Conservapedia:American History Homework One Answers

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The following homework questions from Andrew Schlafly relate to Lecture One on Conservapedia's American History Course. After grading the students' answers, Schlafly collated this "model" answer list.

Students' Answers Chosen by Andrew Schlafly

RationalWiki Responses

1. List the order in which the English, French and Spanish settled in the New World.[edit]

Spanish, English, French

(Kara H.)

The question itself shows a narrow view on European settlement of the New World - it ignores, for instance, the Dutch and the Portuguese, and, more to the point, the Norse, who had a small (though ultimately short-lived) settlement in what is now Newfoundland long before Columbus came around.

2. What do you find most inspiring about Christopher Columbus?[edit]

Christopher Columbus exhibited an inspiring picture of faith and confidence in his journey across the Atlantic Ocean. He had faith in two ideas—the generally-accepted idea that the world was round and his own personal belief that Asia was close enough to reach by sailing west. Contrary to popular belief, the former was generally accepted in his time, but the latter was unproven. Despite the fact that he could not see irrefutable proof for either idea, his faith in them was so firm that he decided to gamble his career, his reputation, even his very life upon them. I find this very inspiring. In our day of “relative truth” and tolerance for all beliefs it is easy to be passive in our ideas and believe only in opinions, not in truth. Yet this is so wrong. Like Columbus, we should let our beliefs define our lives.

(Rachel N.)

Columbus’ most inspiring trait was his courage to hold to his beliefs through scorn and criticism. Many others, under pressure from critics, have retracted their beliefs. Not Columbus.

(Duncan B.)

Is this a grade-three level exam? If this is meant to be college-prep or a test for highschool-aged kids, the question is totally inappropriate. Why not ask a HISTORICAL question about the political/economic/social causes and effects of European exploration of, and settlement in the Americas? The "Great Man" thinking represented by this kind of question fell out of favour in even the most conservative of university history departments decades ago, and even thinking about writing an essay like this would get you laughed out of any professor's office.

Columbus, like his contemporaries, knew damn well that the world was round, so having "faith" in this is neither here nor there. Sailing west into the unknown was certainly a bold move and showed bravery and insight on the part of Columbus. On the other hand, contemporary accounts attest that he was also a nasty piece of work who brutally mistreated his own company as well as massacring, mutilating and enslaving the indigenous peoples he encountered. [note 1] Inconsistencies like this underline the major problems with Schlafly's hero worship (and whitewash) approach to history.

Additionally, though he was correct that the Earth is round (as all educated people knew) he was way off on its size (something Eratosthenes knew in the second century BC). He expected to be able to sail to India, believing it to be a much shorter trip than it would have been had the Americas not lay in between.

3. Why do you think several early settlements in America failed?[edit]

Some socialistic farming policies failed to motivate the settlers to work.

(Steve M.)

The reasons that some of the early settlements in America failed could have varied, but probably the underlying cause was probably lack of being prepared. Not being prepared for the climate, the environment, or the natives, probably caused the demise of most of these early settlements. Naturally the results would have been specific depending on the colony, such as the settlers of Jamestown having initially been on the verge of starvation due to being too lazy to actually work.

(Joe B.)

The reason that many of the early settlements in America failed was because they lacked strong leadership. For example, in 1492, Columbus started a settlement in Haiti. However, he left the settlement without a good leader and it eventually died off. In contrast, Jamestown had a strong leader: John Smith, who kept Jamestown alive.

(Ruth L.)

To put these frankly idiotic answers in context, the students are only echoing back what Schlafly told them in the lecture.[note 2] Early settlers were faced with harsh, uncertain conditions, and had to work together and share resources in order to survive at all. This is not the same as socialism and it is anachronistic to use the term. The settlers came from assorted backgrounds, and some were unaccustomed to manual labour. They may have had difficulty adjusting to colonial conditions, but this is not the same as laziness. Schlafly is using the early history of Jamestown settlement to make a weak and irrelevant criticism of socialism, and it is unfortunate that his students do not know any better.

4. What was the motivation for the first settlements in the Massachusetts area? Include mention of how the Pilgrims differed from the mainstream Puritans.[edit]

When the Pilgrims and Puritans settled in Massachusetts they were not happy with the direction the church of England was headed. Both felt as if it was becoming too close to the Catholic religion. Therefore the Pilgrims separated themselves completely from the church with hopes to have more freedom of religion, while the Puritans stayed within the church to purify it.

(Amanda S.)

Actually, according to modern historians the Pilgrims did not intend to land in Massachusetts, but instead Virginia. It is, however, unknown how they came to be so far off course. Also the Puritans and the Pilgrims thought the Anglican church was not just becoming "too Catholic", but was becoming too liberal in its soceital affairs. Both groups sought stricter social control. Aside from that this is a semi-reasonable answer.

