies or circumstance did they use to finally break the Democrats’ winning streak?

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