Category Archives: HIS 303 ASH

HIS 303 Week 5 Final Paper

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From the time the Constitution was ratified, Americans have disagreed over its meaning and the extent of the powers it gave to different branches and reserved to the states and the people. Since the Constitution took effect, it has been amended several times and, just as importantly, interpretations of the Constitution have changed over time. For this assignment, examine the history of one constitutional issue in depth and explain how, and why, understandings of, and approaches to, the issue have changed over from colonial times through the present.

Develop an argument about how, in your informed opinion, the constitutional issue should be interpreted. Justify your position with reference to the Constitution itself, the history of the issue under consideration, and the stance adopted on the issue by significant constitutional interpretations, past and present. In the paper, you should identify key events and documents related to the event, including momentous historical controversies, major Supreme Court cases, and significant political developments. Conclude the paper by generating an argument for how the issue should be interpreted.

For this assignment, chose from one of the following issues:

Gideon vs. Wainwright

Executive power

Definitions of citizenship and citizen’s rights

Relationship between state and federal governments

Role of the judiciary

Foreign affairs 

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HIS 303 Week 5 DQ 2 Expansion of Executive Power

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Classical republican philosophy warned against the expansion of executive power, and throughout U.S. history, critics have assailed presidents—from Washington, to Jackson, to Lincoln, and beyond—for allegedly abusing their power in tyrannical ways. These fears arguably peaked during the Cold War, when foreign policy, a matter often delegated to the executive, expanded exponentially in importance. By the 1970s, some Americans feared that their country was being run by, in the words of historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., an “imperial presidency” (i.e., a presidency which held itself above the rule of law). Review the Constitution’s provisions regarding executive powers, particularly with regard to foreign affairs, along with the checks which the Constitution places on those powers.

How did the power of the executive expand during the second half of the twentieth century? How did Congress and the judiciary respond to this expansion of executive power? In what ways did they resist in, and in what instances did they acquiesce to it? Has a new “imperial presidency” emerged in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001?

When responding to these questions, refer to material from one of the following videos:

a.    Constant combatants: The president and congress – A Fred Friendly seminar 

b.    Expanding power

c.    Contemporary life v. the Constitution

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HIS 303 Week 5 DQ 1 Conservative Constitutionalism

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Historians sometimes speak of the “Reagan Revolution” that occurred after Ronald Reagan became president in 1981. This revolution represented a conservative backlash against the liberalism of the first half of the twentieth century, and arguably continues to set the tone of political debate in the country today. Identify the key ideological components of the conservative constitutionalism associated with the Reagan Era and the Rehnquist Court. In practice, how did conservative constitutionalism affect American politics and the American government? Has the influence of conservative constitutionalism increased or declined in the decades since Reagan left office?

When completing this assignment, draw from two of the following documents:

a.    George H. W. Bush: Address before a joint session of the Congress on the state of the Union, January 28, 1992

b.    George W. Bush: Address before a joint session of the Congress on the state of the Union, January 23, 2007 

c.    William J. Clinton: Inaugural address, January 20, 1997 

d.    Barack Obama: Inaugural address, January 20, 2009

e.    Ronald Reagan: Inaugural address, January 20, 1981

f.    Contract with America: 1994 

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HIS 303 Week 4 DQ 2 The Bill of Rights

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After the Preamble, The Bill of Rights is probably the most famous section of the Constitution, but is often imperfectly understood. For instance, the Bill of Rights initially served only to limit the actions of the federal government, and did not protect citizens from the actions of state governments (as affirmed in the 1833 Supreme Court case of Barron v. Baltimore). Moreover, many rights that Americans take for granted—such as voting—do not appear in the Bill of Rights, and many other rights were not fully articulated or protected until the mid-twentieth century.
Review the Constitution generally, and the Bill of Rights specifically, and explain how and why understandings of citizens’ rights changed in the mid-twentieth century.

What rights did the Constitution, as originally written (i.e., before the addition of the Bill of Rights), protect? What rights did the Bill of Rights add? How did the Fourteenth Amendment and the process of incorporation change the nature of the Bill of Rights? What new rights would be added from the 1950s through the 1970s?

What respective roles did the legislature, executive, judiciary, state governments, and ordinary citizens play in expanding rights, or resisting the expansion of rights?

When responding to these questions, draw from material from one of the following videos:

a.    The Bill of Rights

b.    The civil rights movement

c.    God and the Constitution


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HIS 303 Week 4 DQ 1 The New Deal

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Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal greatly expanded the federal government’s role in the country’s domestic and economic affairs, which led to a long-running constitutional crisis in the 1930s that remains controversial to this day. Although the Supreme Court threw out several New Deal programs, others survived and laid the foundation for later developments over the next three decades. Assess the New Deal as a revolution in constitutionalism.

Assess the New Deal as a revolution in constitutionalism. What objections did opponents of the New Deal raise? How and why did the Supreme Court’s stance on the New Deal change over time? How did Roosevelt’s successors expand on the New Deal and what might explain why these later measures generally encountered less resistance than the New Deal itself?

Summarizing your responses to the questions above, did the New Deal represent a revolution in understandings of and practices under the Constitution? If so, was this development beneficial or detrimental to the American people?

In responding to this question, draw from the two following documents:

a.    Mason, A. T. (Oct., 1934). Has the Supreme Court abdicated? The North American review, 238 (4), 353-360. Retrieved from the JSTOR database.

b.    Strout, R. L. (Dec., 1933). The New Deal and the Supreme Court. The North American review, 236 (6), 484-491. Retrieved from the JSTOR database.

