21H.105 | Spring 2006 | Undergraduate

American Classics


This section provides information on the required readings for the course.

Most readings are available in paperback books. Every effort was made to locate as complete information as possible for historical documents, and links to online sources were included where available.

Readings by Session

Week # Topics Readings
1 Introduction; the Puritans

Winthrop, John. “A Modell of Christian Charity.” A Sermon of 1630 (abridged). In Volume I of The Puritans: A Sourcebook of Their Writings. Revised edition. Edited by Perry Miller and Thomas H. Johnson. New York, NY: Harper Torchbooks, 1963, pp. 195-199.

Bradford, William. Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647. Edited by Samuel Eliot Morison. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979, esp. chapters 4 and 9, pp. 23-27 and 58-63.

- This edition has adapted the language for modern readers (see his comments on this and on Bradford’s history, pp. vii-xii).

2 “The First Famous American”: Benjamin Franklin

Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography and Other Writings. New York, NY: Bantam Classic, 1982, vii-xiii, 3-230, and 270. ISBN: 9780553210750.

- Note: Discussion will focus particularly on Franklin’s autobiography, but not all parts of it are worth equal attention. Sections toward the end that describe in detail Pennsylvania politics and the Seven Years War need not be followed closely, but note pp. 108, 111-19, and 150-51.

3 Paine’s “Common Sense” and the Declaration of Independence

Paine, Thomas. Common Sense and Related Writings. Mineola, NY: Dover, 1997. ISBN: 9780486296029.

Mason, George. Draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Pennsylvania Gazette, June 12, 1776.

The committee or “Jefferson” draft of the Declaration of Independence, with Congress’s editings (June-July 1776). In Maier, Pauline. Appendix C of American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. New York, NY: Knopf, 1997, pp. 236-241. ISBN: 9780679454922.

4 The Constitutional Convention

Koch, Adrienne, ed. Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Reported by James Madison. New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 1987, introduction, Madison’s preface, pp. 21- 166. ISBN: 9780393304053.

- This includes the convention’s opening; presentation of the Virginia plan; presentation and rejection of the alternative New Jersey plan; and resumption of debate based on the resolutions Virginia had proposed. Note the resolutions on pp. 148-51, since the debates immediately thereafter are keyed to them. Skim the make-or-break debates on resolutions 7 and 8 that runs from pp. 220-98, with the little additional flare-up on 299-302. Thereafter, debates proceeded with less fireworks, and you can pick and choose which issues to follow. Discussion over whether Congress should veto state laws, as Madison insisted, is on 304-05; debates over the presidency, which many said was the hardest issue the convention faced, are on pp. 306-14, 322-35, 356-72. As a result of these discussions, the convention produced a revised set of resolutions (pp. 379-85), which a Committee of Detail made into a draft constitution while the convention adjourned from July 26-August 6 (see pp. 385-96). Then it debated the draft, revisiting issues it had discussed before in the light of other decisions. Note predictions of the future that emerged during a discussion of suffrage, pp. 402-04; and discussions of slavery and the slave trade on pp. 409-13, 502-08. In late August the convention set up a Committee of Eleven to propose solutions to several problems it hadn’t solved. The committee’s recommendations opened another round of debates, especially on the executive (see 573-79, 582-97, and 605-66 on impeachment). Finally, on September 12, a Committee of Style set up to incorporate changes into the draft constitution and refine its wording presented its report (616-27). That led to still more debates, in the course of which George Mason raised the issue of a bill of rights (630). Read also the record of the convention’s closing days, 650-59.

5 Exploring the West

- Letter from President Thomas Jefferson

Moulton, Gary E., ed. The Lewis and Clark Journals. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2004. ISBN: 9780803280397.

- Read the preface, introduction, “editorial principles,” and afterword. Feel free to skim, and don’t be surprised if it takes awhile to get into the story. There are memorable passages in the book, which tells the tale of a great adventure and a lot about the country and its peoples at that time, but the “good parts” are scattered, which makes it difficult to define just which pages to read.

