ESSAY 2:USING SECONDARY SOURCES
HISTORIANS AND THE CONSTITUTION
This essay relates to Part IV of the course,
Constitutions for a Republic. You will use Edward Countryman’s What Did
the Constitution Mean to Early Americans, one of our required books
which we’ll be discussing in class. The book is a short collection of
essays on several key issues by five historians of the Constitution. These
essays are good examples of what historians do – probe a historical issue
by using primary and secondary materials critically to suggest a thesis.
In this assignment you will write a short essay (three to four pages)
commenting on two readings. Your essays will present a summary of the
two articles but, more importantly, will use that reading critically to
discuss a question.
one of the following options:
- Use Kramnick and Patterson: How did the
conflicting “languages” that Kramnick describes intersect or correspond
with the conflicting social interests that make up Patterson’s topic?
- Use Wood and Lewis: Did the “American
science of politics” of which Wood writes offer a means for solving the
problems of exclusion that form Lewis’s subject.
- Use Patterson and Lewis: These two essays
both deal with conflict during the Revolutionary era. Comment on how
they differ in their understanding of that problem and discuss which
position you find persuasive.
- Use Wood and Rakove: Based on your reading
of these two historians, what is your position about taking the Framers’
“original meaning” as the best guide to interpreting the Constitution