American Civilization Dr. Schulkin
Founding Brothers Assignment Sheet Mrs. Lester


In his Pulitzer Prize winning book Founding Brothers.  The Revolutionary Generation, Professor Joseph Ellis introduces us to eight of the most important people of the Revolutionary era.   However, rather than focusing on the Revolution itself, or even the drawing up and ratification of the United States Constitution, Ellis devotes his attention to the decade of the 1790s.   He argues that the events of this decade were "the most crucial and consequential in American history," that it was during this decade that the "purposely ambiguous theory" of Republican government outlined in the Constitution was translated into the political and institutional reality of a new United States government.   He strongly implies that the eight individuals featured in his book were primarily responsible for shaping this new political reality and the United States government itself.

In the selections from Founding Brothers you have been required to read, six of these eight prominent members of the Revolutionary Generation have been featured: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Adams and Abigail Adams.   Your first task before embarking on this first major interdisciplinary paper assignment is to decide which of these six individuals you find most interesting.   Which of these individuals seems to you to have played a role so interesting and/or important that you would welcome the opportunity to explore his or her actions more fully?   Which of these individuals said or did things that you would like to learn more about on the basis of sources in addition to Founding Brothers?

The Paper Assignment

Once you have selected the individual on whom you would prefer to focus, you will need to formulate a preliminary thesis for your paper.   It is strongly recommended that your preliminary thesis take one of the following forms:
  • "X made a crucial contribution to shaping the new United States government by...."
  • "Y played a most unusual role in the shaping of the new United States government in that...."
  • "While Z did not directly shape the United States government, he/she helped mold the nation's political institutions by...."
You must submit your preliminary thesis and a list of the sources you intend to consult to us in writing before proceeding with your research.   You need to do so no later than Monday, October 4.

Once we have approved your preliminary thesis and you have embarked upon your research, keep in mind that you will be given the opportunity to submit both a first and a final draft of this FIVE TO EIGHT PAGE (1250 - 2000 WORD) paper.   In return, we expect each draft to be well written, well documented, word-processed in a 12 point font, proofread and spell-checked.   By "well documented," we mean that you must provide the appropriate internal citation to the source from which you have taken any important idea or information that is not widely known.

You need to understand from the outset that each draft will be evaluated and returned to you with comments and corrections.   Your first draft will be evaluated as a first draft with the understanding that you will carefully consider and follow our suggestions for improving it.   Your final draft will be held to a much higher standard.   In particular, you will incur a significant penalty for each shortcoming noted on your first draft that you do not remedy in your final draft.   We will be devoting a substantial amount of time and effort to reading, correcting and commenting on your first draft in an effort to make this a positive learning experience for you.   We will try to help you produce a final product of which you can be proud.   In return, we expect you to consider our corrections and specific suggestions for improvement very carefully and act upon them.