AP United States History Syllabus
Teacher: John M. Brown, Greenup County High School, 2016-2017
ABOUT YOUR TEACHER: Mr. Brown
On a personal note: I am a husband, father, minister, farmer, avid reader, and a passionate “history” and “political science” buff. Enthusiasm is contagious, and I hope to motivate you in your efforts in this class! I will treat you with dignity and respect, and desire the same in return. I want you to be very successful, and am excited about our great year together!
Welcome to Greenup County High School’s AP U.S. History class, a course designed to introduce students to an advanced study of United States’ history. We will be studying concepts, accumulating information, carefully analyzing, and learning to engage in critical thinking to understand, explain, and appreciate the cause-and-effect relationships of history tying the past to the present. Remember, this is a college level course – much work will be required, but much reward will be realized!
-Bring a notebook, paper, and writing utensils to every class
-A three ring binder to keep notes, handouts, other class materials
-Diligent effort on the part of each student: by its very nature, this is an intensive course; I am here to help you succeed in it; determine you will work hard, and you will succeed!
-Work missed must be made up within the allowed time (number of days you were absent, plus one
-Late work must be turned in by Friday of the week it is due, and points will be deducted
-Responsibility: I have great expectations, but am sure you will meet and even exceed them
-A positive attitude: we will embark on a study that will make us more responsible adults and citizens
-Textbook, and numerous additional reading and research materials
-BE RESPECTFUL of your teacher, your classmates, yourselves;
-BE PREPARED for each class by doing your work conscientiously;
-BE PROMPT which means being on time and being ready;
-BE ATTENTIVE which means being alert and awake and being in class (go to the restroom between classes, unless some emergency arises);
-BE DILIGENT in your efforts; remember I want you to succeed and will do everything in my power to help you make it happen, not only as students or test-takers, but as human beings.
Grades will be composed of
-Notebook (which will include your notes from discussion, vocabulary, study questions, study guide)
-Homework will be necessary for this course (we simply cannot cover everything only in class)
-Quizzes and Exams (scheduled quizzes; “pop” quizzes; end of unit and other exams)
-Projects (including individual and groups projects; research papers; group efforts)
-Participation (which includes participation in class, participation in groups, bellringer work, exit slips)
-Extra credit (when offered and as needed, which can include independent research and study)
The conclusion of each unit will include a unit exam, which will be composed of multiple choice questions, and at least one free response question (for a total of at least six analytical and interpretive free response questions during the course).
Grading Scale: 90-100% (A) / 80-89% / (B) / 70-79% (C)/ 60-69% (D)/ 59%-below (F)
Course Textbook – Out of Many, A History of the American People. AP Edition by John Mack Faragher, Mari Jo Buhle, Daniel Czitrom and Susan Armitage. Pearson-Prentice Hall 2007.
Compared to regular high school courses, the AP United States History course will be more demanding. You will be asked to read and write more, to analyze historical material, to synthesize ideas and the evaluate those of others. These skills, necessary in college level classes, will be exercised at a higher level of complexity in this AP class. This Advanced Placement class is comparable to a sophisticated college course in United States history, so you should not expect it to be easy. The intellectual skills and interests you will develop, such as critical reading, analyzing data sets, and synthesizing evidence, virtually define well-prepared college students and will equip you for lifelong learning.
Advanced Placement classes are intended for the well-prepared and highly motivated student. Innate intelligence is not the primary ingredient for success of an AP student. Far more important is a high level of initiative, personal discipline and academic maturity.
This course will survey the history of the United States of America from approximately 1492 to modern times: from the “discovery” and settlement of the New World to the very recent past. The primary focus of the course will be to provide students with an opportunity to develop an understanding of some of the major themes in American history, to train students to analyze historical evidence, and to develop in students the ability to analyze and express historical understanding in writing. AP US History will provide you with an opportunity to further develop your skills of critical thinking, and writing. In addition, this course seeks to prepare students to successfully complete the AP US History exam May.
This class will emphasize certain themes: political institutions and behavior and public policy, social and economic change, diplomacy and international relations, and cultural and intellectual developments. The course will be conducted in a lecture/discussion format. Students will often be responsible for presenting information and opinions in class. All students are expected to keep up with the reading assignments and demonstrate their preparedness by active participation in class discussions.
Advanced Placement United States History
C1 – The course includes the study of political institutions, social and cultural developments, diplomacy, and economic trends in U.S. history.
C2 - The course uses themes and/or topics as broad parameters for structuring the course.
