Brief Review in United States History and Government

At Home and Abroad: Prosperity and Depression, 1917–1940

Document-Based Essay

This task is designed to test your ability to work with historical documents and is based on the accompanying documents (1–5). Some of the documents have been edited for the purposes of this question. As you analyze the documents, take into account both the source of each document and any point of view that may be presented in the document.

Directions: This document-based question consists of two parts: Part A and Part B. In Part A, you are to read each document and answer the question or questions that follow the document. In Part B, you are to write an essay based on the information in the documents and your knowledge of United States history.

Your first name only:

Your teacher's e-mail address:

Obtain the correct e-mail address from your teacher
(e.g., "teachers_name@somewhere.com")

Historical Context: The federal government responded quite differently to the prosperity of the 1920s and the Great Depression that followed. Roosevelt's New Deal was not only a decisive plan to combat the Depression, but it also marked a new direction in the role of government in managing the economy—a role that is still being debated today.

Task: Using information from the documents and your knowledge of United States history and government, answer the questions that follow each document in Part A. Your answers to the questions will help you write the Part B essay in which you will be asked to discuss the response of the United States government to the Great Depression. In your essay, include a discussion of how this response can be considered a turning point in the role of the federal government in managing the economy.

PART A: SHORT ANSWER

Document #1

"… we must have tax reform. The method of raising tax revenue ought not to impede the transaction of business; it ought to encourage it. I am opposed to extremely high taxes, … because they are bad for the country, and because they are wrong. We cannot finance the country through any system of injustice, even if we attempt to inflict it on the rich. … The wise and judicious course to follow in taxation and economic legislation is not to destroy those already who have secured success, but to create conditions under which everyone will have a better chance to be successful."
—Calvin Coolidge, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1925

1. According to this quote, how did Calvin Coolidge feel about the role of government in managing business?

Document #2

Economic Impact of the Great Depression
Unemployment 1925–1933
Unemployment 1925-1933

Wheat Prices 1925–1933
Wheat Prices 1925-1933

Stock Prices 1925–1933
Stock Prices 1925-1933

Bank Suspensions Prices 1925–1933
Bank Suspensions Prices 1925-1933

2. Based on the charts above, what effect did the stock market crash of 1929 have on the overall economy of the United States?

Document #3

"I have recounted to you in other speeches, and it is a matter of general information, that for at least two years after the crash, the only efforts by the [Hoover] administration to cope with the distress of unemployment were to deny its existence."
—Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1932

3. Based on this quote that Roosevelt made during the 1932 presidential campaign, how did Roosevelt evaluate the efforts made by the Hoover administration to resolve the nation's economic problems?

Document #4

"So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.
     In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.
     More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment."
—Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933

4. In this excerpt from FDR's first inaugural speech, how did he attempt to win the support of the American people for his leadership during the economic crisis of the Great Depression?

Document #5

cartoon of Uncle Guinea Pig
Courtesy Franklin D. Roosevelt Library

5. According to the above cartoon, how did some Americans view the New Deal?

PART B: ESSAY

Directions: Using information from the documents provided, and your knowledge of United States history, write a well-organized essay that includes an introduction, several paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Historical Context: As the United States transformed into an industrialized nation, the effects of this massive change were felt at all levels of society. Industrialization had long-term social, economic, and political effects on American society.

Task: Using information from the documents and your knowledge of United States history and government, write an essay in which you:

Discuss the response of the United States government to the Great Depression. In your essay, include a discussion of how this response can be considered a turning point in the role of the federal government in managing the economy.

Guidelines: When writing your essay, be sure to

  • address all aspects of the Task by accurately analyzing and interpreting at least four documents.
  • incorporate information from the documents in the body of the essay.
  • incorporate relevant outside information throughout the essay.
  • richly support the theme with relevant facts, examples, and details.
  • write a well-developed essay that consistently demonstrates a logical and clean plan of organization.
  • introduce the theme by establishing a framework that is beyond a simple restatement of the Task or Historical Context and conclude the essay with a summation of the theme.

When you're done, your answers to your teacher.