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12.5: Critical Thinking Exercises

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    • From 1815 to 1840, American leaders managed to limit the growing impact sectional differences had on economic and political issues. However, the fear of disunion remained an underlying threat. What major issues divided the nation in this period, and how were they resolved? In spite of efforts to minimize the divisions, why did these divisions ultimately bring disunion in the 1860s?
    • For years, historians have pondered whether “Age of the Common Man” is an appropriate label for this period in American history. At the heart of the debate lies questions about the real level equality achieved by average Americans as the much-heralded democratic trends swept the nation. Who in American society benefitted most from the political and economic changes of the decade and why? What was the reality of the common citizen from the 1820s to the 1840s? Based on your responses to these questions, do you think we should continue to use “Age of the Common Man,” or should we attach another label to this period (and what should it be)?
    • Oftentimes, when we think of political parties in the American past we draw parallels to our modern political parties. How do the Democrats and Whigs in the second party system compare to the Democrats and Republicans today? What similarities and differences do you see between these parties in terms of political philosophy and important public policy issues?

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