First Essay –Revolutionary Era

Due October 8, 2021

On Friday, October 8, students will submit a 3-5 page typed, double-spaced essay on a Revolutionary Era topic provided to them in class near the beginning of that week.

  • Prof. Pinsker will discuss and distribute a choice of topics in class on Tuesday, October 4th
  • Please open your paper with a descriptive title and your byline.
  • Organize your essay in a way that respects chronology and historical context.
  • Prof. Pinsker is available to review drafts (before Friday) and you may utilize the Writing Center

Questions (distributed on Tuesday, October 5th –please choose ONE)

  1. Why did the Founders compromise over the future of slavery in America in 1787, when it was such an obvious contradiction of their revolutionary ideals?
  1. Which three historical figures –or groups– made the most significant contributions to the successful establishment of representative self-government in the United States during the period, 1776-1801?


All essays must include both primary and secondary source material from the assigned readings properly cited using Chicago-style footnotes. Outside research is allowed but not required.

  • Relevant reading assignments for this essay include several chapters from American Yawp, articles by Cornelia Dayton, Edward O’Donnell, and Joanne Freeman, Gordon Wood’s book REVOLUTIONARY CHARACTERS, and the first section of the Dickinson & Slavery exhibit / report. But don’t forget to consult the discussion topic pages on the course site syllabus as well –they also contain valuable insights and examples.
  • Make sure to devise a thesis statement that can be effectively argued in a short paper.  Consult the Methods Center handout on How to Write a Thesis Statement 
  • Make sure you are formatting your footnotes correctly (see some of the samples below).  For further guidance, see this methods handout on How to Use Footnotes and consult as needed with the library’s Chicago-style guide, but make sure to use sample footnote models for formatting and NOT bibliography examples.  

Sample Footnotes

[1] L.D. Burnett,, “Indigenous America,” in The American Yawp, eds. Joseph Locke and Ben Wright (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2018). [WEB]

[2] Yawp, Chapter 1: IV.

[3] Gordon S. Wood, Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different (New York: Penguin, 2006), 38.

[4] Cornelia Hughes Dayton, “Taking the Trade: Abortion and Gender Relations in an Eighteenth-Century New England Village,” William & Mary Quarterly 48 (Jan. 1991): 48 [JSTOR].


Essays will be graded on depth of analysis, use of evidence, and quality of prose. Late essays will be penalized up to 5 points each day.

  • Don’t underestimate the importance of integrating your quoted evidence with some degree of fluidity.  Awkwardly inserting quotations is one of the hallmarks of mediocre undergraduate essays.  Consult this handout from the methods center for a range of good tips.
  • Also, please guard against plagiarism.  Remember our discussion from the very first day of the semester.  Never write your own words while looking directly at your sources, especially secondary sources –unless you are quoting them.
  • And finally, always remember to proofread your work by printing it out and reading it aloud, slowly. See our methods handout on How to Proofreed [sic]