American History Lecture Seven

From Conservapedia
Jump to: navigation, search

We will have our midterm exam next week, which covers everything through Reconstruction. That means Lectures One through Six. Our multiple choice exam will consist of 15 questions.

There are three ingredients to success on any exam:

  • how much time you spend studying (rather than, for example, wasting time on unproductive activities like television)
  • how effective your method of studying is
  • how effective your test-taking techniques are during the exam itself (see, for example, the techniques mentioned earlier in this course)

Master all three aspects of exam preparation listed above and you will maximize your score. For some, that will mean scoring at the top of our class; for others, it will mean improving what your score would have been otherwise.

View an exam as a fun challenge, like participating in a contest. Your performance in the race or game depends on your time spent preparing, how effectively you prepared, and how effectively you tried during the contest itself.

Do not think it is impossible to know every event in the list at the end of this Lecture; we will likely see top scorers on next week's exam who are able to learn nearly every event. Use friendly competition to bring out the best in yourself. Success in life is due almost entirely to "perspiration" (work) rather than inborn traits like IQ. Be one of the students who wins recognition for scoring among the highest in the class.


The first CLEP American History exam covers through Reconstruction, which we complete in Lectures One through Six. Our midterm exam will cover this same period. The CLEP and other College Board history exams place the following approximate emphasis on these topics:

35% of questions are on politics, such as the President, Congress and government policy
25% on social developments, such as slavery, Utopian communities, religious and reform movements
15% on intellectual and cultural developments, such as books and inventions
15% on foreign policy, such as foreign wars, treaties and diplomacy
10% on economics, such as inflation, taxes, and protective tariffs

Notice that the greatest emphasis is on politics. By mastering political history, you will both excel on the largest part of history exams and it will also enable you to figure out the correct answer to many of the other questions, too.

In terms of the time period, only 30% of the first CLEP exam (through Reconstruction) is devoted to the beginning of time to 1789. So do not start with that period and burn out before you study the period of 1790 to 1877, where 70% of the questions are from. Do not waste too much time studying exploration, settlement and colonial America! Perhaps only 10% of the CLEP exam (and our exam) will cover that period. Students often make a big mistake in preparation by not allocating their study time properly. Avoid that mistake and spend your study time wisely.

Preparation and Test-Taking Tips

"Time is money" is a famous, and true, saying. The time you spend not making money could have been better spent making money. Wasted time is lost opportunity to make money, or do something else useful, such as charity or prayer. Also, wasted time is often less enjoyable than time spent working on something you believe in.

A concept similar to "time is money" applies to studying for exams. You will spend a certain amount of time preparing for the midterm exam. Call that total amount of time "x". How you allocate that time to different areas of the overall time period (1500-1877) will make a difference on how well you do on the exam. If you spend 90% of "x" on the period between 1500 and 1700, then you will do poorly on 90% of the questions, because they will be from the period 1700 to 1877. You would have done far better to spend the 90% of "x" on the time period that will have 90% of the questions.

How hard you try while taking the exam will also count towards your score. It helps immensely to identify the time period of a history question before trying to answer it. In doing this, it helps to know which presidents served when. You can memorize a list of presidents if you prefer.[1] Or maybe you can figure it out from what you learned in the lectures. Test yourself: who was president in 1842?[2] Who was the president in 1826?[3]

There will be a political cartoon on the exam. Realize that cartoons are a way for someone to describe facts with a point of view, in order to make a political statement. The cartoonist uses caricatures and draws situations in order to express a point of view. The key to deciphering cartoons is to pay close attention to detail, to pick up all the clues.

Many students make the mistake of answering a cartoon question too quickly. A cartoon is a mystery, like an unsolved crime. As soon as a cop arrives on a crime scene, he does not jump to a conclusion about who committed the crime. He gathers all the evidence. He considers possibilities. He wants an explanation that fits all the facts. He looks for a motive. Approach cartoons the same way.

More generally, look for a purpose to every question. Develop a sense or "ear" for historical purpose in these exams. Prefer an answer choice that adds historical meaning and purpose to a question.

Often there are maps to read on history exams, and here is a tip for them: before the Civil War there was no West Virginia. If you see West Virginia on a map, then it was after the Civil War started.
Above all, understand a question before trying to answer it!

Tip on Organizing the Material

We have covered a great deal of material spanning hundreds of years. We need to try to organize all these facts in our minds somehow. Develop a frame of reference to do this. You can choose whatever frame of reference you like. For me, my frame of reference in remembering each president is to think about how conservative he was. Every few decades we have a conservative president:

1788 – George Washington
1816 – James Monroe
1884 – Grover Cleveland (a conservative Democrat who was pro-gold, anti-union, and anti-government-spending)
1920 – Warren Harding
1980 – Ronald Reagan

Then I fill in the other presidents in between, with reasons why they were not so conservative.

