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Home » AP US History Blog » The 1850s: Prelude to Civil War (1987 DBQ)
The 1850s: Prelude to Civil War (1987 DBQ)
Posted by rykkepau on Jan 2, 2014 in AP US History Blog | 0 comments
We have reached a point with our writing where we need to take the next big step. As part of your final exam, you are going to be completing a DBQ on the decade of the 1850s. You have the question ahead of time so you have plenty of time for analysis. The difference in this round is that you will be writing the essay in the classroom under some time pressure. Again, we are working on a set of complex skills here. Here’s the question you will be writing on for your final exam:
“By the 1850s the Constitution, originally framed as an instrument of national unity, had become a source of sectional discord and tension and ultimately contributed to the failure of the union it had created.”
Using the documents and your knowledge of the period 1850-1861, assess the validity of this statement.
OK, here are some coaching points for you as you
approach your preparation — work your way through these prior to the Final Exam day. First, underline the KEY WORDS in the question itself — what are words you need to know in order to have a strong understanding of the question? Notice the phrase “assess the validity” in the question — that’s important.
Second, how would you answer this question IF YOU DID NOT HAVE DOCUMENTS to deal with? Start with that question because that will force you to think about OUTSIDE INFORMATION. Brainstorm everything you know about the decade of the 1850s (we have covered it pretty extensively in class and, of course, you have plenty of resources on it for further study). Write down notes for yourself in that regard — names, laws, court cases, social or cultural developments, etc. THINK BROADLY!
Third, determine a working thesis for the question. Remember that you have three options with this type of question. What are they? Remember that you are being asked to “assess the validity” of the given premise: was it true? was it false? was it both? If it’s true, which I suspect many historians would affirm, then how do you explain this? I mean, isn’t it “one thing or the other?” What’s the problem? Once you have settled on a thesis (although it may still be “in process”), think about how you will defend your position. Then . . . .
Fourth, MAP OUT YOUR ANSWER. What points of support will you use to support the thesis? Make a visual of this and add enough detail so you are “picturing” the answer. This “mapping out” process is important because later you will want to formulate where various documents will naturally support what you are saying.
THEN . . . . GO TO THE DOCUMENTS AND UTILIZE YOUR “CLOSE READING” SKILLS! You should be doing a healthy “mark-up” on the documents — you will hand those in to me the day of the test with your answer. Here are a few comments on the 9 documents from my end: First, realize they have given you a broad range of documents here — different types of things, not just textual. As you look at them, think of different interpretations of the Constitution and how those may weave their way into your response.
Document A: Compromise of 1850 Map
A map like this gives you all kinds of openings for outside information. Think about prior Constitutional crises prior to 1850 (like the Missouri Compromise situation) and how this legislation changed that. The notion of popular sovereignty, of course, is a great one for thinking about Constitutional principles related to people having a “voice” in their government. Document B: Words from an anonymous Georgian to the “north” This guy is voicing the classic Southern position on the relationship between the States...
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