C3 – the course teaches students to analyze evidence and interpretations presented in historical scholarship.
C4 – The course includes extensive instruction in analysis and interpretation of a wide variety of primary sources.
C5 - The course provides students with frequent practice in writing analytical and interpretive essays such as document-based questions and thematic essays
The successful student will spend approximately five hours a week, in addition to classroom time, with course requirements. AP students need to have significant reading comprehension and writing skills. There will be several outside books to read and to review. There will be lots of essays and major papers to write. The level of acceptable work is high, but will prepare you for the rigors of writing at the college level. AP students must be capable and willing to perform at this level. You should not take criticism personally, but rather use it to strengthen yourself and move ahead.
Tests (AP Prep)
All objective tests are multiple-choice tests. These will primarily cover the assigned reading for the current chapter. All tests are cumulative (you will be tested over all of the material covered in class up to the time of the test.) Tests are weighted more heavily as the semester progresses. (C1, C2)
Essays will be narrow in scope and will heavily take into account materials discussed in class. It will be almost impossible to answer an essay question from merely reading the text. It will be expected that all essays will follow standard essay format. The thesis statement should be high-lighted in some manner. Essays given as take home assignments will be typed. Remember that there is never a right or wrong answer, there is only supported or unsupported. (C1, C2, C3, C4, C5)
DBQ’s (Document-based Questions)
One portion of the AP examination in history is the essay that tests the student’s ability to evaluate historical documents (primary sources). Students are given a series of primary documents with a following question. In most cases, the question will ask the student to “discuss,” “analyze,” and/or “evaluate” the documents. In addition the student is required to utilize their knowledge of the historical period in the evaluation process. There will be several DBQ’s given in timed settings throughout the year. This will be good practice for the AP exam and will also count as a test grade each time. (C3, C4, C5)
Identifying people, terms, events, titles, quotes, dates, etc from the 1400’s to the present requires a good memory. Students will prepare index cards (color-coded by category) with such information to address the multiple-choice section of the test. We will practice them often in a game-type setting. This exercise is one I find beneficial to the students and it is REQUIRED by me. If you fail to do the cards, you will more than likely fail the class. (C1, C2)
At the conclusion of each unit of study, a unit test is required which asks the same questions for each time frame. The answers are to be written as essays. These are done on the student’s time, not in class, and they are to be typed. Students should try to impress me with what they have learned. (C1, C2, C3, C4, C5)
The questions are as follows:
1. Give an overview of this unit. Mention the main events and players of the period along with the impact each made on the world. (This answer should have some length – it’s probably the most important question on the test.)
2. What is (are) the primary contribution of the period to the course of modern history?
3. If you were a man on the streets during this time period, what would you hear people talking about?
4. What is (are) the greatest political event of the time period?
5. What is the prevailing political theory of the time and who is its spokesman?
6. Who is (are) the greatest philosophical spokesman of the time? What is their point of view and what did they write, if anything?
7. What is the greatest social issue of the time? Who is the leader and what is the outcome of the movement?
8. What is the greatest scientific achievement/movement of the time? Who represents this movement and what did this person(s) do?
9. What are the cultural advances or changes of the times? Who are the leaders? ( Think about including, art, literature, music, etc.)
10. Turn in your identification cards assigned for this unit. Make sure they have adequate information and are categorized properly.
* Support your choices in these unit test questions. If you can’t support your answer, choose again. There are no wrong answers, just unsupported ones!!!