For example, Thomas Jefferson was not particularly conservative because he was slightly opposed to religion in government; unsuccessfully fought the Tripoli War; continued some of Alexander Hamilton's big government programs (like a national bank); and imposed the Embargo Act against trade with Europe. You may find this approach helpful in organizing and remembering all of American History since George Washington. Or perhaps you have your own approach for keeping the presidents straight, and organizing historical events. The point is to find something that works for you, and then use it to master the material.


A key part of success on an exam -- and in life -- is learning how to motivate yourself. The top scores on the midterm exam will probably not be by students who like history the most. It will likely be by students who motivate themselves the most in order to succeed.

We saw an example of motivation in connection with the original Jamestown settlement in 1607. At first, nobody wanted to work, and the settlement was failing. Grown men were spending the afternoons playing games of bowling rather than working.

Then John Smith arrived, and he had a simple means of motivation: those who do not work, do not eat. Do you think people started working then? Of course. And they were much happier and healthier for it.

Sometimes adults still use that motivation of putting off meals until work is finished. There are also other effective motivational techniques. Take something you enjoy, such as watching a sports game, and deprive yourself of it until you finish your work first. You will enjoy the game better that way. Set goals, and then strive to achieve them.

A Few Things We Overlooked

An historical fact we overlooked is how American Indians survived. In the northeast, they relied more on farming and foraging (searching widely) for food. In the Great Plains of the Midwest (west of the Mississippi) and further west, the American Indians relied more on hunting, particularly bison which almost went extinct before conservation efforts increased their numbers again.

We talked about the Puritans who settled in New England, and the Quakers who settled throughout the colonies but mostly further south in the colonies of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Both religions were Christian, but they were as different as day and night. The Puritans believed that humanity was fundamentally sinful, and that "predestination" saved only a pre-selected few. Quakers, who were pacifists (refusing to participate in any war), believed that every person is fundamentally good with an inner light from God. Quakers rejected predestination.

During the American Revolution, which the Quakers refused to support, payments to colonial soldiers stopped after a while. Then here was a "Newburgh Conspiracy" which consisted of a plot among officers of the Continental Army (the colonial Patriots fighting in the Revolutionary War) to hold a military coup and establish martial law in order to obtain back pay that was owed to them by Congress for their military service. The plot came to a climax when they angrily met on March 15, 1783, and were surprised by an unexpected appearance by George Washington. He gave a short speech, but the officers were still still angry, and lacking in the respect that they usually gave to their esteemed leader. Washington then pulled a letter from his pocket from a member of the Second Continental Congress. But Washington was unable to read the letter without his reading glasses, and in a miraculous moment of powerful emotion, he declared, "Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country." Many of the officers were suddenly moved to tears in the realization that Washington, like themselves, had sacrificed much for the country. Washington then read the letter from Congress, and the officers subsequently abided by Congress's own timetable for paying them. Washington's speech is known as the Newburgh Address.

The Newburgh Conspiracy is a good story. In addition to enjoying a story in history, also recognize its historical significance. Why is this particular story important in the history in our nation? Because this event confirmed civilian authority over the military. Congress, a civilian authority, decides if and when to pay the soldiers. The soldiers have the guns, but they must submit to the civilian authority of Congress.

The Founding Fathers were influenced by many ideas from Europe in creating the documents at the foundation of the creation of the United States. John Locke's philosophical Two Treatises of Government influenced them, particularly with the notion that government is a social contract between the people and those who govern. Under Locke's theory, we have God-given rights of life, liberty, and property which should not be taken away from us. European ideas of the Enlightenment also influenced the Founding Fathers, as did the British Whig political philosophy (not to be confused with the later Whig Party in the United States). But European notions of disbelief in God, called skepticism, did not have any influence on the Founding Fathers, all of whom believed in God.

It was mostly white men who owned property who elected the first Congress and the Electoral College which chose Washington as the first president. Over the early 1800s the limitation that only those who owned property could vote was gradually eliminated, such that nearly all white men could vote, and after the Civil War all black men could vote, too. Some, but not all, women could vote until the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920 which gave suffrage (the right to vote) to women.

We learned about the Great Awakening around 1730-1740, but there was also a Second Great Awakening nearly a century later, from 1800-1840. It focused on reaching out to people who were not attending church, and to initiate social reforms such as the abolitionist movement to prohibit slavery. An alternative to the abolitionist movement was the American Colonization Society, which was formed in 1817 to send free African Americans to west Africa, where a colony was established in 1822. That colony later became the nation of Liberia, but only about 13,000 African Americans settled there.

