Essay exam regarding “pillars of citizenship” and thomas paines

The Exam Questions

There are two essay questions.  

  • Answer both questions, using approximately two to three pages for each question.  
  • Answer them in a way that weaves the questions together into one coherent essay.
  • Make sure your answers employ and reference the terms and ideas covered in our course readings and online lectures. 
  • Give examples to support your ideas and be specific.   


Question One

Our lectures have discussed the “Pillars of Citizenship”:  

  • The Declaration of Independence (1776)
  • The US Constitution (1787)
  • and the Bill of Rights (1789) 

Please answer:  

  • What do these documents specifically argue for, what do these documents argue against, and how are these arguments in conflict and / or harmony with each other?  

Brainstorm key terms to get you started: “self-evident”, why must Congress publish its dealings?, does permanent rebellion clash with law and order?    


Question Two

In contrast to the three “pillars”, we have also discussed the fourth “pillar”, grassroots activism of African-American citizenship during American Revolutionary times.  

Our class readings also mentioned other marginalized, or excluded groups, such as poor white farmers, women, and “Indians” as excluded from the “cornerstone” documents.  

Please answer:

  • Why would Thomas Paine’s democracy be in favor of the above grassroot group movements, and absolutely love their ability to improve our notion of communication and citizenship?  

Brainstorm key terms to get you started: being “sober and orderly”, “walk worthy”, why is it important to “extend the sphere” of participants?

Suggestions / Tips

Tip 1

  • For both questions (especially question 2)
    • use quotes from the weekly readings to back up your ideas
    • Readings include:
      • US constitution
      • Bill of rights
      • Declaration of independence
      • Cyrus Bustill, “I Speak to those who are in Slavery”
      • John Marrant, “You Stand on the Level with the Greatest Kings on Earth”
      • Thomas Paines “The rights of man” pg. 153-215
        • DO NOT NEED TO PULL FROM ALL READINGS
    • also include outside resources to support your assertions

Tip 2

  • Find an interesting context or theme for your essay, so you can tie both essay questions together.  Successful contexts or themes might include
    • example themes
      • the concept of freedom
      • the definition of citizenship
      • the American Dream
    • example contexts 
      • 21st century citizenship
      • entire essay framed by presidential / founding father quotations (ie Franklin, Jefferson, Washington)