Questions for Classroom Discussion of Part 1

  1. In Fillmore’s and Watterston’s views, what major issues divided Americans in 1844?
  2. What do these letters reveal about the political positions of the Whig and Democratic Parties at the time? Where did each party stand on the issues you identified in the previous question?
  3. What campaign methods did Americans use back then? In what ways did campaigning for president in 1844 resemble or differ from campaigning today?
  4. Why did some Americans want to annex Texas? Why did others oppose it?
  5. What criticisms did Fillmore and Watterston make about slavery? Whom did they think it hurt? Did they consider it morally wrong or want to abolish it?
  6. These letters feature the words of only two individuals (plus a third whom Watterston quotes). How much can they tell us about Americans’ opinions more broadly? In other words, which groups’ perspectives do these letters reveal? Which groups’ do they not reveal? How could we learn those people’s perspectives?