This lesson can be used with The United States: An Open Ended History, a free online textbook. Adapted in part from open sources.
Pretend that it is June 8, 1845 – former President Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) has just kicked the old hickory bucket. You’ve been tasked with writing a eulogy – a funeral speech – for Andrew Jackson. Nowadays, speakers tend to be pretty polite in eulogies, but back then, people weren’t afraid to speak ill of the dead. Even Andrew Jackson’s pet parrot, Polly, had to be ejected from his funeral for swearing. No joke.
Your speech should follow the basic format of a standard, five-paragraph persuasive essay. It should include a hook to grab listeners’ attention, followed by a clear statement of your thesis – was Andrew Jackson a great president or one of the worst? The body should use the facts of his career to support your position. You should them summarize your judgement in your concluding statement.
Make sure to address the significance of (1) annexation of Florida from Spain, (2) the Trail of Tears, (3) the Nullification Crisis in South Carolina, and (4) one other life event of your choosing. Your job is to explain these key accomplishments of his career – and why they are/were controversial. You must then summarize your position – is this man one of our greatest presidents, worthy of bronze statues and twenty dollar bills, or one of our worst, worthy of quiet obscurity?
As a starting point for your research, you can use:
The end result should be a short (3-5 minute) funeral oration addressing the above topics using specific facts and figures to advance your argument – to be recited aloud to stirring effect! Feel free to include period appropriate curse words to make your point, as a tribute to his parrot.