- This edition provides an extensive introduction, which should make navigating the journals easier. However, papers should be based on the journals themselves, not those parts supplied by the editor.

6 Slave Narratives: Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs

Douglass, Frederick, Harriet Jacobs, and Kwame Anthony Appiah. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass…and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. New York, NY: Modern Library Classics, 2000. ISBN: 9780679783282.

- Read all of the Douglass carefully; read more selectively in the Jacobs autobiography in part for comparative purposes.

7 “The Little Lady Who Caused This Big War”

Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin (orig. (in book form) 1852). New York, NY: Penguin, 1981. ISBN: 9780140390032.

- This is a long book, but it’s easy reading. Start early!

8 The Lincoln-Douglas Debates; Lincoln

Holzer, Harry, ed. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates: The First Complete, Unexpurgated Text. New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780823223428.

- Read the Preface, Introduction, descriptions of “the scene” for each of the debates, and the appendix as well as the debates themselves, much of which you can skim. The speeches are long, but include many redundancies since the speakers went over the same issues, sometimes reading passages from previous speeches, again and again. Much of the content was pretty well established after the first three debates, but it’s useful to ask who you think came out best in the various debates, and, more important, whether the speakers’ positions changed. For example, does Lincoln state his position differently in Ottawa and Freeport, in the northern part of Illinois, settled by migrants from free states, than in Charleston or Alton, settled by people from the South who were in general more pro-slavery? As this edition (do not accept substitutes!) makes clear, the debates took place outside, without microphones, to audiences that often interrupted the speakers. Even their interjections, which Holzer scrupulously includes, are interesting.

Also Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech at Springfield, June 16, 1858, when he accepted the Republicans’ nomination for senator (you should probably read this before reading the Lincoln-Douglas debates), his First Inaugural Address (1861), the Gettysburg Address (1863), and his Second Inaugural Address (1865), reliable versions of which are available at: Speeches of Abraham Lincoln.

9 Ulysses S. Grant and the Civil War Grant, Ulysses S. Personal Memoirs. New York, NY: Penguin, 1999. ISBN: 9780140437010. (Especially pp. xiii-xxvi, 3-54, 92-133, read about some battle of the Civil War (Shiloh, 177-99, for example; Vicksburg was more important, but the account is also much longer), 376-82, 525 (bottom) -35, 558-61, 580-640.
10 Discussion: Paper Topics; Writing Final Papers  
11 Making Money - and Giving it Away

Review: Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography and Other Writings. New York, NY: Bantam Classic, 1982, pp. 184-93. ISBN: 9780553210750.

Alger, Horatio. Ragged Dick or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks. New York, NY: Signet, 1990, introduction by Alan Trachtenberg. ISBN: 9780451524805.

Carnegie, Andrew. The Gospel of Wealth and Other Timely Essays. Edited by Edward C. Kirkland. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1962, pp. 3-13 (“Introduction: How I Served My Apprenticeship”) and 14-49 (the “Gospel of Wealth”).

- There are copies at least of the second of Carnegie’s essays on the Internet, but be sure to read an unabridged copy.

12 Segregation and Blacks’ Dreams of Success

Johnson, James, Booker T. Washington, and William E. B. Dubois. Three Negro classics. New York, NY: Avon, 1965 (reprint 1999). ISBN: 9780380015818.

Washington, Booker T. Up From Slavery. In Three Negro Classics, especially chapters 1-5, 7-8, and 10-14 (pp. 29- 77, 85- 100, 108-57).

DuBois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk. In Three Negro Classics. pp. 207-390.

-–. “Of the Meaning of Progress.” In Three Negro Classics. pp. 240-61.

13 What a Difference the Radio Made: the Presidency, at Home Roosevelt, Franklin Delano. Great Speeches. New York, NY: Dover, 1999. ISBN: 9780486408941.
14 Free at Last?

Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. Pennsylvania, U.S.: Laurel, 1984 (reprint 1997), especially chapters 1-4, 10, 12, and 14. ISBN: 9780440324973.

King, Martin Luther, Jr. “I have a dream” speech, August 28, 1963.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2006
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments with Examples