AP U.S. History Long Essay Example Essay

AP U.S. History Long Essay Example Essay

The long essay question on the AP U.S. History exam is designed to test your ability to apply knowledge of history in a complex, analytic manner. In other words, you are expected to treat history and historical questions as a historian would. This process is called historiography— the skills and strategies historians use to analyze and interpret historical evidence to reach a conclusion. Thus, when writing an effective essay, you must be able to write a strong and clearly developed thesis and supply a substantial amount of relevant evidence to support your thesis.

Look at the question below and formulate a response. You can do this by making bullet points or, to get the test day experience, time yourself for 35 minutes and write! After the question, there are two sample essays that would receive a perfect scores. Check your essay against them to see if you got many of the same key points. Remember the four steps: dissect the question, formulate a thesis, plan your evidence, and write your essay.


Long Answer Sample Question

The reform movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century focused primarily on the effects of the accelerating Industrial Revolution, especially its impact on the natural environment.” Support, modify, or refute the preceding interpretation using at least two reform movements and one environmental issue from the period 1880–1920 as evidence.

Sample Essay 1

While a number of the most important reform movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries grew out of efforts to combat the negative effects of industrialization, the main focus of their efforts was not the impact of the Industrial Revolution on the natural environment. Although some reformers, such as Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, were deeply worried about the consequences of economic development on the natural environment, the most influential, most effective reformers were primarily concerned with the impact of the rise of big business on small businesses, industrial workers, and consumers, and with corruption in government that reformers believed resulted from the economic power of large corporations.

Farmers were upset at what they regarded as arbitrary and excessive railroad rates and abuses such as rebates to big business like Standard Oil. These farmers were among the first and most outspoken advocates of reform in the late 19th century. Pressure from the Farmers’ Alliances convinced Congress to pass and President Cleveland to sign the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, a piece of legislation designed to regulate railroad rates and prohibit corrupt practices such as rebates. By 1890, these Farmers’ Alliances had entered politics in a number of Southern and Midwestern states and succeeded in pressuring Congress to pass the Sherman Antitrust Act, outlawing all “combinations in restraint of trade.” By 1892, a national People’s Party had been organized, nominating a third-party presidential candidate and electing several members of Congress. The Populist movement, a reform movement attempting to combat the negative effects of industrialization and the rise of big business, was now in full swing.

Beginning at the state level and with strong support in many urban areas, a new progressive movement reached the national level during the first years of the 20th century. Supported by President Theodore Roosevelt, progressive reformers, like the Populists, sought to strengthen railroad regulation and both enforce and further strengthen the antitrust laws. In 1902, President Roosevelt not only forced mine owners to submit to arbitration to settle a nationwide coal strike, he also asked his attorney general to file an antitrust suit against the Northern Securities Company, a large railroad holding company. After the Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision to break up the Northern Securities Company in 1904, Roosevelt went on to strengthen the Interstate Commerce Commission’s ability to regulate railroad rates by pushing the Hepburn Act through Congress in 1906. A few years later, another progressive reformer, Woodrow Wilson, succeeded to the presidency, and he managed to further strengthen the antitrust laws by pushing the Clayton Antitrust Act through Congress in 1914.

While railroad regulation and antitrust actions attracted the most attention of reformers during the period 1880–1920, some efforts were made by reformers to mitigate the effects of industrialization and commercial expansion on the natural environment. President Roosevelt used his executive authority to put thousands of acres of public lands aside for national parks, saving them from commercial exploitation. In 1908, he convened a conservation conference at the White House in an effort to further mitigate the damage that mining and manufacturing were doing to the natural environment, especially in the West. President Roosevelt also pushed for the establishment of the forest service and appointed a conservation-minded ally, Gifford Pinchot, to head that agency. Finally, even after retiring from office, Roosevelt supported Pinchot in his efforts to prevent President Taft’s secretary of the interior, Richard Ballinger, from opening additional public lands to commercial exploitation.

Thus, both the populist and progressive movements sought to combat the negative effects of industrialization and economic expansion by focusing primarily on railroad regulation and the strengthening and enforcement of antitrust legislation. Nevertheless, some progressive reformers like Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot did pay significant attention to preventing further damage to the natural environment and helped to found the modern conservation movement.

