Syllabus for Revolutionary and Early National America, 1763-1832
Teaching American History
Spring 2006
Professor John McClymer
(jmcclyme@assumption.edu)


Signing of the Declaration of Independence, painting by John Trumbull in U.S. Capitol (detail)

Description: Part One of a four course survey of U.S. history from the end of the Seven Years' War to the present. All are designed to enable teachers to familiarize themselves with the core events and developments emphasized in the Massachusetts frameworks. We will pay particular attention to the documents of the era and to strategies for successfully introducing their study to secondary students. In addition to our weekly meetings, there will be three one-day workshops led by guest scholars. Attendance at two of the three entitles participants to a fourth credit for this course. The workshops are also open to WPS and other area teachers who are not enrolled in this course.

We will read several important secondary works AND examine relevant primary materials. Participants will submit notes addressing questions about both primary and secondary sources at least one hour prior to class meeting. I will use these notes to organize our discussions. These discussions will have several foci: 1) How have historians sought to make sense of the topic under discussion? 2) Where does the topic fit within the frameworks? 3) What sorts of strategies can teachers use to make this topic come alive to their students?

Requirements:In addition to doing the reading and submitting the notes, all participants will research and write a course project. This can take the form of detailed lesson plans covering some portion of the materials under review. Participants will be able to draw upon the expertise of two experienced high school teachers in designing their projects. They are Colleen Kelly, History and Social Science Curriculum Liaison of WPS, and Harry Richardson, former history teacher at Grafton and Shrewsbury high schools and former assistant principal of Grafton High.

Readings/Materials (tentative) -- underscored titles are to web sites:
Pauline Maier, From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain, 1765-1776
John McClymer, The Stamp Act and the Origins of the American Revolution,
The Boston Massacre, at Famous American Trials, or the Gaspee Burning, at Virtual Gaspee Archives
Robert A. Gross, The Minutemen and Their World (2001 edition)
Lucia Knoles, America in the 1770s
Gary Wills, Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence
Pauline Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence
Mary Beth Norton, Liberty's Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800 (1996 edition)
Gordon S. Wood, The American Revolution,
John McClymer, "If Men Were Angels . . .": Ratification of the U.S. Constitution
John McClymer, The Partisan Press: The Alien and Sedition Laws
Lance Banning, The Sacred Fire of Liberty: James Madison and the Founding of the Federal Republic
Richard A. Hofstadter, The Idea of a Party System

Class Schedule:

Jan. 17: Introductions; exploration of The Stamp Act and the Origins of the American Revolution; guided tour of The Boston Massacre, at Famous American Trials and the Gaspee Burning, at Virtual Gaspee Archives — we will divide into two groups, each responsible for reporting on one of these two sites. Reports should focus upon the following and should be posted on the class Blackboard site one hour before class:

Jan. 24: Discussion on reports; introduction to Lucia Knoles, America in the 1770s — we will explore this site over much of the semester. In addition, Professor Knoles and Tom Knoles, curator of manuscripts at AAS, will lead an one-day seminar on the rhetoric of the revolution. Prof. Knoles begins her site with a letter John Adams wrote in 1818:

What do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people. . . . This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.

By what means this great and important alteration in the religious, moral, political, and social character of the people of thirteen colonies, all distinct, unconnected, and independent of each other, was begun, pursued, and accomplished, it is surely interesting to humanity to investigate and perpetuate to posterity.

To this end, it is greatly to be desired, that young men of letters in all the States . . . would undertake the laborious, but certainly interesting and amusing task, of searching and collecting all the records, pamphlets, newspaper, and even handbills, which in any way contributed to change the temper and views of the people, and compose them into an independent nation.

We will join with Knoles in letting Adams define our task. We will also break into groups to survey the resources she has collected. Reports should be posted to the Blackboard site one hour before the class meeting of Feb. 7. Think of these reports as extended show-and-tell exercises. What did you find? Don't try to be exhaustive. There is too much material for that. What was new to you? What was puzzling? surprising? cool?

