American Political Thought I
Write an essay no longer than five (5) double-spaced pages on one of the topics below.
A. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) illuminates “how a man
was made a slave” and “how a slave was made a man” (83). Douglass’s
language of making implies that producing a slave is an artificial—rather than
a natural—process; it also implies that once a man is made a slave, that slave
must work deliberately to recover his “manhood.” Slavery is thus an artificial
institution opposed to nature. How does Douglass’s narrative expose slavery
as a deformation of nature? What does Douglass see as the natural condition
of humankind? By what means are slaves created? By what means is manhood
recovered? How does freedom differ when it is wrested from slavery, as
opposed to a condition into which one is born? We encourage—but do not
require—you to discuss the ways Douglass engenders full humanity as
manhood. Feel free to contrast Douglass’ narrative with that of Harriet Jacobs.
B. “Slavery is terrible for me; but it is far more terrible for women. Superadded
to the burden common to all, they have wrongs, and sufferings, and
mortifications peculiarly their own,” writes Harriet Jacobs (101). How does
her Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) illustrate this claim? Feel free
to contrast Jacobs’ narrative with that of Frederick Douglass.
C. In an unpublished fragment from 1858, Abraham Lincoln wrote, “As I would
not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of
democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is not
democracy.” What does Lincoln mean? Drawing on the assigned Lincoln
readings, explain his idea of democracy.
Grading: Papers will be graded on a scale of 4.0 to 0.0. Late papers will be penalized 0.4
points per day (e.g., a 3.4 will become a 3.0 if one day late, a 2.6 if two days late, etc.).
BASIC FEATURES OF A GOOD PAPER
• It has an interesting, defensible, and clearly stated thesis, responsive to the paper
• It presents well-developed arguments in support of the thesis.
• It supports those arguments with textual evidence.
• It cites textual evidence by using a standard method of citation (e.g., Chicago,
MLA, APA) or by simply naming the author, text, and page number in
parentheses following the quotation or paraphrase. Example: Locke contends that
the state of nature is “a state of perfect freedom” (Locke, Second Treatise, 8).
• It anticipates potential objections.
• It is clearly and carefully organized.
• It is concisely and grammatically written.
• It is paginated and carefully proofread.
4.0-3.5 (A/A-): Very good to excellent work, with few, if any, missteps.
3.4-2.5 (B+/B/B-): Good to very good work, with missteps, but also flashes of
2.4-1.5 (C+/C/C-): Satisfactory work that sincerely attempts to analyze the readings
and issues at hand, but with serious flaws.
1.5-0.7 (D+/D/D-): Work attempting to engage the readings and issues at hand, but
without the execution befitting a UW student.
0.6-0.0 (E): Work that does not meet the minimum requirements of the