GUIDELINES FOR THE FINAL EXAM’S SHORT ESSAY
Below in blue font you will find a “golden short essay” assembled from five previous students’ writings on a question that concerned Alexander Hamilton’s “Bank Bill.” To be sure, the topic is an excellent example of the course theme. However, it is the essay’s structure that is most important here. The narrative originates almost entirely from the students. All I did was add a few transition words and the opening phrase, “During the early 1790s.”
Notice that the essay contains –
references in the introductory paragraph’s first two sentences to the historical timeline and context (e.g., using the phrase “During the early 1790s” and mentioning that there were no political parties as of yet, only factions)
a clear thesis statement in the introductory paragraph’s latter half (e.g., the debate over the bank bill crystallized differing factions into political parties and that their policies showed through in the writings of the era)
a body of three paragraphs, each paragraph containing an example pulled from readings/notes that supports the thesis
a reference in each example to the historical timeline (e.g., the date placed after the title of each reading)
at least three sentences in each paragraph/example that provide background, the major idea of each reading, and why the idea was important at that time
a conclusion paragraph that summarizes the points made in the essay
Question: How did Alexander Hamilton’s plan for a national bank develop the respective ideological platforms of the Federalist and Republican parties?
During the early 1790s, Alexander Hamilton’s plan for a national bank confirmed the policies of both the Federalist and Republican parties. Until the proposal of the ‘Bank Bill,’ people that had opposing viewpoints were nothing more than factions. However, when debates over the constitutionality of the ‘Bank Bill’ began, the factions crystallized into two distinct political parties, one believing in centralizing principles, the other in decentralizing power in the republic. Each party’s ideas were evident in the writings of that era.
For instance, in his ‘Opinion on the Constitutionality of the Bank’ (February 1791), Alexander Hamilton claimed that a national bank was necessary in order to collect taxes, manage the nation’s debt, and to deal with matters concerning international and domestic trade. Hamilton and his supporters, who became known as ‘Federalists,’ also wanted to promote industry, manufacturing, and an overall strong mercantile economy. They believed that the national bank would support and strengthen this economy, which in turn would lead to a stronger nation. Jefferson and his supporters argued differently. They took their cue from Jefferson’s ‘Notes on the State of Virginia’ (1784), which stressed the importance of rural productivity and integrity. Jefferson and the ‘Republicans’ believed there were too many untrustworthy people among the mercantile classes, and felt that the prosperity of American politics would be better trusted in the hands of the earnest, hardworking planters, husbandmen, and yeoman farmers. These citizens, according to Jefferson, were ‘God’s chosen people’ and were more virtuous by nature. Indeed, for Republicans the establishment of a national bank was unconstitutional due to its loose interpretation of that document, a version only dishonest and shady ‘monied’ interests would support.
When Federalists read Hamilton’s ‘Report on Manufactures’ (December 1791), they supported his claim that the national bank was a means to an end. Therefore the bank was justifiable because its establishment would lead to a strong and stable economy for America. Hamilton believed that a centralized financial body would benefit the nation because it would promote and support the development of the manufacturing, industrial and mercantile sectors. This expansion would attract people to America and these immigrants would further help the growth of the economy.
However, James Madison’s ‘Speech on the Bank Bill’ (February 1791) attacked the Federalists, arguing that only the states could determine the constitutionality of the ‘Bank Bill.’ Madison said that the powers of the Federal Government always were subject to the discretion of the states because the states had given the Federal Government its power. Moreover, it was the states’ duty to reign in the Federal Government when it appeared to overstep its constitutional powers. The establishment of a national bank was too broad an interpretation of the Constitution and if allowed established a dangerous precedent for centralized Federal authority.
In conclusion, the proposal of the ‘Bank Bill’ and the opposition to its passage led to the formation of two political parties. The Federalists, led by Hamilton, believed that the national bank would strengthen the nation and promote an expanding economy. On the other hand, Jefferson and his Republican support deemed the bill and infringement on the rights of the states, and if allowed, would be one step closer to a system similar to that of Great Britain.
Therefore, a short essay should have three basic parts: an introduction to the problem, a body of evidence consisting of at least three well-developed examples, and a conclusion. The following is a summary of the guidelines the instructor will employ when grading the short essay.
(1) Lack of thesis statement = -10 (points)
(2) Weak thesis statement = -5
(3) Lack of example to support thesis statement = -10
(4) Undeveloped example = -7
(5) Lack of conclusion = -10
(6) Major error (e.g., failure to explain historical importance of example) = -6
(7) Minor error (e.g., failure to provide time period for example) = -4
(8) Slight Error (e.g., incorrect dates within 10 years) = -2
(9) Every three grammatical, spelling, word choice, etc. errors = -1
Be advised that the instructor reserves judgment regarding what constitutes an oversight, solecism, inaccuracy, etc., on the part of the student, and the severity of that error. The instructor will take off at most 10 points for errors of grammar, spelling, style, and so forth. Once total deductions reach 40 points, further subtractions cease, and the student will receive 10 points for the short essay.
Citation Information for the Short Essay:
Since the information for this essay originates with my lectures, and I hold no copyright on those lectures, citations are not necessary in this exercise.
RULES OF ACADEMIC DISCOURSE FOR SHORT ANSWERS AND SHORT ESSAY:
Academic discourse refers to a set of expectations about a person’s ability to communicate in written form in an academic setting. Compared to everyday speech, academic discourse seems awkward or stilted. However, in academia it does tend to provide a more coherent way to communicate.
Following these rules does not guarantee success. However, adherence to such criterion does force the teacher to focus on your ideas rather than on your mechanical abilities as a writer. Thus, your grade will reflect your ideas and not your writing skills.
NO FIRST-PERSON REFERENCES. Do not use “I,” “me,” “my,” “myself,” “we” or “us.” In this class, such references are “word choice” errors.
ESCHEW OBFUSCATION. Avoid using complex and/or unfamiliar vocabulary. Fancy words are not always best when writing formal English, especially if you use those words incorrectly.
PRIMARILY USE ACTIVE VOICE. To promote clarity, the subject of a sentence should “do” the verb. For example:
It is usual to find bored students in history class. [Passive voice and overall a poor sentence.]
Students are often bored by history classes. [A better sentence, but still passive voice.]
Usually, history classes bore students. [Active voice!]
MAINTAIN VERB TENSE CONSISTENCY. Since students in history classes write about past events, using verbs in that tense is most likely correct. Also, every instance of the student switching tenses is a grammatical error.
WATCH SYNTAX, PUNCTUATION AND TYPOS. Self-edit your writing for easily corrected mistakes. Take time before you turn in the test to proofread. Careless errors detract from the significance of your observations and ideas as well as cost grade points. Be careful!
ADDITIONAL SPELLING, STYLE, ETC., ISSUES:
It is “separate”; my freshman English teacher always said, “There was ‘a rat’ in ‘separate’” to help me remember.
It is the “U.S. Supreme Court”; this is to differentiate the highest court in the nation from state supreme courts.
It is the “U.S. Congress” or “Congress.”
It is “President Lincoln,” “President Grant,” etc.
It is the “President of the United States.”
It is “The president went to lunch”; I will accept “The President went to lunch” if you remain consistent.
It is the “Republican Party,” “Democratic Party,” etc.; I will accept, against my better judgement, a lower-case “p” for the word “party” as long as you remain consistent.
Ship names are underlined or italicized, e.g. the Lusitania (or, more correctly, the R.M.S. Lusitania) or the U.S.S. Arizona.
The names of court cases are underlined or italicized, e.g. Plessy v Ferguson.
If you have questions regarding other spelling, style, etc., issues, let me know.
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