Response Assignment 1: John Adams, “Slavery and Race in Jeffersonian America,” 1801

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The Atlantic slave trade was still operating at the beginning of the 19th Century, but there was a growing abolitionist movement in the United States. John Adams, finishing his term as president of the United States, responds to abolitionist Warner Mifflin about his views on slavery. Adams was a Federalist, but a rival of Alexander Hamilton, who never owned a slave and retired after his term as president ended.

Your response should be up to two pages long. It should include a clear thesis and a set of arguments that responds to the questions below.

Questions to be answered:

  • What is the significance of this document for understanding America at the beginning of the 19th Century?
  • What are Adams’ views on slavery in the United States?
  • How does this document add to our understanding of citizenship at the beginning of the 19th Century?
  • What is the relationship between John Adams views on slavery, Hector St. John Creveceour’s views on the definition of an American, and John Forten’s second “letter from a man of colour”?
  • How does Adam’s views speak to the tensions between democratic ideals and reality in the new republic?
  • What might this document tell us about Jeffersonian democracy? Are there limitations to using this document as evidence of Jeffersonian democracy?
  • Please pose at least one discussion question about this reading. What do you think is important to talk about with regard to this text?

Responses will be graded according to the following criteria:

  • Does the response address all the questions posed?
  • Does the response demonstrate that the student has done a close and careful reading of the text?
  • Does the response offer a thoughtful engagement with the text?
  • Does the response demonstrate a concerted effort to think about the significance of the text and its relationship to course topics?
  • Does the response make sense? Are the ideas within it clearly communicated?
  • Is the response written in essay form, with a thesis, a set of paragraphs that each address a distinct argument in support of the thesis, and a conclusion?

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