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. 

Choose one of the following options:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 now?


bulletGive your essay a title that relates to a major point you are making in answering the question.
bulletIn summarizing the two articles, be sure to state the thesis or major idea each author is presenting. Also describe the main parts of the article and the kinds of evidence the author uses.
bulletUse your own words instead of giving long quotes from the reading.
bulletYour discussion of the question posed should be longer than your summary of the readings.
bulletThe essay is due on or before the last class, May 15.