Two book reviews are required in AP United States History, one each semester. Students will select books from the Advanced Placement US History Supplementary Reading List for these reviews and will follow MLA format. Each book review must present a general description of the book’s contents and identify the major thesis of the work. The review should analyze the author’s major contentions. Students are expected to identify and elaborate on the merits of the work as well as to point out any shortcomings or errors contained in the book. Information concerning the author must be cited. Special permission is required in advance for permission to use a book not on the approved list. (C4, C5)
AP US History Supplementary Reading List
(This listing is in a “somewhat” historical sequence)
The Winthrop Woman, Anya Seton
The President’s Lady, Irving Stone
Chesapeake, James Michener
Miracle at Philadelphia, Catherine Bowe
The House of Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne
Deerslayer and Last of the Mohicans, James F. Cooper
Burr, Gore Vidal
Confessions of Nat Turner, William Styron
The Red Bade of Courage, Stephen Crane
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe
Across Five Aprils, Irene Hunt
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
Giants in the Earth, O.E. Rolvaag
Death Comes for The Archbishop and My Antonio, Willa Cather
Cimarron, Edna Ferber
The Virginian, Owen Wister
Roughing It, Mark Twain
Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin
Walden, Henry David Thoreau
The Gilded Age, Mark Twain
The Rise of Silas Lapham, William D. Howells
Maggie, A Girl Of The Streets, Stephen Crane
Looking Backward, Edward Bellamy
The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
The Pit and The Octopus, Frank Norris
Sister Carrie, An American Tragedy, and The Titan, Theodore Dreiser
1876, Gore Vidal
Deseret, Eric Alter
Jubilee, Margaret Walker
Lusitania, David Butler
Main, Street, Babbit, Elmer Gantry, and The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren
The Last Hurrah, E.O’Connor
Black Boy and Native Son, Richard Wright
The Ugly American, W.J. Lerderer
Clarence Darrow for the Defense, Irving Stone
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
When the Legends Die, Hal Borland
The Human Comedy, William Saroyan
A Thousand Days, Arthur Schlesinger
Inherit the Wind, Jerome Lawrence/R.E. Lee
Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham
The Death of a President, William Manchester
The History of Women in America, Hymowitz and Weissman
The Glory and The Dream, William Manchester
Roots, Alex Haley
Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry
The Help, Katherine Stockett
United States History Units of Study
The New World
Chapter 1 pp 2-29 summer reading
Packet of questions, card list, map study, Essay – Ramifications of European exploration in the New World, DBQ “Spanish Conquistadors,” AP Prep (multiple choice test) C1, C2, C3, C4, C5
Chapters 2, 3 4 pp 30 – 127 summer reading plus 2 weeks
Packet of questions, card list, map study, Essay – Comparing Spanish, French and English colonization in the Americas, On-demand writing – “Motives of English peoples who migrated to America in the 17th century” and “ What is a religious fanatic – were the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony fanatics or not?”, Debate (using documents) on banishment of Anne Hutchison, DBQ “Slave trade in the New World,” Group projects on settlement of colonies, AP Prep, Unit test. C1, C2, C3, C4, C5
The Cultures of Colonial North America and French & Indian War
Chapters 5,6 pp 128 -199 1 week
Packet of questions, card list, map study, Last of the Mohicans film review, Great Awakening project, Debating Documents – “What Did the Great Awakening Awaken”, DBQ- “Charges Against the King 1754-1775,” AP prep. C1, C2, C3, C4, C5
Chapters 7 pp 200 – 235 2 weeks
Packet of questions, card list, map of battles, Notes ( Road to War, Fighting the War, Ending the War), Essays – “Was the Boston Tea Party an act of patriotism or terrorism?”, “ How much do we owe the French?”, DBQ Articles of Confederation examination, AP Prep, Unit test.
C1, C2, C3, C4, C5
New Nation and The War of 1812
Chapters 8, 9 pp 236 – 304 2 weeks
Packet of questions, card list, Constitution packet and quiz, selected readings from the Federalist Papers, Essay – Thomas Jefferson’s influence at home and abroad, Map study of Louisiana Purchase,
DBQ – “Impact of the U.S. Constitution, 1780’s,” AP Prep C1, C2, C3 C4, C5
The South and Jacksonian Democracy
Chapters 10, 11 pp 308 – 380 3 weeks
Packet of questions, card list, Essays – Life as a slave, selected readings from slave narratives, field trip to Underground Railroad Museum, DBQ1 – “Native American – White Relations, 1800-1880,” DBQ2 – “Changes in government policy toward Native Americans 1775-1825,” AP prep, Unit Test C1, C2, C3, C4, C5
Chapters 12, 13 pp. 382 – 450 2 weeks
Packets of question, card list, analysis of political cartoons, Immigration map study, Immigration narratives, Essay - New Social Order, selected readings from Emerson and Thoreau, Essay – Abolition movement in the North, Debating Documents on Revivalists and Utopians, DBQ – “Changing Women’s roles in American Society, 1800-1860,” AP Prep.
