America is much more than a geographical fact. It is a political and moral fact - the first community in which men set out in principle to institutionalize freedom, responsible government, and human equality.
- Adlai Stevenson -

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Crandall Print Museum.

Last week I visited the Crandall Print Museum located on Center Street in Provo. This museum gives a visual documentary of printing throughout the history of the world. It begins with the first forms of writing all the way to the technological advances in writing we have today. This museum is a very interactive, hands-on experience allowing for visitors to have a true historical experience while they are there. I found it very interesting, a little long, but interesting.

The portion of the museum that I found especially pertinent in my life right now was the section about Benjamin Franklin and his Printing House. The press located in this room is a live replica of the actual printing press used to print various important documents such as Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and the Federalist Papers. Because we have been studying these various political documents in class I feel so drawn to them and I loved learning about how they were printed.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

this woman's work.

Just as with the concept of the abolishment of slavery, when I think of the term “women’s rights” I imagine freedom and equality. Throughout time women have not been seen as equals to men. Even since ancient civilization women have not been treated as equals. Women’s rights have grown exceedingly since then, especially in the United States; however, it has taken a long time to get women’s rights to where they are now. Women in the history of the United States has gone from absolute oppression, to finally receiving the vote, to being allowed to wear pants to school, to the ability to be work in the same jobs as men. Although we still do not see complete equality between men and women in the United States, the state of women’s rights has been improved a great deal since antiquity.

Just after the organization of the United States of America, women across the colonies began to form, women began acting in suffrage groups seeking equality for both men and women. In 1919, women were finally given the right to vote after many years of active organizations for equality. However, looking back to where the fight for the right to vote began in the 1800’s, we can observe that it took some time for women to come together and begin a fight for their right to vote.

While the reasons behind why it took so long for women to be seen as equals are apparent, the reason why it took so long for women to act out against the inequality isn’t so clear. We can only speculate as to why the efforts were delayed.

One reason I think it took so long for women to speak out about inequality is the role they held in society at the time. Women’s roles in their families were to stay at home and take care of the children. Women were in charge of raising the kids and maintaining the housework while their husbands were out working various jobs. Women were considered below men, and grew up under the power of their father until they married and became under the power of their husbands. Women did not receive equal opportunity for education as many people felt it was not essential for them to be educated. Women also could not own any property. There was very much female oppression at the time.

After the Second Great Awakening, boundaries that had been in place for ages began to fall. The new freedom of religion spread and inspired many more people to fight for their personal freedoms. Seeing that a change could be made and actions could be taken inspired women to fight for equality and freedom within their gender. Without the example of the Second Great Awakening it is hard to tell how much longer the suffrage movement could have taken to begin.

Furthermore, after the Second Great Awakening, women received more equality within religion. One Reverend, Charles Grandison Finney started to allow women to pray openly in groups with men. This was something that hadn’t been seen prominently before. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also gave more privileges to women when they organized their Relief Society in 1842. This Relief Society was an organization for women ran by women within the LDS Church. Many members of the LDS Relief Society even became the caretakers of their husband’s affairs when their husbands were sent out of LDS Missions across the world. With such groups forming across the nation, women we able to slowly stand up for their rights with the support and examples these groups became.

We can also attribute the organizations of women’s rights groups to the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. At this convention, many women met together to talk about women’s rights and begin more intense movements towards equal rights. After this convention, many actions were set into place to fight for equal rights. Because these women were able to meet together, state their opinions, and realize there were other people who felt the same as they did, they were able to form together and fight for what they all believed in. With a united front and people around you backing up what you all believe, it must have been easier to break away from the social norm of that time.

It is clear that the fight for women’s rights was not easy. It is obvious that it took a long time for women to been seen as something close to equals. We know that the battle for gender equality is something that has been present since the earth began. However, we also know that due to the efforts of many strong women in the 17th and 18th century, women’s rights have grown to be as vast as they are today. I think we can agree that men and women are still not completely equals. Men are often paid better in the work place and there are definitely still specific gender divisions varying between men and women. However, the state of women’s rights has come a very far way. As American’s we live in a time where men and women have equal opportunities and I think as women we need to step back and thank the many women who devoted their lives to make our country what it is today. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Le Amistad was a ship carrying African slaves from Havana, Cuba to Puerto Principe, another place in Cuba. During Amistad’s voyage, the group of Africans were able to escape their chains and overtook took the ship killing most of the Spaniards who were directing the vessel. The Africans did however spare two Spaniards. The slaves directed the Spaniards to take them back to Africa, their home.

Unfortunately for the African’s, the two Spaniards directed to ship straight to America instead. The ship landed in Long Island, New York in August of 1839 carrying around 50 Africans who were led straight to jail. The Americans in charge then took the Africans to Connecticut to be sold as slaves.

Following this move to Connecticut, a court case began in the name of the legal status of the African captives.  Importation of slaves in the United States had been illegal since 1808 and there were many legal considerations involved in this case. It became a very heated and famous debate in politics. While it was illegal to import slaves from Africa, many people argued that the Africans were actually born in Cuba and thus officials were therefore not breaking any laws.

There was much debate about whom the Africans belonged to and a great contention arose. In response, the Abolitionist movement formed a committee and began to fight in defense of the Africans and raise money on their behalf.

