Sample Political Science Essays on American Presidency

Q 1: Discuss the major political conflicts (war, slave issue, court cases) during Lincoln’s administration? Do you agree with how he tried to solve these problems? Explain your answer, How did Lincoln shrewdly win his presidential nomination? What did that say about his character?

President Lincoln took office at a time when tensions between Southern pro-slavery and Northern antislavery states were high. Several southern states including South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia among others had seceded even before he was inaugurated. A few months into his presidency, the Southern states operating under the Confederates banner attacked Fort Sumter occupied by Union Army leading to the start of one of the American Civil War. To solve these problems, President Lincoln reinforced the Union Army, suspended the habeas corpus and jailed suspected Confederate sympathizers. He also made the Emancipation Declaration which not only abolished slavery but also starved the Confederates of slave labor which they employed in the Civil War. These strategies, coupled with pitying the opponents against other, were suave and effective in dealing with these conflicts. He also effectively handled court cases especially those involving executions by personally reviewing them before approving making final decision.

President Lincoln shrewdly won his presidential nominations by carefully projecting his image as a moderate on slavery. He perceived the issue as a moral not a legal issue. His campaign team created his image as the Rail Splitter; an ordinary yet sophisticated man who honest, articulate and a straight shooter (Michael 59).

Q 2: What was Reconstruction? Discuss Congressional Reconstruction? Discuss Johnson’s conflicts with the Radical Republicans? What was the Tenure of Oath Act? Was Congress correct by impeaching him? Explain your answer

Reconstruction was aimed at rebuilding the political governance structures following the surrender of General Lee and the end of the Civil War. The national reintegration process was initiated to handle the fate of the Confederate states and their leaders. This reintegration process also included Congressional Reconstruction which was characterized by rewriting of constitutions of the former Confederate states in the South. Congress also amended the country’s Fourteenth Amendment and took greater control of government and political discourse in the country. Through the Tenure of Oath Act, the Congress sought to prevent the president a presidential appointee whose appointment had been approved by the Senate to be removed from office by the president without the approval of the Senate.

The Radical Republicans were opposed to President Andrew Johnson’s lenient stand towards slavery and former Confederate leaders. Unlike the president, they pushed greater protection of the emancipated slaves. President was rightly impeached by the Congress for vetoing legislations that would have given freed slaves equal civil rights.

Q 3: Based on all of your readings about Grant, how would you rate him as a president? Discuss some of his accomplishments and failures.

I would give President Grant an ‘average’ rating because of the many scandals that plagued his presidency including the Credit Mobilier scandal and how he mishandled the fallout. He also failed in his attempt to have key policies passed by the legislators. His government was accused of rampant corruption. However, he was responsible for expanding civil liberties to the emancipated slaves and the passing of key legislations and policies including the Fifth Amendment and the Reconstruction policy.

Q 4: Discuss the accomplishments and failures of Hayes, Garfield and Arthur. Did you agree or disagree with the Chinese Exclusionary Act? What was Tammany Hall? Was Hayes correct to fight against patronage? Explain your answer

President Hayes is credited with ending the controversial Reconstruction policies, opening law practice to women, shrewd financial policies and fight against political patronage. However, he is accused of suppressing striking railroad workers by sending troops to quell their strike. Hayes was right to fight against patronage because it led to political corruption. One such powerful patronage force was Tammany Hall; an influential political force dedicated to influencing grass root politics by fighting the underprivileged in the society and influencing judicial and political decisions in their favor.

President Garfield’s short presidency is credited with tackling political corruption and patronage by influential stalwarts.

President Arthur is credited with reforming the civil service. He also put in place America’s first immigration law. However, his introduction of controversial tariffs and suspension of Chinese laborers from consideration for immigrant status in the U.S. blighted his presidency. The Chinese Exclusionary Act he signed was necessary to protect various American enclaves and laborers from the cheap labor provided by the Chinese.



Q 5: Discuss the accomplishments and failures of Cleveland’s administration? Was he correct to have avoided helping Cuba gain their independence from Spain? Explain your answer. What is yellow journalism? In evaluating Cleveland’s campaign, did the media help or hurt his campaign. Explain your answer

President Cleveland fought corruption and wasteful spending by the federal government. He also signed into law and enacted acts that protected the land rights of Native Americans and also promoted interstate commerce. However, he failed to effectively handle the economic depression in the country. He also served the interests of big business while ignoring the interests of ordinary citizens on key economic issues including the handling of the Pullman Strike.

He was justified in not intervening in Cuban independence war as it would stretch the financial resources of a country battling depression. Cleveland’s popularity was helped by the media especially yellow journalism which focuses on sensationalizing scandals without providing any legitimate evidence to the stories. The media negatively painted his opponent while also endearing people to him despite the negative coverage he received regarding his affair.

Q 6: Compare and discuss the policies and programs of Harrison and McKinley, which one do you believe brought strength to the office? Include a discussion of the “Open Door Policy” and the Boxer Rebellion. Do you believe Harrison was a puppet president? Explain your answer? Discuss the Erdman Act and its significance to the labor movement.

President Harrison was a puppet president who won the presidency due to the support of the pro-high tariffs. The high-tariff, which protected the business community, led to economic depression and cost him a second term. President McKinley guided America to victory over Spain during the Spain-American War and expanded the country’s territory to Guam and Puerto Rico among others. He was also responsible for industry growth. He promoted the Open Door Policy which pushed for opening of China to other countries when it comes to trade (C-SPAN n.pag). The policy was however resisted by the Chinese during the Boxer Rebellion during the Qing Dynasty which view such a system of trade as imperial and colonial.

The Erdman Act provided railroad workers’ labor movement and unions platforms for conflict resolution and recognized the legality of workers’ union as legal representatives of railroad workers.

Q 7: Summarize and discuss the video on the Spanish-American War. Should America have become involved in this war?

Spain had long ruled Cuba as a province. This led to resistance by Cubans who used the media to fan propaganda in the U.S. regarding the revolt. With strong business interests in Cuba, American business community began exerting pressure on the federal government to act. American finally declared war against Spain when an American war ship was blown up near Havana, Cuba. The ensuing war led to the loss of Spanish Caribbean to the U.S. America was justified to enter into war with Spain because it was protecting its interests in the region while the blowing up of the ship was a sign of aggression by the Spain.

Q 8: Choose one president to discuss from the Life Portrait Videos on the Presidents. Discuss the video or some other interesting points about his life.

President John F Kennedy joined a growing list of U.S. presidents who were assassinated while in office. While he is credited with abolishing slavery, his work marked the realization of President Lincoln’s vision in the Emancipation Proclamation. However, President Kennedy’s abolition of slavery did not fully end the institution. Different forms of slavery still exist with the blessing of the law especially within the country’s correctional system.


Works Cited

C-SPAN. Life Portrait Videos of Presidents. C-SPAN.

Michael, J. Martinez. Coming for the Carry Me Home: Race in America from Abolitionism to Jim Crow. Lanham, MD: Rowman Littlefield, 2011.