1787 Constitution Essay

Due October 10

On Monday, October 10, students will submit a 3-5 page typed, double-spaced essay on a topic about the 1787 Constitution provided to them in class on Thursday, October 6.

Please choose ONE of the questions below and submit a 3-5 page typed, double-spaced essay by email to Prof. Pinsker by Monday, October 10, 2022, at 5PM (via Word doc or PDF attachment)

  1. The 1787 Constitution represented a conservative counter-revolution against what its Framers perceived as the radical excesses of the 1776 revolution.  Agree or disagree with this analysis, but regardless of your answer, make sure to use specific historical examples and evidence when formulating your response.  
  1. Gordon Wood argues that the American Revolution ignited “the first great antislavery movement in world history,” despite the compromises over slavery adopted at the constitutional convention in 1787. Agree or disagree with this statement, but regardless of your answer, make sure to describe different ways of interpreting the collision between American revolutionary ideals and the reality of slavery, using an array of specific historic examples and evidence.
  • 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 answer questions or review drafts by email before Monday and you may also utilize the Writing Center.  Do not consult with other students in the class.

All essays must use Gordon Wood, Power and Liberty (2021), properly cited using Chicago-style footnotes. Outside research is allowed but not required.

  • Other relevant reading assignments for this essay include online primary sources assigned in the syllabusAnd 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] Gordon S. Wood, Power and Liberty: Constitutionalism in the American Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021), 24.

[2] Wood, 88.


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]

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