5. Explain how William Penn was remarkable.[edit]

William Penn was not only the founder of Pennsylvania; he was the hero of democracy and religious freedom. He stood up to England, even after being arrested. He was known for the peace he created with the Indians. He planned and developed Philadelphia. He also encouraged unity among the English colonies.

(Natalie D.)

This leaves out the minor detail of King Charles II owing Penn a lot of money and deciding to settle his debt by letting him have what is now Pennsylvania. His arrest was for promoting his church, the Society of Friends. As for promoting religious freedom in Philadelphia, that is a debated point since the colony, like all the other colonies had an established church (although compared to Massachusetts it was more liberal in allowing dissenters, that is to say non-Church of England Protestants, to practice there)

6. What were the four types of colonies, and (if possible) give an example of each.[edit]

'Joint-Stock Colony' - Massachusetts Bay, and Virginia.

'Charter Colony' - Rhode Island.

'Proprietary Colony - New York, Maryland, and Delaware.

'Royal Colony' - Virginia.

(Jessie H.)

The way this is answered is confusing and slightly misleading, especially since some of the colonies changed their organizational structure. The Joint Stock company would be equivalent to a modern corporation, shares could be purchased, bought and sold, and a board of directors (in London) ultimately governed the enterprise. Virginia started as a joint-stock company in 1606, but went out of business by 1620. However, since the English couldn't plausibly force the several thousand colonists back home the Crown assumed operations of the colony. Likewise, Massachusetts was formed from a merger between Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay and became a Crown Colony. Crown Colonies were ones in which the Crown had final authority over whom the governor would be. What Jessie H. means by "charter colony" is unclear, since nearly all of the colonies had to have some type of charter to operate. Rhode Island was formed because Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson were exiled from Massachusetts. A proprietary colony was one in which the Crown granted somebody, often known as a "Lord Proprietor" permission to run a colony in the new world (the Lord Proprietor had final say over land sales but did not act like a feudal lord). Typically this was a means of debt payment, as evidenced by Maryland and Pennsylvania (Lord Baltimore and William Penn respectively). Another proprietary colony was Georgia, which was initially settled as an experiment by James Oglethorpe in debt rehabilitation (and as a means of buffering Charleston from Spanish invasion). New York was not a proprietary colony since the English conquered the city of New Amsterdam from the Dutch; final control over New York was then granted to the crown.

7. Briefly discuss (in a few sentences) any of the debate or discussion topics from the lecture.[edit]

Were the Puritans right to be strict and to expel people of other religions?[edit]

It is difficult to judge a people who lived in such a different world than we do today. It is easy now to point our fingers and call the Puritans “hypocrites” for denying others exactly what they themselves had wanted so desperately and “ignorant” for ignoring many of the teachings of their own Bible. Yet while their failure to allow religious freedom was wrong, both Biblically and ethically, they were justified. Religious freedom is a very new concept. Up until the past few centuries, almost all civilizations have been built upon a common religion. The Puritans did not have any reason to believe that it was even possible for people of different religions to live in peace, side-by-side. To the best of my knowledge, it had never been done before, and if it had, it’s unlikely that the Puritans would have known of or given much thought to such a phenomenon. Considering the world they lived in, the Puritans were justified.

(Rachel N.)

This is actually quite a reasonable answer in that it points out the inherent flaw in the question: asking us to make a moral judgement on the actions of people who lived centuries ago and whose notions of religion, morality and tolerance differed substantially by our own. The academic discipline of history should avoid this approach, and focus instead of questions of chronology, causality and evidence.

The phrase "Considering the world they lived in, $GROUP were justified." is only true for groups that considered themselves conservatives at the time. For all other groups, this is moral relativism.

H1. What problems do you think a colony based on a particular religion or religious ideal might encounter? Do you think it can survive and thrive? Give at least one example.[edit]

Problems that a colony based on religious ideals might encounter are: 1. People of other religions might try to convert them. 2. Some of these people who have broken off could cause internal issues. No, I do not think it can survive. I think a good example would be the country of Iraq with all the various Muslim sects. Even the Puritan colonies in this country had to give in eventually and let people of other religions move in.

(Mark DeJ.)

Point #1 is a bit off the mark. The pilgrims and the puritans went to New England because they wanted to practice their own religion. At the same time they were not interested in people practicing any other religions. They were the ones likely to try and convert others, not the other way around. Point #2 is a bit closer to the mark. Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson had radical beliefs and were exiled for them. Massachusetts did survive, despite its attempt to impose homogeneity amongst its members. The congregationalist church, which sort of evolved from the Puritans did remain the dominant religion in Massachusetts, and much of New England, until the mass immigrations of the 19th century, which brought many Roman Catholics to the region.

H2. Explain what the Massachusetts Bay Company did, and how it was financed and managed.[edit]

The Massachusetts Bay Company was a joint stock company when established by royal charter in 1629. Its purpose was to encourage colonization and trade along the Merrimack and Charles rivers in New England. The Company's Puritan stockholders soon had total control and elected John Winthrop as the Governor. The Massachusetts Bay Company and the Massachusetts Bay Colony became the same thing. (Jess S.)

