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Comparing and Contrasting Early American Presidents: Essay Prompts

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

The early American presidents had many important similarities as well as notable differences. This lesson helps you work on comparing and contrasting their roles and contributions.


Now that you've completed the lessons in your course, use the exercises shown here to practice applying your new-found knowledge. This is not a mandatory part of your coursework, but is useful practice.

Why Compare and Contrast Early American Presidents?

Now that you have finished your work for History 103, you know a lot about early American history. Among other things, you have become quite an expert on the presidency. You understand what a president can and cannot do, and you know why and how these rights and restrictions were written into place. You also know a lot about the specific life and work of the early American presidents.

One way to understand how the presidency has evolved, and also to think about the role of the individual in history, is to compare and contrast the experience and influence of these presidents. When you compare and contrast presidents, you think critically and deeply about what is or is not important in a leader, and you also develop a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between a leader and the specific events or circumstances of his (or her) time.

The questions in this lesson should be considered prompts for writing essays about the presidents in question. As you write, use specific evidence from primary and secondary sources to back up your arguments. Each essay addresses a particular aspect of the presidency, and together, the essays will give you a sense of the different strengths and struggles each early president brought to the nation's history.

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