Jan. 31: introduction to Robert A. Gross, The Minutemen and Their World — we will discuss this on Feb. 7: one hour before that class submit notes discussing the following:

Feb. 7: Reports on The Minutemen and Their World; introduction to Pauline Maier, From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain, 1765-1776 — 600 word review due for Feb. 14 class; submit one hour before class meeting. Do not summarize the book in your review. Instead focus on what you found most helpful in understanding the materials we have already examined (such as the Stamp Act Congress or the Gaspee Incident), on what you found least helpful, and on questions that still nag at you about the run-up to the Revolution.

Feb. 11 (Saturday at AAS): One-day seminar on the Revolutionary movement in Worcester County led by Professor Steven Bullock of WPI. Participation in two of the three one-day seminars offered this semester earns participants a fourth credit for this course. Non-course participants may also register for this and the other seminars.

Feb. 14: Discussion of From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain, 1765-1776 — we will use this discussion as a way of summing up the first portion of the course; debriefing on one-day seminar; small group explorations of Lucia Knoles' Declaring Independence; introduction to Mary Beth Norton, Liberty's Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800; for class of Feb. 28, submit notes one hour in advance focusing on:

Feb. 21: February Break — No Class

Feb. 28: Discussion of Norton, Liberty's Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800; introduction to Wills, Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. For the class of Mar. 14 we will discuss Wills' work in the light of the resources on Knoles' site. Submit notes one hour before class discussing:

Mar. 4 (Saturday at AAS): One-day seminar on the rhetoric of Revolutionary America led by Professor Lucia Knoles of Assumption and Tom Knoles of AAS. Participation in two of the three one-day seminars offered this semester earns participants a fourth credit for this course. Non-course participants may also register for this and the other seminars.

Mar. 7: Assumption Spring Break — No Class

Mar. 14: Debriefing on one-day seminar; discussion of Wills, Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence; introduction to Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence; Submit notes one hour before class on Mar. 21 discussing:

Mar. 21: Worcester State Spring Break — No Class

Mar. 28: Discussion of American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence; introduction to Gordon S. Wood, The American Revolution; for class of Mar. 21, submit notes one hour in advance focusing on:

Apr. 4: Discussion of Wood, The American Revolution; exploration of McClymer, "If Men Were Angels . . .": Ratification of the U.S. Constitution; introduction to Banning, The Sacred Fire of Liberty: James Madison and the Founding of the Federal Republic; for class of Apr. 11 submit notes one hour in advance focusing on:

"Tenth Pillar" City Gazette (Charleston), July 22, 1788 — Fame announcing the adoption of the U.S. Constitution

Apr. 11: Discussion of Banning, The Sacred Fire of Liberty: James Madison and the Founding of the Federal Republic The James Madison Center at James Madison University has much useful information as well as key documents; exploration of McClymer, The Partisan Press: The Alien and Sedition Laws; introduction to Hofstadter, The Idea of a Party System; for class of Apr. 25, submit notes one hour in advance focusing on:

Apr. 18: Worcester Public Schools Spring Break — No Class

Apr. 25:Discussion of Hofstadter, The Idea of a Party System — we can use this discussion as a way of summing up the course to date; introduction to final projects

Apr. 29 (Saturday at AAS): One-day seminar on the Nullification Crisis as an echo of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions led by Professor Drew McCoy of Clark University. Participation in two of the three one-day seminars offered this semester earns participants a fourth credit for this course. Non-course participants may also register for this and the other seminars.

We will schedule two additional meetings (June 6 and 13?) at which participants will present their projects. We will not meet as a class during May, but Professor McClymer, Ms. Kelly, and Mr. Richardson will all be available to consult with participants.

On Line Resources:

Henry Adams, The United States in 1800 — classic brief social history

Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia — indispensable resource for Jefferson's thinking

An introduction to John C. Calhoun + some of his political writings at the University of Virginia

Another U. of Va. site on Andrew Jackson

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America — in addition to the full text, the site also collects materials about the topics Tocqueville discussed. It is a wonderful resource.

Hal Morris' "Tales of the Early Republic" is a sprawling repository of materials on the Jackson Era. It has a very full treatment of the Hayne-Webster Debate, for example, and is especially strong on religion. A must-explore site.

Tim Spaulding has put together a treasure trove of materials concerning Andrew Jackson, including much about the Nullification Crisis.

Spaulding also created a useful page about Alexander Hamilton.