The Massachusetts Bay Company obtained a royal charter and sent a group of Puritans to settle in New England. They hoped to purify the Church of England with a more perfect community than in England itself. It was financed and led by John Winthrop.

(Nathanael H.)
  • * * Response Here * * *

H3. Pick out any mystery of your choice prior to or during this period and suggest an explanation for it.[edit]

Mystery: "How was Christopher Columbus able to navigate himself across the Atlantic Ocean on his second voyage to find the precise same location that he colonized on his first voyage?"[edit]

In 1493, Christopher Columbus sailed with three ships into the Caribbean Sea and discovered new land. The first island he found was San Salvador, which he immediately claimed for Spain. Soon after this, he sighted Cuba and Hispaniola. On Christmas Eve, the Santa Maria was destroyed off the north coast of Hispaniola. Columbus left forty men on the island to start a colony. Upon his hasty arrival back home, he was made “admiral of the ocean” and given seventeen ships for his fleet. Almost one year later, Columbus set sail for Hispaniola, the island he had found on his first voyage, in hopes of seeing how the forty men he had left the previous January fared. Columbus soon arrived off the coast of Hispaniola, only to find the colony had been destroyed by natives. Was Columbus’ second arrival in the Caribbean a coincidence, luck, or providence? 127 years into the future, English Separatists, or Pilgrims, would sail across the Atlantic on the Mayflower in hope of settling in the mouth of the Hudson River. Since navigation techniques improved over time, the Pilgrims’ would have far better navigational methods than Christopher Columbus. Yet the Pilgrims were still unable to reach their destination. When Christopher Columbus arrived off the coast Hispaniola for a second time, it was not a coincidence or even luck, it was providence. Without the Lord’s guidance and involvement, Columbus may never have found his way back to the Hispaniola and the islands surrounding it.

(Bethany S.)

Where to start with this? A generalisation that "[s]ince navigation techniques improved over time, the Pilgrims’ would have far better navigational methods than Christopher Columbus" is given rather than any evidence that their navigation techniques differed significantly. In fact there had been a few advances, but the basics of sea navigation had not changed very much. There are conflicting theories as to why the Mayflower veered off course, but it is unlikely to have been accidental.

As for "providence" guiding Columbus, this kind of explanation scores points with Andy, but not with college exam boards. It's the worst kind of theory, since it can be neither proven nor disproven. Rational historians would simply disregard it and look for earthly causes in the events of history rather than the guiding hand of God.

H4. Explain mercantilism and add a sentence or two describing your view of it.[edit]

Mercantilism can be briefly described as a system in which a mother country restricts imports and maximizes exports. The mother country would import raw materials from its colony, and would then produce finished products at minimal cost. Then they would sell the products to other countries it traded with, and even back to the original colony. My view of mercantilism is that it was essentially a very good idea, created by someone who had a head for good business and knew how to make money. However, to me the mother country is exploiting the colony by taking the raw materials for so little and then selling the finished product for a good percentage more.

(Katie B.)

Mercantilism is an economic system which limits imports from other countries and maximizes exports to other countries. This would guarantee that more money would would come in than would go out. Another aspect of Mercantilism is to use colonies to supply raw materials at a very low cost to the Mother Country who, in turn could use the materials to produce products to sell to the world. In theory, Mercantilism is a good idea. However, obvious problems occur. Sometimes items from other countries are cheaper. Also, the colonies might want more of the money being made by the Mother Country.

(Nick DeJ.)

Both responses pick up the basic ideas of mercantilism (i.e: colonies are resource gatherers and the mother country is manufacturer of goods from said resources), but both glance over the importance of trade tariffs in this system. Nick DeJ. gets close by saying that other countries could make goods cheaper, but fails to connect this to tariffs (which are meant to raise prices on foreign goods so domestic goods are more appealing). Also Katie B. hits on another flaw in the system, in that colonies are paid less than the price of the finished goods, not including the fact that the colonies are the prime market for the finished goods.

H5. Discuss any of the debate or discussion topics from the lecture.[edit]

I feel that the Puritans were wrong in their methods of ridding their settlement of those who didn't agree with their religion. Murder is never acceptable, even if it is for so-called "religious reasons."

(Christina F.)

Kid has the right sentiment in that religious persecution is never okay, it's especially hypocritical given that the Puritans were fleeing religious persecution abroad. Modern fundies should take note that this country was specifically founded on freedom of religion, and it most certainly does not limit itself to Christianity alone.


  1. See Wikipedia's articleWikipedia for the details Conservapedia neglects to mention.
  2. "Initially, from 1607-1608, the Jamestown settlement lived under socialism, whereby the group shared its food with everyone no matter how much or little each person worked. This economic system was a complete failure that led to 'starving time' as no one had any incentive to do any work to provide the necessities of life", CP: American History Lecture One.