C1, C2, C3, C4, C5
Manifest Destiny – Mexican War – Gold Rush
Chapters 14 pp. 456 – 489 1 week
Packets of questions, card list, map study, Expansion debates, Essay – “Was the Mexican War inevitable?” Essay – “Compare and contrast views of Clay, Webster and Calhoun on compromise of 1850,” DBQ – “Evaluate assertion the Mexican War was unprovoked, a war of aggression and territorial aggrandizement,” AP Prep. C1,C2, C3, C4, C5
The Coming Crisis
Chapter 15 pp 492 – 527 2 weeks
Packets of questions, card list, map study, Essay – “Compare and Contrast the views of Clay, Webster and Calhoun on the Compromise of 1850”
Field trip to Ashland, home of Henry Clay, Analysis of Supreme Court decision on Dred Scott, discussion of Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech,
Debate - South’s secession from Union, DBQ – “Explain reasons that pushed the nation into the Civil War”, AP Prep. C1, C2, C3, C4, C5
Civil War and Reconstruction
Chapters 16, 17 pp 530 – 603 3 weeks
Packets of questions, card list, map study, Group projects “North v. South” with presentations, Essays – North Justification for Going to War, South Justification for Going to War, Was the Outcome of the Civil War Inevitable? , Carpetbaggers and Scalawags, Rule of the Radical Republicans, Killer Angel book test, DBQ’s – McClellan’s leadership; Altered lives of African Americans 1863-1877, AP Prep, Unit Test.
C1, C2, C3, C4, C5
Chapters 18 pp. 604 – 645 1 week
Packet of questions, card list, map study, Notes (Plains Indians and importance of buffalo, Indian Wars, film study), Essays – Reasons for Hostilities between Farmers and Cowboys, Life on the Reservation, the Ghost Dance, DBQ – Evaluation of how later emigrants forced changes on different groups in the West, AP prep. C1, C2, C3, C4, C5
Rise of Big Business, Growth at Home and Abroad
Chapters 20, 21 pp. 646 – 719 2 weeks
Packets of questions, card list, Notes (rise of industry and the influence of the “Robber Barons”, revolution in transportation, New Immigrants, political machines, Labor movement, Gospel of Wealth, Populism, Nativism, Jim Crowe, Progressivism, U.S. Imperialism, Spanish American War ), Essay – “ Was Teddy Roosevelt a great president?” DBQ’s – Evaluate African-American reactions to Jim Crow; Role of Women 1880-1920; Immigration Laws 1890- 1925, AP Prep.
C1, C2, C3 C4. C5
World War I
Chapter 22 pp 760 – 799 2 weeks
Packet of questions, card list, WWI map study, Notes – (Causes of the war (imperialism, nationalism, militarism, alliance systems), trench warfare and modern weapons, US propaganda supporting the war, racism in the military), Essays – Espionage and Sedition Acts, U.S. Response to Russian Revolution, Lasting Effects of the Treaty of Versailles, DBQ - First Red Scare, AP Prep, Unit Test. C1, C2, C3, C4, C5
Roaring 20’s, Great Depression and New Deal
Chapters 23, 24 pp. 800 – 885 2 weeks
Packet of questions, card list, Speakeasy activity, Notes – (Margin buying on the U.S. stock market, Prohibition, rise of the mafia, entertainment, Harlem Renaissance, Do-Nothings, FDR, New Deal), Excerpts from Grapes of Wrath, book review on depression novel, power-point presentations on New Deal agencies, DBQ 1 Evaluate 20’s as a decade of struggle toward and against modernity, DBQ 2 Assess the degree to which FDR’s New Deal was a “revolutionary and radical” approach to solving the problems of the Great Depression, AP Prep. C1, C2, C3, C4, C5
World War II
Chapter 25 pp. 886 – 927 2 weeks
Packet of questions, card list, WWII map study – Europe, Africa, Pacific, Notes – (Rise of the Dictators, Pearl Harbor, War Mobilization, Women in the War, War in Europe, War in Asia, Yalta), Night test, Essays – Japanese Internment , FDR – Hitler Comparison, U.S. decision to drop Atomic Bomb, DBQ – Evaluate Pearl Harbor Disaster, how could it have happened, who was responsible, AP Prep, Unit Test. C1, C2, C3, C4, C5
Chapter 26 3 weeks
Packet of questions, card list, map study, notes and film (Divisions of Germany and Korea, creation of Israel, Suez Canal crisis, Berlin Airlift, NATO-Warsaw Pact, CIA, Red China, Korean War, McCarthyism, Space Race, Cuban Missile Crisis), Essays – Compare and contrast effectiveness of communist leaders during the Cold War, What’s so scary about communism? , DBQ 1– How well did the Eisenhower administration address Cold War Fears in America, AP Prep. C1, C2, C3, C4, C5
Post- war America, Civil Rights, Vietnam, etc.
