Choose one of the following documents to analyze. The instructions for whichever document you choose are the same, and are as follows: Analyze and explain the documents featured below. Your essay should have two parts: one in which you explain the document itself, and another in which you connect the document to the context of the time period:
The document itself: As you explain the document, remember to answer the questions we ask of all documents we read for class: Discuss what is being said, and also: Who is writing? To whom are they writing? Why? How are they making their point – what’s the genre (a letter, a speech, etc.) and/or what are the techniques they use to convince their reader (emotional appeals, logic, scientific language, etc.)?
The context: Explain how the document fits into the story of American history as we’ve discussed it in class. The information about context will come from the modules or from your textbook reading.
1. From “Chief Joseph Speaks,” Chief Joseph (1874-1877):
The earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it. You might as well expect all rivers to run backward as that any man who was born a free man should be contented penned up and denied liberty to go where he pleases. If you tie a horse to a stake, do you expect he will grow fat? If you pen an Indian up on a small spot of earth and compel him to stay there, he will not be contented nor will he grow and prosper. I have asked some of the Great White Chiefs where they get their authority to say to the Indian that he shall stay in one place, while he sees white men going where they please. They cannot tell me.
I only ask of the Government to be treated as all other men are treated. If I cannot go to my own home, let me have a home in a country where my people will not die so fast. I would like to go to Bitter Root Valley. There my people would be happy; where they are now they are dying. Three have died since I left my camp to come to Washington.
When I think of our condition, my heart is heavy. I see men of my own race treated as outlaws and driven from country to country, or shot down like animals.
I know that my race must change. We cannot hold our own with the white men as we are. We only ask an even chance to live as other men live. We ask to be recognized as men. We ask that the same law shall work alike on all men. If an Indian breaks the law, punish him by the law. If a white man breaks the law, punish him also.
What am I looking for as I grade your essay?
When I grade, I go through and tick off the boxes on the rubric:
Does the person include at least one specific example from what the document says?
Does it sound like they understand what they are talking about?
Example: Wilson’s War Message argues that the U.S. needs to join World War I and that it needs to join the war against Germany. One of the reasons Wilson states for joining the war is Germany’s submarine warfare, which Wilson says “put[s] aside all restraints of law or of humanity.” Wilson uses the idea of Germany as a lawbreaker to set up a division between right and wrong and to position the U.S. as a champion of the rule of law in the world.
Is the author identified with more than just their name? Is there at least one piece of identifying information to explain something relevant about how the author affects your analysis?
Purpose: Is there a clear purpose stated? Is evidence given that supports the purpose?
Audience: Is there a clear and specific audience stated? If “general public”, does student defend why they have chosen such a broad audience?
Example: Wilson’s War Message was written by Woodrow Wilson, who was a president during the Progressive Era. He led the U.S. into World War I, and that connects to the point of this document. This was a speech he gave to Congress to convince them to declare war on Germany and their allies during World War I. It also had other audiences – in various paragraphs he addresses issues that would be important to Americans at home, especially German Americans, and to allies and enemies during the war.
I can tell that Congress was the primary audience to this document because it begins with the words: “Gentlemen of the Congress.” It’s common to start out a speech with a greeting, and the greeting names the audience.
In a later paragraph, he states “We have no quarrel with the German people.” Given what I read in the textbook, I’m guessing that this has to do with getting the support of German Americans, who were a large segment of the population. One of the reasons the U.S. delayed getting involved was because we were afraid of divided loyalties in a diverse nation. We are declaring war on Germany, but we want to tell people we aren’t really going to war against their relatives back in the old country. (Since I’m the professor, I could go on and on and on here…. but this gives you the idea! :))
Does the person identify a “when” and “where” for the document?
Do they include at least one specific example of events from the textbook or modules that help us to understand the document?
Important: I’m looking for you to make a connection between the textbook material and the reading in this part of the essay! Make sure you include info from outside the source.
Example: Wilson’s War Message was given in a special session of Congress, which is to say it was given in the heart of decision-making power of the country in Washington, DC. The speech was given in April 1917, four days before we officially joined World War I. The war had been going on in Europe since 1914, and the U.S. had stayed out for these three years. Wilson had even won reelection in part because he kept the U.S. out of the war! But a variety of factors pushed us toward this moment, where Wilson had to declare war. (You would go on to explain some of those factors.)
Does the student comment on how believable the source is, or how it should be understood?
Do they do some type of analysis of the way that the source was composed and how that should affect our interpretation?
Example: Wilson’s War Message is a strategic document. That means that we can’t interpret it as Wilson’s honest voice – it doesn’t speak to his personal opinions. Instead, it is a document that is supposed to accomplish things: get Congress to declare war, get Americans to support the war, position the US as a moral leader on these issues, and send messages to allies and enemies about our values and plans
Even though this doesn’t necessarily reflect his true opinion, however, it can tell us how he wants to be perceived. Many of the things he says fit in with what the textbook tells us about his foreign policy, for example. He says that we are fighting because “The world must be made safe for democracy.” This may not be true, and is almost certainly not 100% true. However, it fits with the philosophy of moral imperialism, which the textbook says was the way Wilson thought about global politics – that it wasn’t right to be imperialist, but that everybody should be a democracy, and we could show them how. While this speech may not say exactly what Wilson believes, it is an expression of his views about the way the world ought to work.