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Discussion Questions for Week 5 Please consider the study questions in Retrieving the American Past for our readings on “Why the British Lost the Revolutionary War” and “The Radicalism of the American Revolution.” Consider as well the study questions at the end of Chapter 6 of Out of Many. Please make it a point to memorize the major actions by the British, 1763- 1775, that drove many colonists into open rebellion (Out of Many, p. 111). The Declaration of Independence 1. Is the Declaration a conservative document? From whose point of view was it written? Why did it have such broad appeal? 2. What surprised you the most about the Declaration when you read it as a whole? 3. What is the purpose of government? When is it right to rebel against a government? 4. What were the charges against the King? What did the Continental Congress mean when it spoke of “absolute tyranny”? Do you think the charges against the King were accurate? What would the King have thought of them? What would Tories have thought? 6. Why did the Declaration win the support of only a third of the American colonists? 7. In what ways do you think the Founding Fathers were different from other members of the colonial elite, most of which tried to remain neutral in 1775-6 or supported Great Britain? Abigail and John Adams 1. How did Abigail Adams think men and women differ? How did John Adams think they differ? Was their disagreement about the rights of women really a disagreement about differences between women and men? 2. Why did Abigail Adams think women had the right to vote? Why did John Adams disagree? Did he make the same arguments to Abigail that he made to his male friends? Did Abigail make the same arguments to John that she made to her female friends? 3. Who had a clearer understanding of the implications of republican thought for women’s rights? Did republican ideology lead inevitably to the position of one or the other? The Radicalism of the American Revolution 1. Was the American Revolution, as historian Carl Becker put the question, “a war for home rule, or a war over who should rule at home?” What did Becker mean by asking that question? How might you answer it? 2. How can we measure the “radicalism” of the American Revolution? To what degree did the rhetoric of the Declaration of Independence “translate” into reality? Was there: --an ideological challenge to monarchy and aristocracy? --a movement toward political and social equality? 3. Why did John Adams believe that republican government would not survive if the rights to vote and to hold office were not tied to ownership of property? Why did he not want to extend the franchise to men without property, to women, or to people under age 21? Are those exclusions consistent with the principles of republicanism? Democracy? (COP-EZ packet) 4. Why did Abigail Adams think women should have the right to a good education? (COP-EZ packet) Why did Mrs. Hannah Corbin believe widows with property should have the right to vote? Did Richard Henry Lee agree with her? Why did Quaker- dominated New Jersey extend voting rights to “all free inhabitants,” including women, until 1807? (RTAP) Why was there such resistance to female suffrage? And why did so few women demand the right to vote? What did most women hope they would gain as a result of the revolution? (RTAP) 5. Who did the author of “The People the Best Governors” think should have the right to vote? Why? What was the danger in making property a requirement for voting? Was George Mason, the author of the “Declaration of Rights,” as radical in its commitment to liberty? Democracy? (RTAP) 6. Does the information in RTAP about changes in state constitutions, suffrage requirements, officeholding requirements, and the economic standing of legislators suggest that the Revolution made America more democratic? Less democratic? 7. Why did support for slavery suddenly weaken during the Revolution? Why did it die out in the North and persist in the South? 8. Who made the greatest gains during the Revolution: women, African Americans, or white artisans and laborers in Philadelphia?
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