Chapters 27, 28, 29 pp.968 – 1091 3 weeks
Packet of questions, card list, notes and film study (Suburban life, GI Bill, interstate transportation, Television and its impact, Kennedy’s Camelot, Civil Rights movement 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, Johnson’s War on Poverty, views on Vietnam, counterculture, Nixon years, etc), DBQ – Values of the 1950’s, AP Prep. C1, C2, C3, C4, C5
Chapters 30, 31 pp.1092 – 1175 3 weeks
Packet of questions, card list, Debating Documents – Reagan and the Fall of Communism, notes and film study (Carter administration, Iran hostage situation, Conservative America, Reagan administration, War on Drugs, Iran-contra scandal, George H. Bush’s administration, Gulf War, Computer Age, Clinton administration, George W. Bush administration, War on Terror, Invasion of Iraq, global warming, DBQ – Evaluate the changes in threats to national security the evolved between the two Bush administrations, AP Prep. C1, C2, C3, C4, C5
Writing the DBQ
A. Use a black pen
B. Read the instructions.
C. Carefully read the instructions pertaining to the question.
D. Read the question carefully.
1. Think about the question
2. What is the question asking you to do?
3. Pay attention to the timeframe of the question.
E. Before you read the documents, make a list of historical facts you want to include in the essay. This is y our outside information.
F. Quickly read through the documents.
1. Underline points you want to remember.
2. Consider how you may use each document.
3. Make notes to yourself beside the document.
4. Note the sophistication of the document. Is it opinion or fact?
G. Read through the documents and add to your notes.
H. Make a list of facts, information, ideas from the documents you want to
include in your essay.
I. Don’t just paraphrase the documents, analyze them.
II. Write the essay
A.. In your first paragraph, include:
1. A broad, general statement concerning the question.
2. A thesis—you must have a thesis! A thesis is what you are trying to prove in your essay. You can only prove the thesis by using historical facts—from your memory and the documents.
3. An organization statement—this statement includes the points your are going to use to prove the thesis.
B. In your second paragraph, describe the historical setting of the question.
1. State what is going on in the U.S. at the time of the question.
2. Depending on the question, you may want to go back in time a little
before the time of the question and/or go forward a little in time.
3. Include outside information.
4. Make this a quick paragraph—you have a lot to do yet!
C. In your third paragraph refer back to your thesis and begin to answer the question.
D. Subsequent paragraphs—finish the essay.
E. Conclusion—summarize your main points. Do not introduce new material.
III. Things to Remember
A. Include information from the documents and information not in the documents.
B. Analyze the documents—no long quotes.
C. When you use information from the documents, identify the document by its letter. Example—(doc. A), (doc. B) etc.
D. You do not have to sue all of the documents—do use most of them.
E. Answer the question asked!
G. Common Weaknesses
1. Mere paraphrasing of the documents—DON”T do this!! You would be wasting the reader’s time.
2. Too many direct quotes.
3. Using only outside information.
4. Using only information from the documents.
5. Not paying attention to the timeframe of the question.
How to Analyze Documents
Pictures and photographs
- Subject: What person, place or event is represented?
- Time and place: When and where is the subject taking place?
- Point of view: Is the artist or photographer trying to convey a particular point of view?
- Emotional impact: What is the general impression?
- Form of expression: What kind of picture, painting, drawing, etc. is it?
- Any symbolism present?
- Who are the characters in the carton? Are they realistic or exaggerated? What are their expressions? Are the characters or other objects labeled?
- What symbols are present? (Uncle Sam, unemployed, etc.)
- What is the overall idea or impression of the cartoon?
- Title or caption
- Who published it, for hwat possible reasons? (may reflect a biased view)
- Intended for what audience?
- Purpose of the poster or the evidence.
Diagrams and flow charts
- They are used to summarize an important idea and to illustrate the ideas’ components.
- Check the title.
- Examine the sections.
- maps deal with a specific time period.
- A map focuses on a specific topic, event, or development in history, often a change-over time illustration.
- Place the subject ina specific location.
- Check the title.
- Check the key or legend.
- Remember the differences between geographic maps and electoral vote maps.
- They usually illustrate a relationship between two subjects. Decide what two subjects or ideas are (time and voting, residence and prohibitionist leadership, population and money supply, etc.) and their relationship (increases, decreases, no change, directly or indirectly related).
- Check title and category titles.
- Are the numbers percentages or absolute? The chart-makers used the figures to convey and idea.
- Figures are frequently expressed in abbreviated formats such as thousands.
- Were the changes illustrated significant? Small changes are not (65% to 67%).
- Remember, the chart illustrates a change for only a specific period.
