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A broadside (or broadsheet) is a large sheet of paper, usually printed on one side. Citizens would read posted broadsides and gather to discuss their content. Broadsides set the stage for the open public debate and free press that became ideals in our society. These broadside collections document the hopes, fears, motivations, and interests of Americans who fought the Revolutionary War and created the United States Constitution.
1) The collection contains classic documents of the Revolutionary War era including the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, The Bill of Rights, and the Constitution.
3) These broadsides present diverse views on how and why the Revolutionary War wasfought. The broadsides paint a picture of how colonists became convinced to fight a war for independence.
4) These documents trace the legislative process. Many of the broadsides appear in several drafts. These drafts highlight the process of negotiation and compromise during this era. Debate over the new Constitution is well chronicled in the Constitutional Convention Broadsides.
Search on laws or legislation combined with specific topics.
6) Under the treaty of Paris (1783) which ended the war, Britain relinquished a large tract of land in the west. The collection traces Congressional debate over division, distribution, and governance of these territories. For example, Congress designated some of the territory lands as rewards for soldiers of the Continental Army.
Search on western territory for text such as:
Be it further ordained, That the secretary at war issue warrants for bounties of land to the several officers and soldiers of the late continental army who may be entitled to such bounties, or to their respective assigns or legal representatives, certifying therein the rank or station of each officer, and the line, regiment, corps and company in which the officer or soldier served.
From the broadside: "By the United States in Congress assembled. July 9, 1788: A supplement to an ordinance entitled An ordinance for ascertaining the mode of disposing of lands in the Western Territory'."
7) As part of the debate over western territories, the early congress also debated treatment of and relationships with Native Americans. The collection covers Native American issues such as treaty formation, trade, and settlement of Native American lands.
The Broadside Collection can be used to create a detailed time line of the Revolutionary era and the formation of the new nation. Students can use their textbooks or other sources to create an initial time line of Revolutionary events. Students can illustrate events in their time line using documents from the collection. In the process of their research, students probably will discover supporting examples for the time line not mentioned in textbooks.
Declaring Independence: Drafting the Documents, the Library of Congress Exhibit, provides a helpful starting time line.
All age groups can comprehend the documents at some level. Younger students can understand the main arguments for independence such as no taxation without representation and the right to liberty. Older students can understand how the founding generation built their government around terms such as liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The variety of broadsides allows students to examine the intentions of our nation's founders. By studying the collection, students can learn how a government of checks and balances arose from leaders who feared tyrrany and believed in individualism, equality, and the natural rights of mankind.
Search on tyranny for text such as:
By the union of the several states they have rescued themselves from the tyranny of a powerful nation, and established constitutions on the free consent of the people, which are the admiration of the intelligent and virtuous part of mankind, and the firm support of the civil and religious rights of all who live under the shadow of their influence. But these constitutions cannot long outlive the fate of the general union.
From the broadside: Impressed with a sense of the sacred trust committed to them, and with an anxious and affectionate concern for the interest, honor and safety of their constituents, the United States in Congress assembled, have on various occasions, pointed out the dangerous situation of this nation ..." 1783.
Historical Analysis and Interpretation
Older students can be challenged to compare their interpretation of the broadsides with interpretations of the era found in textbooks and in other secondary sources. Many sources, for example, describe creation of the Constitution as a response to weaknesses of the Confederation and the need for a strong federal government. In the collection, students are exposed to the arguments of those against a strong federal government. Students can trace fear of tyranny from the crown in earlier broadsides to fear of tyranny from strong central government in later broadsides.
Search on oppose federal government to find evidence of opposition views and for text such as:
We dissent, secondly, because the powers vested in Congress by this constitution, must necessarily annihilate and absorb the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of the several states, and produce from their ruins one consolidated government , which from the nature of things will be an iron handed despotism, as nothing short of the supremacy of despotic sway could connect and govern these United States under one government .
From the broadside: "The Address and reasons of dissent of the minority of the convention, of the state of Pennsylvania, to their constituents.", 1787, which contains Journals of the Conclave.
Historical Research Capabilities
This collection provides a rich source for a research project. Students will probably need secondary source accounts to provide context, but the documents alone can be used to build a detailed understanding of the era. Students can trace powerful ideas that led people to take part in a war for independence. They can consider how ideas and ideals can become a cause of war. Students can review the actions and reactions between Great Britain and the colonists that led to war. By studying the broadsides, students can compare points of view on issues such as how to treat Native Americans or how to defray war debts.
Search on finance, war, and taxation for text such as:
In the last year, some of the late city-members (in the Minority ) proposed to abolish the present system of taxation , and attempted to substitute in its place a POLL-TAX; by means of which the poorest mechanic in the State was to pay as heavy a tax, as the wealthiest citizen: for all estates, however great, were to be free from taxation .--Our heads were to have been taxed, and all alike too; whilst the rich man's property was to have been exempt!
From the broadside: "Friends, countrymen and fellow-citizens : The present crisis demands your serious attention. You are now about giving your suffrages for members of the General Assembly ..." 1787.
Historical Issue Analysis and Decision Making
Students might consider what a collection like this cannot tell about the past. They might answer questions such as, "Who is not represented in this collection?" and "Where might one find different perspectives on this era?"
Using this collection, student can analyze why the colonists wanted to fight a war for independence. Students might be asked to find evidence to answer questions such as, "How did the founding fathers create a system of government that could adjust to changing social and economic conditions?" and "What led the colonists to decide to break with Britain?"
Search on Britain for text such as:
The conduct of those serving under the King of Great-Britain hath, with some few exceptions, been diametrically opposite. They have laid waste the open country, burned the defenceless [sic] villages, and butchered the citizens of America. Their prisons have been the slaughter-houses of her soldiers, their ships of her seamen, and the severest injuries have been aggravated by the grossest insult.
From the broadside: "By the Congress of the United States of America. Manifesto : These United States, having been driven to hostilities by the oppressive and tyrannous measures of Great-Britain ... they declared themselves free and independent. ..."1778.
The collections can be used to support discussions of literary themes such as courage and risk, achieving independence, vision and ideals, growth and change, and conflict and resolution.
This collection is an excellent resource for studying persuasive literature and the techniques used to put forth an argument. The Declaration of Independence, for example, is an excellent source for examining the presentation of an ordered argument. Using the documents, students can analyze the strength and persuasiveness of a broadside's argument. Students can search in other parts of the collection or other sources for evidence that a broadside's arguments bore fruit over time.
Using the collection, students might write and produce their own broadsides on contemporary issues of importance to them. Students can test the persuasiveness of their arguments on their classmates.
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|Last updated 09/26/2002|