In the court case, there were very many questions surrounded the circumstances of the capture and transportation. The case was also said to have lacked jurisdiction because the munity occurred on a Spanish ship in Spanish water. Thus, it was difficult to reach a clear conclusion.

Eventually the case was taken to the US Supreme Court. In 1841, the court decided the Africans had in fact been illegally imported and made slaves. The Africans were then deemed free. In 1842 the Africans were transported back to their homes in Africa. This case became a symbol in America towards the abolishment of slavery.

In 1997, Steven Spielberg created a film based on the events surrounding the Amistad and the Africans from the ship. I felt that this movie gave a moving and seemingly accurate depiction of the events of the Amistad. It also gave me a real sense of the slavery movement. After viewing this movie, the slavery movement and the importation of slaves became so much more real to me.

Ironically the word Amistad means friendship in Spanish. Unfortunately the tale of the Africans aboard this ship did not begin with friendship. However, luckily for them, their tale ended with immense friendship which lead to them to gain freedom and the ability to return home to Africa. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

ambition must be made to counteract ambition.

The Federalist Papers are a set of eighty-five essays in support of the ratification of the United States of America. These essays were published in newspapers and later bound in a book called The Federalist. Articles circulated from 1787 until 1788 when the United States was finally ratified. Although the articles were originally published under the name Publius, they were actually written Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay. They are often considered some of the most important contributions to American politics. The Federalist reassured Americans that the Constitution protected them, saying that government is the allowance for freedom.

While there were three authors of The Federalist, the work was not equal. Alexander Hamilton wrote 50 of the 85, James Madison wrote 30 and John Jay wrote five. Today I am going to write about one of the articles written by James Madison, Federalist Paper Number 51.

Federalist Paper Number 51 was published on February 6, 1788. It is considered one of the most popular of the Federalist Papers. In the Federalist Paper Number 1, Alexander Hamilton said that articles 37-84 would be about “The conformity of the proposed constitution to the true principles of republican government.” Federalist Paper 51 definitely falls under this category. Its purpose is to “form a more correct judgment of the principles and structure of the government planned by the Constitutional Convention.” And within the writings, Madison emphasizes the ability of the constitution to maintain separate branched of government and protect the rights of each citizen.

The main argument within the 51st paper is the idea of appropriate checks and balances in government and the importance of the separation of powers. A common thought within the Founding Fathers is that if men were angles, we could have a perfect government. One of the ideas James Madison stresses is essentially that men are not angels, and we cannot expect them to be. James Madison accepted the Human Dilemma of power and realized that there needs to be restrictions set up to contradict the human nature.

One of Madison’s key points is that each department in the government should be individual. No branch of the government should be involved in another branch’s duties. For example, it would not be fair if those who make the laws also decide if they are just or not. There must be a clear separation of responsibilities. Madison believed that in order to keep this idea safe there needed to be limited power along with the division of power so that each branch of the government doesn’t have too much power in itself.

Madison believed that the legislature should be divided into three branches to remove predomination. The Legislative Branch is the strongest part of the government and that power could cause problems. He believed that each of these branches should be connected as little as possible. He also thought that member of each part of the legislature should be voted in by distinctive forms for election. This correlates with his idea of proper checks and balances.

Madison also believed that there should be repeated elections. He felt this was important so that politicians did not become lazy in their actions. They have to constantly fight for positive public opinion because of the frequent elections and this keeps them in check and doing correct things. He also believed that judges should be given permanent tenure so that they may not be kicked out of their position if someone does not agree with their decision.

James Madison felt that the challenge of all this was that they needed to enable the government to control the governed which basically means enliven the government to control itself. No member of any government position is under different laws than the rest of the country. They have to falls the same laws and regulations as the average citizen and this helps keep an honest government.

James Madison also believed that people should vote for their political leaders but there should still be precautions with the voting process so as to again, not give someone more power than they ought to have.

Madison’s most famous quote from Federalist Paper Number 51 is “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” I believe this quote summarizes this paper quite well. A system of checks and balances and a separation of power are essential for the United Stated Government to work. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

a more perfect union.

This week in class we watched the BYU production of A More Perfect Union. It was an educational movie full of horrible acting and inaccurate accents but it carefully displayed historical content to the benefit of the viewer.

The movie mainly followed James Madison, the man considered as the Father of the Constitution, as he and the rest of the Founding Fathers paved their way through creating the Constitution. I thought the movie was very interesting because it painted James Madison in a very bad light. From what I have read about James Madison, he was a fairly shy man but he had a strong opinion. I thought the portrayal of him in this movie was very negative.

The character of James Madison was very demanding, powerful, negative and severely outspoken. Throughout the movie I became very frustrated with him and had a hard time watching him. I didn’t appreciate his character very much. I know that James Madison was very steadfast in his opinions and beliefs but I never imagined him to be so overruling and frustrated all the time.

I do understand that early America was a time of opinions, frustrations, varying ideas, and conflict. I believe that there is plenty reason for people to be strong in their beliefs and I understand why James Madison would be so outspoken. However, I felt the movie’s portrayal of his character was brutal and I had a hard time enjoying him.