Key Terms Through Reconstruction

Listed below are the key terms for the first half of American history (through Reconstruction). The highlighted terms are the most important, and the ones for students to focus on first.

Any of these terms may appear on the exams in this course. Several of our students are already planning to take the CLEP exam, and anyone doing that should know as many of these terms as possible.

This list is not as daunting as it appears. Homeschoolers who win the spelling bees memorize the entire dictionary, which is tens of thousands of words. This list is only about 321 terms. A homeschooler like Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Edison would diligently memorize and know the meaning of all the terms on this list, not because they are smarter, but because they believed in trying their best. You can try your best -- everyone can -- and you can find lots of time for this that is otherwise wasted.

The list below can be used effectively to quiz yourself. Pick out any term, and try to identify its time period and who was President. Does the term refer to foreign policy (e.g., dealings with a foreign country) or domestic policy (e.g., an issue internal to the United States)? Even if you don't recall immediately the meaning of the term, try to figure it out based on what you do know.

Quizzing yourself in this manner will both improve your test-taking skills, and identify for yourself what you need to study more.

As in baseball and in sales in business, simply try to improve your percentages. If you know only 10% of the terms below, try to improve that to 40%. If you know 50%, then try to improve that to 75%. If you know 70%, then strive for 90%. Just as a batter in baseball should not be discouraged by failing 2 out of 3 times at bat, you should not be discouraged by low initial percentages on this key term list. Try to improve your percentages. With effort, you'll amaze yourself at how much better you can become. Your classmates will be working hard on this, and do not let them pass you up!

One approach to improving your knowledge of these key terms is to type or write out short descriptions of each one. There are only 321 terms. If you took 2 minutes for each one that you did not know, then it would take you only 1 hour to complete 30. In one day you could cover nearly the entire list, and you would not likely forget them for a long, long time. Typing or writing out the meaning of something in one's own words has the effect of really burning it into one's memory. I still recall lines from Shakespeare that I wrote out by hand when I was in the eighth grade! You can use the term list description handout to help you.

