Apologies for the generic blog title, I felt that division is vague enough to cover both the Civil War and the period before it (the Antebellum period). Indeed, those are the two units we're blogging on this time. There's a lot of common ground between them, but students are only expected to pick one event which represents their theme. Below, I've suggested both topics and articles for them to use.
Let's start with this topic, as it shows up early in our time period. Andrew Jackson rehabilitated democracy, which was still something of a taboo under our first few presidents. But should he be compared with what came before, or after? As the first link observes, modern observers hesitate to apply the term to Jackson. The other classic commentary on democracy from this period was Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Our second article contextualizes the president's defense of "government of the people, by the people, and for the people".
Exceptionalism is closely aligned to the theme of democracy. The idea of American difference is often traced back to Alexis de Tocqueville, the French author of Democracy in America. Our first link gets at what Tocqueville meant, and whether it's complimentary. The second addresses President Lincoln, who famously called America "the last best hope of earth"
This topic is arguably central to the time period, containing as it does the first movement for racial equality. Our first article explores the abolitionist ideal, whereas the second considers the reality of Reconstruction.
This theme is also prominent for any blog covering the Civil War, which liberated millions of Americans from slavery. While we've focused on the Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment in class, our first article reminds us that freedom was not so much an event as a process. Our second link distinguishes between freedom and emancipation, in view of the challenges which accompanied the latter.
This is a topic I've short-changed in class. America's first full-fledged nativist movement is usually taught as part of the Republican party's origins. I thought better of teaching this complicated subject, knowing that I could suggest a blog on the topic of immigration. Our first article is about Know-Nothing Party, which opposed (Irish) immigration during the 1850s. The second is about birthright citizenship, which was a provision of the 14th Amendment.
The American Dream
The American Dream acquired a new element during this period, with the increased emphasis on education. Our first article describes the new women's colleges, as well as the rise of public education. This institution spread to the South during Reconstruction, a development treated in the second link.