Student A agrees with Russell G. Townsend’s claim that what the federal government did to the southeastern Native Americans in the 1830s was ethnic cleansing, and I agree, too. Similar to my reasoning for this claim, Student A recognizes several elements of the government’s actions that qualify as ethnic cleansing: not only were the Indians forced to leave their land, but they also had been previously forced to refuse their culture and adopt the white Americans’ lifestyle. I think that Student A successfully reflected on the evidence from the documentary to support this point. Concerning Discussion Question 2, I think that Student A managed to deliver the voices and perspectives of Charles Sumner and George Fitzhugh very convincingly. It is especially difficult to speak on behalf of a proslavery activist because this position is condemned and seems barbaric today, but I think Student A did a very good job providing the view of a slavery proponent. In Student A’s work, while Sumner praises John Brown’s intentions, which would be expected from an abolitionist, Fitzhugh claims that Brown did not understand what he was doing, and I agree that this must be exactly how a proslavery activist would think. Finally, I found Student A’s reflection on the inevitability of war particularly insightful. In this reflection, the student demonstrated a profound knowledge of history and a deep understanding of how certain historical processes lead to others. I agree with Student A that the war was inevitable, and we both refuted a popular argument that the war could have been avoided if the federal government had allowed some states to preserve slavery; as Student A and I agree, the United States could not have functioned as one nation in this way. While I reflected on the signs of the inevitability of war in my work, Student A focused on exploring the causes of war, and the reflection on the role of the Tenth Amendment and the differences between the North’s and South’s economies was particularly convincing.
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Student B passionately supports Townsend’s claim about ethnic cleansing and stresses two supporting points: the Indian Removal Act and the “be like us or get out” rhetoric. I think Student B delivered a very strong argument in claiming that the federal government wanted the Indians to fight back to have a reason to persecute them even further. I do not agree with Student B that what is happening to immigrants in the United States today is close to ethnic cleansing, but I do support the position that everyone should have the opportunity to practice his or her culture. Concerning Discussion Question 2, I liked that Student B not only presented the perspectives of Charles Sumner and Richard Archer but also did it in the form of a dialogue in which Archer replies to Sumner as if they are talking to each other in the same room. However, what I noticed is that neither Sumner nor Archer mention John Brown, so Student B leaves it to the reader to assume whether they thought Brown was a hero or a murderer, while it was exactly the assignment to provide the opinions of Sumner and a proslavery activist regarding John Brown’s actions. Finally, I agree that the war was inevitable. Student B provides two arguments: first, that the country could not exist if some states had slavery while others did not, and second, that the economic interests of the South in preserving slavery were too strong for them to give it up without taking up arms. Slavery was a business in which they invested a lot of time, energy, and money, which is why abolition was a disaster for them. I think both arguments successfully reflect the fundamental conflict between the free and slave states, which could not have been resolved without an armed confrontation.