American Indians Thomas Paine/Common Sense Utopian communities
Meso-America Valley Forge Examples of Utopian groups
Europe: Crusades Franco-American Alliance Women's Rights/Seneca Falls
Christopher Columbus Declaration of Independence Shakers
Treaty of Tordesillas Articles of Confederation William Lloyd Garrison
John Cabot Treaty of Paris American Antislavery Society
Ponce de Leon Newburgh Conspiracy Horace Mann/Public Education
Hernando Cortes Land Ordinance of 1785 Liberty Party
St. Augustine, Florida Northwest Ordinance of 1787 Mormon Church
Santa Fe, New Mexico Annapolis Convention Emerson and Thoreau
League of Iroquois Shay's Rebellion Commonwealth v. Hunt
Sir Humphrey Gilbert Constitutional Convention of 1787 Seventh Day Adventist Church
Roanoke Island (""Lost Colony") Virginia Plan Elizabeth Blackwell
Spanish Florida New Jersey Plan Oregon Trail
Spanish Armada Connecticut Plan Texas secedes from Mexico
Samuel de Champlain bill of attainder Gag rule
Virginia Company Federalist Papers John Tyler
Jamestown (Virginia) bicameral legislature Elijah Lovejoy
economic system of Jamestown George Washington Webster-Ashburton Treaty
"Starving time" Judiciary Act of 1789 James Polk
Henry Hudson full ratification of Constitution Manifest Destiny
House of Burgesses Hamilton's report on the public credit Texas enters Union
Jamestown's "cash crop" Hamilton's report on manufacturers Slidell Mission
First slaves First Bank of the United States Oregon Treaty
Plymouth Bay Colony Bill of Rights Wilmot Proviso
Mayflower Compact cotton gin Iowa enters Union
economic system of Plymouth, Mass. federal assumption of state debts Mexican War
difference between English & Spanish Washington's Neutrality Proclamation Spot Resolutions
Powhatan Confederacy Citizen Genet Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
Mercantilism Jay's Treaty Barnburners
Royal Colony Executive Privilege of President Zachary Taylor
Charter Colony Chisholm v. Georgia Gold in California
Joint-Stock Colony Whiskey Rebellion Millard Fillmore
Proprietary Colony Pinckney's Treaty Compromise of 1850
Massachusetts Bay Company Washington's Farewell Address Fugitive Slave Act
Puritans Quids Minnesota and Oregon join US
Puritans compared to Pilgrims John Adams Economy of South in 1850s
Great Migration XYZ Affair Clayton-Bulwer Treaty
Virginia as Royal Colony Alien and Sedition Acts Clipper ships
Maryland Virginia and Kentucky Resolves German and Irish immigration
Connecticut Undeclared naval war with France Perry/Japan
Rhode Island Adam's "midnight judges" Ostend Manifesto
Pequot War "Revolution of 1800" Transatlantic cable/telegraph
Colonies settled 1607-39 Thomas Jefferson "Uncle Tom's Cabin"
Congregational Church Tripoli War Know-Nothing (American) Party
Anne Hutchinson John Marshall Franklin Pierce
Roger Williams Marbury v. Madison Kansas-Nebraska Act
United Colonies of New England Lewis and Clark Republican Party
Toleration Act of 1649 Burr-Hamilton Duel early leaders of Republican Party
Fundamental Orders of Connecticut British Orders in Council "Bleeding Kansas"
Religious Persecution in Mass. Chesapeake Affair (Leopard) John Brown's attack
New Amsterdam Embargo Act Brooks-Sumner incident
New Jersey Nonintercourse Act Clara Barton
Carolina Harrison at Tippecanoe Creek James Buchanan
King Philip's War James Madison Panic of 1857
Bacon's Rebellion British burn Washington, D.C. Dred Scott v. Sanford
Pennsylvania Star-Spangled Banner Lecompton Constitution
Quaker beliefs Treaty of Ghent Lincoln-Douglas Debates
Colonies with most religious freedom Hartford Convention Freeport Doctrine (Freeport, IL)
Charter of Liberties Battle of New Orleans John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry
Dominion of New England Bonus Bill 1860 Repub. Platform
Glorious Revolution in England James Monroe Abraham Lincoln
Delaware Rush-Bagot Agreement Copperheads
Georgia Fulton's steamboat The Confederate States of America
Middle Colonies Fletcher v. Peck Fort Sumter
Founding of colleges in colonies Cumberland (National) Road Trent Affair
Halfway Covenant Protective Tariff Confiscation Act
Triangular trade Second Bank of the U.S. Emancipation Proclamation
Salem Witchcraft Trials John Jacob Astor Radical Republicans
Scotch Irish Erie Canal Sherman's march through Georgia
Great Awakening Tecumseh Absentee Voting
Jonathan Edwards Era of Good Feelings Southern Disunion
George Whitefield Florida Homestead Act
John Peter Zenger Case Dartmouth College v. Woodward Pacific Railway Act
Stono Rebellion McCullough v. Maryland Morrill Land Grant Act
King William's War Adams-Onis Treaty Procl. of Amnesty and Reconstruction
Queen Anne's War Tallmadge Amendment Sioux Wars
Salutary Neglect Missouri Compromise Wade-Davis Bill
King George's War Cohens v. Virginia Freedmen's Bureau
Albany Congress Denmark Vesey Appomattox Court House
Albany Plan of Union Monroe Doctrine Andrew Johnson
French and Indian War John Marshall 13th, 14th, 15th Amendments
Treaty of Paris caucus Black Codes
George III John Quincy Adams Civil Rights Act
Colonial economy in 1763 Andrew Jackson carpetbaggers
Pontiac's Rebellion Whigs Ku Klux Klan
Louisiana territory Tariff of Abominations Burlingame Treaty
British Proclamation of 1763 South Carolina Exposition and Protest Military Reconstruction Act
Sugar Act Jackson's attitude towards Calhoun Tenure of Office Act
Currency Act Maysville Road Veto Command of the Army Act
Stamp Act Indian Removal Impeachment of Johnson
Stamp Act Crisis Tom Thumb Ulysses S. Grant
Stamp Act Congress Peggy Eaton Affair Gilded Age
Quartering Act Cherokee Nation v. Georgia Fisk-Gould Scandal
Sons of Liberty Antimasonic Party "Boss" Tweed
Declaratory Act S.C. Ordinance of Nullification Force Act
Townshend Duties Compromise Tariff Amnesty Act
Boston Massacre Force Bill Credit Mobilier scandal
Gaspee incident Whig Party "Salary Grab" Act
Committees of Correspondence Whig supporters "Crime of '73"
Tea Act Martin Van Buren Greenback Party
Boston Tea Party Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge Women's Christian Temperance Union
Intolerable (Coercive) Acts "Trail of Tears" Wounded Knee massacre
First Continental Congress William Henry Harrison Whiskey Ring
Second Continental Congress Nat Turner Rutherford B. Hayes
Benjamin Franklin's achievements Lowell System Compromise of 1877
Colonial population Reform Movements Baseball


  1. See Presidents of the United States.
  2. John Tyler
  3. John Quincy Adams