Thematic essay question



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Thematic Essay Practice – Constitutional Change

US History/Napp Name: __________________
From the January 2004 New York States Regents/ U.S. History & Government
THEMATIC ESSAY QUESTION

Directions: Write a well-organized essay that includes an introduction, several paragraphs addressing the task below, and a conclusion.
Theme: Constitutional Change


Amendments to the United States Constitution have changed our government and our society.




Task:


Identify two amendments to the United States Constitution and for each:

Discuss the historical circumstances that led to the adoption of the amendment



Discuss how the amendment changed the United States government and/or American society




Some suggestions you might wish to consider include the 1st Amendment — personal freedoms (1791), 15th amendment — right to vote (1870), 16th Amendment — income tax (1913), 17th Amendment — election of senators (1913), 18th Amendment — Prohibition (1919), 19th Amendment — suffrage (1920), or 22nd Amendment — term limits (1951).
Gathering the Facts:


  1. The First Amendment (1791)

  • Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

  • The new American settlers brought with them a desire for democracy and openness. They left behind a history of tyranny and official control of information. Using this experience as their guide, the constitutional fathers wrote into their new Constitution a Bill of Rights, which contained the First Amendment.

  • The Bill of Rights consists of the first ten amendments, which contain procedural and substantive guarantees of individual liberties and limits upon government control and intervention.” ~ illinoisfirstamendmentcenter.org




  1. The Fifteenth Amendment (1870)

  • The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

  • The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

  • At the time of Ulysses S. Grant’s election to the presidency in 1868, Americans were struggling to reconstruct a nation torn apart by war. Voting rights for freed blacks proved a big problem. Reconstruction Acts passed after the war called for black suffrage in the Southern states, but many felt the approach unfair. The Acts did not apply to the North. And in 1868, 11 of the 21 Northern states did not allow blacks to vote in elections. Most of the border states, where one-sixth of the nation’s black population resided, also refused to allow blacks to vote.

  • Republicans’ answer to the problem of the black vote was to add a Constitutional amendment that guaranteed black suffrage in all states, and no matter which party controlled the government. Congress spent the days between Grant’s election and his inauguration drafting this new amendment, which would be the 15th added to the Constitution.

  • Congress ruled that in order for Southern states to be let into the Union, these states had to accept both the Fifteenth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment, which granted citizenship to all people born in the United States, including former slaves. Left with no choice, the states ratified the amendments and were restored to statehood.

  • Finally, on March 30, 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment became part of the Constitution. To many, it felt like the last step of reconstruction. But just as some had predicted, Southerners found ways to prevent blacks from voting. Southern politics would turn violent as Democrats and Republicans clashed over the right of former slaves to enter civic life. White supremacist vigilante groups like the Ku Klux Klan gained strength as many whites refused to accept blacks as their equals. America still faced years of struggle.” ~ pbs.org




  1. The Sixteenth Amendment (1913)

  • The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

  • The origin of the income tax on individuals is generally cited as the passage of the 16th Amendment, passed by Congress on July 2, 1909, and ratified February 3, 1913; however, its history actually goes back even further. During the Civil War Congress passed the Revenue Act of 1861 which included a tax on personal incomes to help pay war expenses. The tax was repealed ten years later. However, in 1894 Congress enacted a flat rate Federal income tax, which was ruled unconstitutional the following year by the U.S. Supreme Court because it was a direct tax not apportioned according to the population of each state. The 16th amendment, ratified in 1913, removed this objection by allowing the Federal government to tax the income of individuals without regard to the population of each State.” ~ loc.gov




  1. The Seventeenth Amendment (1913)

  • The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislatures.

  • When vacancies happen in the representation of any state in the Senate, the executive authority of such state shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, that the legislature of any state may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

  • This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.

  • The Constitution, as it was adopted in 1788, made the Senate an assembly where the states would have equal representation. Each state legislature would elect two senators to 6-year terms. Late in the 19th century, some state legislatures deadlocked over the election of a senator when different parties controlled different houses, and Senate vacancies could last months or years. In other cases, special interests or political machines gained control over the state legislature. Progressive reformers dismissed individuals elected by such legislatures as puppets and the Senate as a ‘millionaire’s club’ serving powerful private interests.

  • One Progressive response to these concerns was the ‘Oregon system,’ which utilized a state primary election to identify the voters’ choice for Senator while pledging all candidates for the state legislature to honor the primary’s result. Over half of the states adopted the ‘Oregon system,’ but the 1912 Senate investigation of bribery and corruption in the election of Illinois Senator William Lorimer indicated that only a constitutional amendment mandating the direct election of Senators by a state’s citizenry would allay public demands for reform.” ~ ourdocuments.gov




  1. The Eighteenth Amendment (1919)

  • After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

  • The Congress and the several states shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

  • This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several states, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the states by the Congress.

