History Response Question

Reaction Question Instructions

Summary and Purpose:

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This assignment involves writing a short paper (five paragraphs, 500 to 800 words estimated) analyzing a historical issue from the perspective of a person of the contemporary historical period. Students will need to develop a POV historical character, examine a group of historical documents that were available to people at the time, and present a case for what position their POV historical character would have on the issue being examined.

Specific Instructions for Reaction Question #1:

In the aftermath of the American Revolution, the newly constituted United States functioned as a loose federation of mostly independent states under the Articles of Confederation. Several major figures in the American political scene, including Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, George Washington, and John Jay felt that the government as then constructed contained several fatal flaws, and thus proposed developing a new Constitution. In 1787, a convention was held, and this new Constitution was drafted and presented for ratification to the citizenry. What followed was an extremely spirited public debate as to the Constitution’s merits and flaws, and whether it should be adopted. Supporters of the Constitution, known as Federalists, made effective use of newspapers and pamphleteers in presenting their case for adoption, while opponents, known as Anti-Federalists, attempted to rally the citizenry in opposition. Each faction relied upon support from different sections of the new nation, and different arguments and positions were more persuasive to different groups of Americans than others were. In order to explore this, develop a POV historical character (described below), read the historical documents provided, and answer the following questions in a short position paper:

What is your POV character’s position on the ratification debate? Are they a supporter of the proposed Constitution? Do they instead feel its negatives outweigh its positives? Making specific reference to the provided historical documents, what specific positions do you believe they find compelling? What about their background makes these particular arguments persuasive?

The answer should be written as a short paper of around five paragraphs (estimated 500 to 800 words) in Microsoft word format. The paper should be submitted via Canvas by midnight on the 3rd of November 2020.

Developing a Historical POV Character:

Constructing a Historical POV character is done by answering a short series of questions that will develop a background that will provide context as to how/why the POV character will find certain arguments more persuasive than others. These questions include:

1. What is the character’s name and ethnic background?

2. What is the character’s gender?

3. What is the character’s age, profession, and economic situation?

4. Where is the character’s home?

5. Have any historical events they may have lived through effected the character?

6. Is the character a member of any political or religious organizations?

7. Does the character’s family life/situation have any relevance to the issue examined?


Examples of POV Characters:

Oliver Rutledge is a middle-aged planter-aristocrat from Virginia. His family emigrated from England early in the colonial period. He is a fairly rich man, who has served as a state representative, and therefore has experience with the government as constituted under the Articles of Confederation. He also is a landlord, who rents out land to smaller farmers. Rutledge served in the Revolutionary War and lost a son in that conflict.

Abigail Martin is a young woman from Pennsylvania. She is married, with two children. She, and her family, are Quakers, and firm believers in the Church’s peaceful message. Her slightly older husband is a silversmith who due to his religious beliefs did not fight in the revolution, and the family is considered middle class by the community they live in. Unlike many women of her time, Abigail was provided with a classical education by her father, and her husband strongly considers her advice when making decisions.

Grading Rubric

The following standards are expected to be in a student’s answer, and will be used to grade this assignment:

1. The POV character is clearly defined and presented in the student’s answer.

2. The answer’s position on the question is clear, and easily understood.

3. The answer makes specific references to the historical documents provided. THIS DOES NOT NEED TO INCLUDE A CITATION, simply a reference.

4. The answer shows an understanding of the arguments at the center of the historical issue.

Grading Examples:

An “A” Answer: Provides a well-developed POV character. Presents the character’s position on the issue clearly. Makes specific references to arguments from the provided historical documents, and why these arguments were persuasive to the character. Explains why the character’s background and place in society effects their position on the issue. Shows an understanding of both the practical and philosophical issues that effected how people responded to the historical question.

A “B” Answer: Provides a developed POV character. Presents the character’s position on the issue but may be less than clear in how it does so. Makes specific references to arguments from the provided historical documents but does not clearly explain why these arguments are persuasive to the character. Explains why the character’s background effects their beliefs, but does so generally, and without specifics. Shows an understanding of either the practical or philosophical issues at the center of the historical question, but not both.

A “C” Answer:

Provides a limited POV character that does not provide a complete framework for the answer. Presents the character’s position on the issue in a somewhat unclear manner. Makes general references to the historical documents, and/or does not explain why these arguments are persuasive to the character. Is extremely limited in its examination of the character’s background and how it effects their views on the issue. Shows a limited understanding of the practical and philosophical issues at the center of the historical question, but still presents some of these issues.

A “Less than C” Answer: POV character is either not utilized, is simply a cypher of the student themselves, or is severely incomplete. Presents the character’s position in a way that is extremely difficult to follow. Makes no/or too few references to the historical documents and ignores the question as to why these arguments were persuasive to the character. Ignores the character’s background when examining the issue. Shows no understanding of the issues at the center of the historical question.

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