Sept. 26th Question: Benjamin Franklin Testifies before Parliament

Just a reminder: we don’t have class on Wednesday, so we will be having the weekly quiz on Monday (this will be the only Monday quiz of the semester). The quiz is on Chapter 4, and you can find the review sheet for it here.

Now for the web comment: Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790) had many dramatic moments in his lengthy and esteemed career, but one that must have been particularly memorable was when he gave testimony to Parliament against the Stamp Act in 1766.

Franklin traveled back and forth to London several times throughout his life: as a young man in 1725-1726, as an as an agent representing the political interests of the Pennsylvania Assembly from 1757-1762, and returning again in the same position from 1764-1775. During his 1757-1762 trip, Franklin was awarded honorary doctorates for his scientific work from the University of St. Andrews (1759) and Oxford University (1762), and thereafter referred to himself as “Doctor Franklin” (there were no doctoral-granting institutions in the colonies).

During his second stint as a Pennsylvania agent, he argued against Pennsylvania continuing to be a proprietary colony owned by the Penn family, demanding that it come under direct royal control. Despite William Penn granting significant freedoms under the Charter of Liberties in 1701, many Pennsylvanians resented the Penn family’s control, especially under the rule of William’s son, Thomas, who some viewed as arbitrary and corrupt. Franklin made a persuasive case, but his petition was rejected by King George III in 1765. In 1766, Franklin was called before Parliament to testify about the crisis triggered by the Stamp Act. You can access the text of Franklin’s testimony before Parliament here.

In your comment, describe the kinds of arguments that Franklin is making against the Stamp Act. Do you think Franklin may have contributed to Parliament’s decision to repeal the Stamp Act? What does Franklin say about the possibility of military force being used to enforce the Stamp Act? What possible strategies of resistance does he mention?

If you’d like, you might also want to say something about the above portrait of Franklin painted in London in 1767 by the British painter David Martin. How does this portrait differ from the traditional way we see Franklin depicted?

Published in: on September 27, 2011 at 1:58 pm  Comments (19)  

Sept. 19th Question: The Salem Witch Trials

A woodcut from Cotton Mather's 1692 account of witchcraft

Here is the review sheet for Wednesday’s quiz.

For this week’s web question, we’re going to jump forward on the calendar and pretend it’s closer to Halloween (we are starting to feel the fall chill in the air) and address a favorite topic of historians : witchcraft.

Since the events transpired in the 1600s, scholars have puzzled over the causes of the witchcraft mania not only in Salem in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but also across the Atlantic back in Europe. To get an idea of what some of the debates are about its causes in New England, make sure to read the “Debating the Past: The Witchcraft Trials” in the textbook on pp. 80-81.

Now you have your chance to make a contribution to the debate. The complete transcripts of the 1692 Salem trials are available at this link here. Click on and read through a few of the “examinations” and “indictments” and try to get a sense of what people were being accused of and what counted as evidence against them.  I don’t expect you to understand fully what is going on, but try to struggle with these short texts and glean whatever meaning you can out of them. Make sure to use one or two quotes from the sources to support your idea. Maybe you can come up with a new angle on an old debate!

Published in: on September 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm  Comments (17)  

Sept. 12th Question: Bacon’s Rebellion

After you have read the first half of Chapter Two in the textbook–and particularly the section on early Virginia (pp. 28-35)–please go ahead and read this primary source, a list of grievances put together by the leaders of Bacon’s Rebellion.

What made Bacon and his followers so angry at Sir William Berkeley (pictured here in red velvet)? In a comment of a paragraph or two, describe in your own words what this document tells us about the motivations for the rebellion, and why Bacon viewed Berkeley and his confederates as “traitors to the People.” If possible, say who you think Bacon means by “the People” here. (You should also know that by “Mates,” this document means “countrymen.”)

By the way, if you are still have trouble getting a copy of the textbook, you can rent an electronic version for $39.50 here.

You can also download the review sheet for next Wednesday’s quiz here.

Published in: on September 8, 2011 at 11:14 pm  Comments (13)  

Sept. 7th Question: First Contact

It was great to meet you all yesterday! I’m excited to work with you this semester.

As a reminder, please note that we will be having a brief reading quiz on Chapter One at our next class meeting, on Wednesday, Sept. 9. You can download the review sheet here.

Below please find the website question for this upcoming week. This comment is not required, but make sure to start to plan how you will schedule out the minimum six comments (keeping in mind that there are three required ones: Aug. 29, Oct. 5, and Oct. 31). If you have not done so already, please comment on the previous question as it is one of the required ones. (Please note that if you choose to write on a question, you typically would have to do it by Monday morning, but since we aren’t meeting this Monday, you have until early Wednesday morning for this one):

What do you think the moment of contact between Native Americans and Europeans was like? Try to imagine what was going on inside the heads of people on both sides, and write a few sentences from each perspective.

To help you think about this, you can take a look at the opening scene from Terrence Malick’s film, The New World (2005), which imagines what the American Indians and English might have been experiencing at this moment in Virginia in 1607 (as you will learn from the reading, this was not the first time that the English tried to set up a colony in this area). Your comment doesn’t have to be about the clip (for example, you might want to think about Columbus and the Taino–the latter are pictured above–or the Mexica and Spanish conquistadores instead), but if you do write about the clip, make sure to relate it to the textbook reading.

Published in: on September 1, 2011 at 5:09 pm  Comments (19)