  • The Eighteenth Amendment emerged from the organized efforts of the temperance movement and Anti-Saloon League, which attributed to alcohol virtually all of society’s ills and led campaigns at the local, state, and national levels to combat its manufacture, sale, distribution, and consumption. Most of the organized efforts supporting prohibition involved religious coalitions that linked alcohol to immorality, criminality, and, with the advent of World War I, unpatriotic citizenship. The amendment passed both chambers of the U.S. Congress in December 1917 and was ratified by the requisite three-fourths of the states in January 1919. Its language called for Congress to pass enforcement legislation, and this was championed by Andrew Volstead, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who engineered passage of the National Prohibition Act (commonly referred to as the Volstead Act). The act was conceived by Anti-Saloon League leader Wayne Wheeler and passed over the veto of Pres. Woodrow Wilson.

  • Neither the Volstead Act nor the Amendment was enforced with great success. Indeed, entire illegal economies (bootlegging, speakeasies, and distilling operations) flourished. The public appetite for alcohol remained and was only intensified with the stock market crash of 1929. In March 1933, shortly after taking office, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, which amended the Volstead Act, permitting the manufacturing and sale of low-alcohol beer and wines (up to 3.2 percent alcohol by volume). Nine months later, on Dec. 5, 1933, federal prohibition was repealed with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment (which allowed prohibition to be maintained at the state and local levels). The Eighteenth Amendment is the only amendment to have secured ratification and later been repealed.” ~ Britannica




  1. The Nineteenth Amendment (1920)

  • The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

  • Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

  • Passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment guarantees all American women the right to vote. Achieving this milestone required a lengthy and difficult struggle; victory took decades of agitation and protest. Beginning in the mid-19th century, several generations of woman suffrage supporters lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied, and practiced civil disobedience to achieve what many Americans considered a radical change of the Constitution. Few early supporters lived to see final victory in 1920.” ~ archives.gov




  1. The Twenty-Second Amendment (1951)

  • No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this Article was proposed by Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.

  • This Article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three–fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.

  • The Constitution did not stipulate any limit on presidential terms.

  • In the midst of the Great Depression, Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt had won election in 1932 and reelection in 1936. In 1940, as Europe was engulfed in a war that threatened to draw in the United States and without a clear Democratic successor who could consolidate the New Deal, Roosevelt, who had earlier indicated misgivings about a third term, agreed to break Washington’s precedent. A general disinclination to change leadership amid crisis probably weighed heavily on the minds of voters – much more so than the perceived deep-seated opposition to a third term for a president – and Roosevelt romped to victory in 1940 and again in 1944.

  • Following on the heels of the establishment of the Hoover Commission and with Republicans winning a majority in Congress after the 1946 elections, they introduced an amendment to limit the president to two terms. The amendment caps the service of a president at 10 years. If a person succeeds to the office of president without election and serves less than two years, he may run for two full terms; otherwise, a person succeeding to office of president can serve no more than a single elected term. Although there have been some calls for repeal of the amendment, because it disallows voters to democratically elect the president of their choice, it has proved uncontroversial over the years. Nevertheless, presidents who win a second term in office are often referred to as ‘lame ducks,’ and the race to succeed them often begins even before their inauguration to a second term.” ~ Britannica


Look at the thematic essay question again. Which two events will you choose? By the way, you may choose an event on the suggestions list that is not included in the gathering facts section of this packet.

In addition, in your own words, summarize each suggested Amendment to the Constitution:

1st Amendment – personal freedoms (1791)

15th amendment – right to vote (1870)

16th Amendment – income tax (1913)

17th Amendment – election of senators (1913)

18th Amendment – Prohibition (1919)

19th Amendment – suffrage (1920)
22nd Amendment – term limits (1951).
Outlining the Thematic Essay:
Amendment: _______ Amendment: _______





  • Discuss the historical circumstances that led to the adoption of the amendment




  • Discuss how the amendment changed the United States government and/or American society







  • Discuss the historical circumstances that led to the adoption of the amendment




  • Discuss how the amendment changed the United States government and/or American society

Additional Notes:

Additional Notes:

Write the Essay:
Introduction:

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Body Paragraph:

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Body Paragraph:

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Conclusion:

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Explain the meaning of the political cartoon. ______________________________________________________________________________

Explain the meaning of the political cartoon.

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