This thesis statement establishes a clear argument that addresses all parts of the question and makes a clear argument, earning one point. It does a nice job of demonstrating that at least two reform movements were not just aimed at the effects of the Industrial Revolution, but also at the

impact on small business, workers, and consumers, as well as corruption in government. Through its clear thesis, the essay is also able to address the targeted skill of causation by dealing with the causes and effects of the events mentioned in the question, for which it earns both of the possible points.

In its body paragraphs, the essay also does a very good job of identifying and using specific evidence to support its argument. It cites the Farmers’ Alliances and their role in pushing for the Interstate Commerce Act and Sherman Antitrust Act. In addition, the essay uses a lot of pertinent information from the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt to support the thesis statement and also addresses how there were some reforms that dealt with the natural environment, i.e., national parks and the forest service. These examples also address the targeted skill by showing the cause and effect of these events in relation to the reform movements, earning two more points.

You also are able to meet the last point by applying the skill of synthesis. You modified the statement in developing your argument and employed the use of other categories. This essay scores a 6 out of a possible 6 points.

Sample Essay 2

Both the so-called “Market Revolution” and the most influential reform movements of the period 1815–1860 took place throughout the United States, not just in New England, and at least some leading merchants and industrialists were enthusiastic supporters of reform. It is true that New England was home to a substantial number of reformers, especially several important leaders of the abolitionist movement, such as William

Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips. It is also true that the two most influential reform movements, the temperance and abolitionist movements, were not primarily concerned with the effects of the Market Revolution. Yet the spread of the Market Revolution did significantly increase the number of employers who supported the temperance movement, if for no other reason than to try to ensure that their employees came to work sober and ready to do their jobs.

Although there were numerous reform movements founded during the period 1815– 1860, from the New York Female Moral Reform Society to the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association to the Woman’s suffrage movement, the two largest and most influential reform movements were the temperance movement, initiated by the American Temperance Society, and the abolitionist movement, first organized effectively in the American Anti-Slavery Society. Both the American Temperance Society and the New England Anti-Slavery Society, the precursor of the American Anti-Slavery Society, began in New England. The American Anti-Slavery Society was founded in Philadelphia. These organizations quickly spread throughout the country, opening hundreds of local chapters. Among the most important, most dedicated leaders of the abolitionist movement were the New York brothers Arthur and Lewis Tappan, wealthy merchants who gave strong financial support to the anti-slavery movement.

While some reformers such as the Tappan brothers and Robert Owen, the founder of a utopian community at New Lanark, Indiana, were successful merchants and industrialists, a much larger number of prominent reformers, including most of the leaders of the temperance and abolitionist movements, were motivated primarily by their religious beliefs. This was certainly true of Reverend Lyman Beecher, one of the founders of the American Temperance Society and a leading abolitionist; Charles Grandison Finney, an evangelist
and leading anti-slavery advocate; and Finney’s disciple, Theodore Dwight Weld, a leading abolitionist and husband of prominent female anti-slavery speaker, Angelina Grimke. And, of these four famous reformers, only Beecher was a New Englander.

Thus, although New England was home to a substantial number of reformers during the antebellum period, it was only one of a number of centers of reform. Like the so-called Market Revolution, reform movements flourished throughout the nation during these years, and while some merchants and industrialists were leading reformers, the largest number of prominent reformers appear to have been motivated by religious beliefs rather than a desire to combat any of the evils attributed by contemporaries to the Market Revolution.

This thesis statement establishes a clear argument that addresses all parts of the question and makes a clear argument, earning the point for thesis. The essay does a good job arguing that reform was taking place throughout the United States and that some industrialists supported it and some reform was affected by the Market Revolution. The argument also addresses the targeted skill of causation by dealing with the causes and effects of the events mentioned in the question, earning two points.

The essay uses specific evidence to support the argument, which earns the 2 possible points. For example, it points out that the Anti-Slavery Society and Temperance Society were not just limited to New England and that some of the important leaders were merchants. You also identify reformers such as Charles Finney and use these examples to support arguments that some reformers were affected more by their beliefs than by the Market Revolution. These examples also address the targeted skill by showing the cause and effect of these events on merchants and reformers in relation to the reform movements.