- Remember the possible influences of major events on the time period indicated (voting statistics in 1770-1790 and the Revolutionary War).
- Be aware of charts with a collapsed X or Y axis. It is intended to indicate that an insignificant period was purposefully left out of the chart.
- Read the key.
- Notice the title.
- Look for dates.
- Graphs use statistical data to present historical comparisons or changes over time.
- Circle or bar graphs: Each circle represents a total quantity, e.g. 100% of the population. Note that the portions of the coircle represent a percentage. Bar Graph: read both axes. One usually represents a percentage or quantity and the other usually a time period. Ote the bars are drawn to scale to make a comparison. Be alert that the bars in a graph may represent different subgroups; check the legend. Line Graph: Read both axes. A line graph shows trends over every part of the time period, and often shows several trends at once.
- Editorial or article; before the 20th century it is hard to differentiate between an editorial opinion.
- Evidence of the newspaper’s economic or political bias (urban, rural, Wall Street Journal).
- Letter to an editor.
- Beware that an editorial or article may either reflect mass opinion or be an attempt to create mass opinion.
Magazine or Pamphlet
- Same checks as under newspapers.
- What is the normal audience of the magazine?
- Is it contemporary or not, an eyewitness to an event or a second-hand comment?
- Does the book serve as a disinterested observer?
- Is the book politically partisan, based on opinion or fact?
- Remember that the preface is a personal statement.
- Novels can be symbolic.
- A review of a book is the reviewer’s opinion, not the author’s.
- Is the book a recollection of an event long after it happened?
- Memoirs are selective and a personal view that are rarely self-critical.
- Is the foreign a foreign observer?
- Poems are intended to sue language as art rather than to give information.
- Poems usually illustrate a spiritual or symbolic view of a period, event or idea.
- To what audience? What office or position does the speaker hold?
- Rough draft (It may be truculent).
- Official speech or informal?
- Campaign speech.
- Based upon your knowledge of the speaker, is this a view you would expect him or her to take?
- Official or personal?
- To a subordinate or superior?
- What is the relationship between the two people?
- Private or public?
- From an organization?
- Is the date significant?
- After or before the fact?
- Remember that a diary is usually not self-critical.
- Merely observations or evidence of partisan viewpoint?
- A presidential candidate may or may not agree with the platform.
- Political platform is also a compromise document, although third-party platforms are more truculent.
- A convention declarations may describe present conditions, indicate a degree of stridency, or show the organization’s goals and expectations.
List of groups supporting legislation.
- What organizations are represented?
- Any pattern to support or opposition, any common characteristics?
- Any surprises or unusual alliances?
Laws, proclamations, executive orders
- Why was the law passed, what does it represent? Remember, laws are passed as solutions to a problem, as the representation of a group’s ideal, as a guide for the future, or as a response to public pressure for what is perceived as a problem. Is it a veto message? What reasons are given for the veto?
- Some laws are more symbolic in their passage than in their enforcement (etc. Volstead Act, Sherman Anti-Trust Act).
- Commentary on the law similar to a textbook on laws (Blackstone’s Commentary on the Laws of England).
- Federal, state or local law?
- Legislative resolutions are not binding; they just express a sentiment (Va. And Ky. Resolutions, South Carolina’s legislature endorsing Calhoun’s Exposition and Protest).
- Does it declare an act unconstitutional, and if so, what new problems does it create? (example—Dred Scott).
- Does the decision support the views of a particular section, party or class/
- Was the decision enforced or obeyed? (Brown, Indian Removal).
- Narrow or board interpretation in the decision?
- Note the division in the decision (5-4, 9-09,. etc.)
- Is this a transcript of the trial?
Legislative debate, Congressional Record, speech in Congress, testimony before a congressional committee.
- Was the speech for constituent consumption of/for colleagues?
- Any other evidence of influence of the speaker among his colleagues? (Henry Clay would be more respected than George M. Dallas).
- Is the person known for other activities?
- What point of view or organization does a person testifying before Congress represent?
Government agency report
- Federal, state or local?
- How does it reflect the general tone of government at the time?
- Be aware that agency reports are rarely critical of themselves.
- A report may be intended to lay a basis for future expansion in scope or powers or increased funding.
- Diplomatic correspondence such as instructions from the Secretary of State to treaty negotiators or correspondence to Congress or an official about ongoing regulations.
- Official letters.
- Treaties—provisions, how do the provisions compare with prior agreements, or cause future consequences? (Yalta agreement)