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HIS 303 Week 3 Supreme Court Decision

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The judiciary is one of the three branches involved in the “checks and balances” associated with the U.S. government under the Constitution. It is also the branch over which the American people have the least direct control, making it particularly controversial, especially when it seems to controvert the popular will as expressed through the legislature. For this assignment, review the powers the Constitution grants to the Supreme Court in Article III. Then summarize the history of, reasoning behind, and the public reaction to a momentous U.S. Supreme Court decision. Also, explain the decision’s impact on relevant concerns, such as the economy, politics, religious freedom, civil liberties, human rights, and so forth. In your opinion, was the decision valid in terms of its constitutional interpretation and its impact on the nation? When do you believe the Supreme Court should get involved in national controversies, and what rubric should it use to make its decisions?

You are free to write about any Supreme Court case, though you are advised to use a case related to the topic of your final paper. Note, though, that you may not recycle substantial passages from this assignment in the Final Paper. The paper should include an analysis of the text of the decision, and should also draw from two scholarly secondary sources obtained through the Ashford University library. 

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HIS 303 Week 3 DQ 2 Populists and Progressives

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According to much populist rhetoric since the 1980s, the federal government is too active in domestic affairs, particularly the economy. Yet, a century earlier, the Populists and Progressives an agitated to have the federal government intervene more actively in domestic affairs. Explain why many Americans during this period from 1880 to 1930 favored a more activist federal government. Summarize the constitutional views of the Populists and Progressives, and explain how they differed from the conservative views held by the Supreme Court and others of the time.

What developments led the Populists and Progressives to call for a more activist federal government? How did they hope to change the nature of state and federal government as they expanded its power? On what grounds did conservatives, especially in the courts, oppose the policies proposed by Populists and Progressives? What was the impact on American Society of the growing power of the national government, particularly in economic issues?

When responding to the above questions, reference material from three of the following documents:
a.    The subjective necessity of social settlements
b.    An economic interpretation of the Constitution of the United States
c.    The Bible
d.    Theodore Roosevelt: New nationalism speech, 1910
e.    The Omaha platform: Launching the Populist Party
f.    A governor bitterly opposes Negro education

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HIS 303 Week 3 DQ 1 The Constitution and Reconstruction

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A common misconception about the end of the Civil War is that, after ending slavery, the federal government did nothing to assist former slaves. In fact, the Constitution itself was substantially altered to define the rights of Americans and to allow the federal government to protect those rights. Review the contents of the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Nineteenth Amendments, along with the history of the period from 1865 to 1933.

What measures did the federal government implement during Reconstruction to aid freed people? Why and how would those measures prove largely ineffective in the long-term? What gains did women’s rights activists gain between 1865 and 1933? Who gained more during this time period, women or Blacks? What unique disadvantages did black women face? What rights did workers gain during this period, and what rights did they demand, but fail to gain? What role did the federal government play during this period in expanding and ensuring the rights of citizens?

When responding to the above questions, draw from material from one of the following videos:

a.    The story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: Failure is impossible
b.    The second American revolution, Part 1
c.    Stories from the mines: How immigrant miners changed America

What measures did the federal government implement during Reconstruction to aid freed people?

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HIS 303 Week 2 Early Constitutional Controversies

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In 1788, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, who had both played active roles at the Constitutional Convention, worked together to write The Federalist Papers, a series of articles originally published in New York newspapers to convince readers to back the ratification of the Constitution. Constitutional scholars often refer to these papers to gain an appreciation of the “original intention” of the Framers, how those men expected the federal government to operate under the Constitution, and the powers they sought to grant or deny the federal government. By the early 1790s, however, Hamilton and Madison had divided over basic constitutional questions, such as whether or not the federal government could charter a national bank. The American electorate, which had ratified the Constitution, had split on the issue as well, dividing into rival Federalist and Republican parties.
For this assignment, explore one significant constitutional controversy, from the first two decades of the United States under the Constitution (1789 to 1821). Topics to consider include:

1.The incorporation of the Bank of the United States

2.Debt assumption

3.The Jay Treaty

4.The Alien and Sedition Acts

5.The Election of 1800

6.John Marshall’s use of judicial review

7.The Louisiana Purchase

8.The trial of Aaron Burr

Describe opposing views of the topic under consideration, and explain how each side used the Constitution to support its position. Assess the validity of the two sides according to your own interpretation of the Constitution as well as according to how the Constitution and constitutional principles were understood at the time the controversy occurred.

The paper should draw from at least one primary source and two scholarly, secondary sources for a total of three sources (not including the Constitution itself). For assistance on the use of primary and secondary sources, please see sections 8.1 and 8.2 of the Ashford Writing Center.

The secondary sources should be accessed through any of the academic databases available through the Ashford University library. 

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HIS 303 Week 2 DQ 2 A Symbolic Figurehead

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Americans tend to pay more attention to the president than to any other government official, blaming him when things go wrong, even in areas over which the president has little control, and crediting him with successes which stem from the legislature instead of the executive. In many ways, the president serves as a symbolic figurehead of both the government and the nation, with the consequence that the executive often overshadows the other branches of government. Review the powers and responsibilities which the Constitution grants to the president. Then explain how presidents from, George Washington through Abraham Lincoln, have wielded and expanded those powers.

How did the role of the president change from 1789 to 1865? Which presidents were most responsible for those changes? How did the judiciary and the legislature encourage or seek to curtail the expansion of executive power?

In your response, draw from material in two of the following videos:

a.    The presidents: 1789-1825

b.    The presidents: 1825-1849

c.    The presidents: 1849-1865

d.    Presidents from 1789-1849

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