King's College Department of History

 

HISTORY 260
AMERICAN POLITICAL HISTORY

MR. HOWARD B. FEDRICK
FALL 2004

INITIAL OBSERVATIONS and OVERVIEW of the COURSE

In his recent work, The Life of the Parties, Professor James Reichley claims that the history of the origin and development of American political parties is "worth studying for its own sake, as a record of remarkable human endeavors, intrigues, rivalries, conflicts, and civic achievement." He goes on to say that it is "indeed, one of the great political stories of human experience." I would heartily agree with Professor Reichley and extend upon his analysis by suggesting that the study of American Political History affords one the opportunity to identify and to explore the critical issues which have shaped the political character of the United States as well as to examine the principal moulders and shapers of that character. It is a study of ideas, of institutions, of individuals and of the influences to which they have been subject as well as the influences which they have exerted. It is a study of leadership - individual and collective. While its primary arena is best described as a domestic affair, its proper study requires examination of United States global interaction. It has been said that "politics stops at the water's edge", yet even analysis of the earliest Federalist-Jeffersonian era must, of necessity, scrutinize the international issues of the late 1700's as closely as the era of the Cold War. Moreover, as the study progresses the participants in the study increase in number and diversity and this enlarged dramatis personae requires broader focus by the student. To wit - the demographic character of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 is in no way a mirror image of the eligible voter lists of 2004.

To provide structure, this study will utilize a chronological frame and focus on the major parties and "factions" within the system. However, where necessary and desirable, this study will examine the principal "parties on the periphery" and some of the more unique phenomena of the American political system including "machines" and "bosses" as well as the interaction of the local, state, and national elements of the federal system. Of course, because the study of politics necessitates the study of power, this course will examine the pursuit of power and its exercise as well as the denial and loss of same.

Properly approached and undertaken, this course should provide celebration and critique. It examines achievements and failures; triumphs and tragedies; hopes and frustrations. It cannot lay claim to prognostication yet it should offer guidance and direction in shaping the future. The study utilizes static data to evaluate and to analyze the dynamic forces and ideas by which women and men have shaped the American story of their times.

GOALS and OBJECTIVES of the COURSE

  1. To identify the more significant ideologies and philosophies within the American political system;
  2. To identify the principal institutions within the American political system and trace their growth and development;
  3. To identify the more significant women and men responsible for creating and sustaining the American democratic experience;
  4. To identify the principal social, economic, cultural, and technological forces which have shaped the history of the American political system;
  5. To identify the means and the methods by which power within the American polity has been acquired and distributed;
  6. Finally - to evaluate the ideas, institutions, and individuals studied as a means to better understand and to evaluate the political character of the American republic

COURSE REQUIREMENTS

REQUIRED TEXT READINGS

Schedule (in parentheses) after each listing
A. James Reichley. THE LIFE OF THE PARTIES: A History of American Political Parties. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. 2000. (As assigned in class)
Byron E. Shafer and Anthony Badger. CONTESTING DEMOCRACY: Substance and Structure in American Political History 1775-200.Lawrence,KS: University Press pf Kansas. 2001. (Essays #1 & 2 - Week #2; Essays #3 & 4 - Week #4; Essays #5 & 6 - Week #6; Essays #7 & 8 - Week #8; Essay #9 & Afterword - Week #10.)

REQUIRED COLLATERAL READINGS

Several collateral readings will be assigned and handed out during the semester to complement the text and lecture.  They are to be completed prior to discussion of the material in class lectures. Schedule (in parentheses) after each listing.

SUPPLEMENTAL INTERNET RESOURCES

To assist in gathering a knowledge and understanding of many issues in the text as well as in classroom discussions and as an adjunct to your own research I have posted a Parties and Politics Website which you might wish to access and use as is appropriate. Access:PARTIES,POLITICS, and POLITICAL HISTORY (www.kings.edu/hbfedric/politicalresources.html)
I will also distrbute additional lists from time to time of valuable resource materials available online. Study Guides will also be posted to the course Web CT site.

WRITTEN RESEARCH ASSIGNMENTS

Three (3) brief  research reports will be assigned. Guidelines for each assignment will be distributed as appropriate. One of these will involve a report using the 2004 General Election. Exploration of various original research resources including the library and the Internet will be encouraged in the completion of these assignments. You will be expected to demonstrate proficiency in applying the writing and critical thinking developed in CORE 110 and CORE 100. All students will be expected to submit papers in typed or word processed form. Handwritten work will NOT be accepted. Papers not submitted on time will be severely penalized; the highest possible grade will be a "C".

TESTS

There will be three (3) written tests given during the semester including the final examination. The first two tests will be announced in class at least one week in advance. The third (final) examination will be given according to the Registrar's examination schedule. The tests will be based on the lectures and assigned reading materials. The general structure of the tests will be essay. Each test will be non-comprehensive and will review the most recent materials covered.

CLASSROOM and WEB CT DISCUSSION PARTICIPATION

Regular participation - asking or responding to questions, volunteering one's own ideas or arguments, sharing evidence - is EXPECTED from each student. This will be expected in the classroom as well as on the online discussion list established for this course. Participation will be weighed positively in the overall semester grade evaluation as a growth/development factor. The assigned readings should provide each student with the raw materials from which active classroom and online discussions can develop.
An Online Discussion at Web CT will be utilized to augment the classroom discussions and each student will be expected to participate in this discussion arena on a weekly basis. Primary focus of the Web CT Significant Discussions will be the Shafer and Badger text, Contesting Democracy.

ATTENDANCE

This is an adult environment. You and I have adult responsibilities. You and I are expected to attend classroom lectures/discussions on a regular basis. The rules of the College regarding class attendance will be followed strictly. You are responsible for all materials discussed in lectures and classroom discussions. MAXIMUM ALLOWABLE ABSENCE of THREE (3) - excused OR unexcused. It is to be correctly assumed that it will be impossible to receive a grade which is higher than the percentage of days attended without significant reasons. Absence on the day of a scheduled test will not be excused unless a serious reason has been explained to the instructor (in advance, if possible) and arrangements for a make-up test are made within five (5) class days of the scheduled test. It is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to arrange the make-up with the professor. It should not be presumed that absence on a test day will automatically permit a re-test.

SEMESTER GRADE EVALUATION

The determination of the final semester grade will be based on the successful completion of all requirements for the course using numerical values totaling 115 points as listed below. Final grade will be a corresponding % based on the total of 115 points.
Tests: Test I, II, III - 60 points total (20 points each)
Written Research Assignments and Reports - 45 points total (15 points each)
Participation/Discussion - 10 points
The professor's grading scale to be used is as follows:
A+ = 98    A = 95    A- = 92
B+ = 88    B = 85    B- = 82
C+ = 78    C = 75    C- = 72
D+ = 68    D = 65    F = 59

OFFICE CONTACT / OFFICE HOURS

Learning is not achieved only within the confines of a classroom. To that end be advised of the following:

Howard B. Fedrick

History Department

King's College

Last Updated August 18, 2004