Am I a good teacher? Part 3 of 3

So, after more of a delay than I had intended, here is the final paper of the student we are following through this series. Again, after each of her paragraphs, I will break in and share with you the feedback she got on her paper.

During the Civil War, Clement Vallandigham had broken no law that had been passed by Congress, yet he was torn from his home forcefully and his family late in the night and arrested. The charge against him was that he had helped the enemy in some way with his speeches against the northern cause. In a time of great development, the country’s government hadn’t changed much at all, and the differences in North and South began to wear on the country’s unity.  When war broke out, certain civil liberties were violated as in the case of Clement Vallandigham, his opinions on the politics changed as war broke out, despite the Republicans’ opinion.

While her introduction is not as striking as in her earlier paper, it is still good, setting the stage for her paper, introducing her key points, and laying down enough background information to set her paper into the larger historical arch.

Clement Vallandigham was accused of violating Burnside’s General Order Number 38, stating that “all persons who commit acts for the benefit of our enemies of our country will be tried as spies or traitors and if convicted will suffer death” This meant anyone who “helped” the enemy could be tried in military court and executed if guilty. The First Amendment would no longer protect Vallandigham’s opinions expressed through speech as his speeches could spread the word of enemy cause.  Vallandigham, as a midwestern politician of southern descent, during the war, had viciously expressed his bitterness towards the war and towards the Republicans, especially Lincoln. He expressed his frustration with Congress for allowing Lincoln to get so much power. “You have surrendered it- you cannot take it back again.” He was saying that once they gave Lincoln power, they wouldn’t be able to stop him if he need be stopped. Lincoln had the right to violate other people rights in the name of war without much specification as to what qualified as in the name of war. Considering Clement Vallandigham didn’t want the war, it was more offensive to him to have his rights taken away for a war that he and a good bit of the Midwest didn’t even want. The Midwest generally shared the opinion that the war wasn’t really about them, and typically didn’t want the South to secede or to go to war.  Vallandigham expressed his opinions in speeches, which should have been protected by the First Amendment, according to him, even during war.

This is a solid paragraph. She quotes directly from her sources twice and paraphrases a third. She should have attributed the information about most Midwesterners lack of strong feelings about the conflict, but she does a nice job of explaining each piece of evidence and using the evidence to establish what would be Vallandigham’s crimes.

Originally, before the war, Vallandigham had wanted to try and solve the country’s problems like many Midwesterners, saying, “I am a Western man…wholly devoted to Western interests.” He was trying to call attention to the actual problem, the serious division in beliefs from North to South. That was the content of the speeches. After the war broke out, his speeches became attacks on Lincoln, claiming usurpations of power: “Beginning with this wide breach of the Constitution, this enormous usurpation of power- the power of the sword- other infractions and assumptions were easy; and after public liberty, private right soon fell.”  He was against the war and was under the impression that war shouldn’t change civil liberties, even during war, because if it changes for war who knows what it would lead to down the road.  “It needed but a little stretch of usurpation to invade the sanctity of a person.”  People were already being searched without probable cause; telegraphs were read and looked through. People were being violated in the name of war and thus Clement thought Lincoln and his like-minded republicans shouldn’t be able to take away civil liberties like free speech despite the war.

She gets repetitive in her statements, “Originally, before the war, “ and “under the impression that war shouldn’t change civil liberties, even during war,” but on the whole, another solid paragraph. Here, I felt like she was getting somewhat rote in her format, three pieces of evidence explained and linked to her argument. I think this is one of the weaknesses of the rubric I use, once students fine a formula that earns a solid grade, they tend not to deviate from it, and that can make their writing lose variety.

The Republicans tended to disagree with the opinions expressed. They saw that people acting as traitors would be a threat and tried to control it as best they could, taking it a little far.  When Lincoln heard about the trial of Vallandigham, he was embarrassed and faced with a problem. Should the First Amendment be abided even in wartime if it could hurt the country? Lincoln thought not. “Ours is a case of rebellion- so called by the resolutions before me – in fact, a clear, flagrant, and gigantic case of Rebellion; and the provision of the constitution that ‘Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended unless when in cases of Rebellion or Invasion, the public safety may require it.’”  The republicans felt it was necessary for public safety that a few rights were temporarily not in complete effect. “…wherein the public safety does require the suspension.” If Clements speeches expressed something not of national interest, it wouldn’t have mattered and he wouldn’t have been arrested.

This is her weakest paragraph. She uses only two pieces of evidence from the documents to make her case. While she does a nice job analyzing her evidence, I need at least three. There were plenty of other quotes she could have used to further develop this paragraph. It’s not uncommon for students to lose steam around their third main point.

To put it briefly, Clement Vallandigham was arrested and imprisoned for something that would have been fine had it not been war. He was expressing his anger at civil rights being forgotten due to war. His words were for the wrong side according to those that arrested him and the republicans got a little carried away in trying to protect themselves from traitors, to their minds they were doing right by tearing him from his home in the middle of the night and imprisoning him, but as Clement sat in a jail cell, he was likely thinking he’d done nothing wrong.

She has some word-choice issues in her conclusions, “…would have been fine had it not been war,” and  “He was expressing his anger at civil rights being forgotten due to war.” She could have used several other more appropriate words to replace, “fine,” and “forgotten.” Vallandigham’s actions would have been legal, or protected speech before the war and civil rights were suspended or ignored, not forgotten.

In sum, I’m happy with her development as a historian. Her use of evidence grew in its sophistication. She chose and ordered her evidence in a way that enhances its support of her points.

This paper earned her an unmodified “B,” scoring a 4/5 straight down the rubric (attached).

What do you think? Do you agree that her writing has grown over the semester? Am I a good teacher?

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