A blog about education technology, teaching, learning, and startups

AP US History Period 4 Review Questions and Discussion

The Battle of Baltimore Source

APUSH: Period 4 (1800-1848) Introduction

Welcome to United States History Period 4! In this series, we will cover a multitude of topics and themes crucial to the development of the United States. Period 4 encompasses much of the early history of the United States before social and political tensions lead to increased hostility between the North and the South, eventually resulting in the Civil War. In 1800, the US witnessed its first (relatively) peaceful transfer of power, from the Federalist party under John Adams to the Democratic-Republican party headed by Thomas Jefferson.

In the next decade, the United States saw immense territorial expansion with the Louisiana Purchase, the strengthening of the federal court system as a branch of government, and increased military actions domestically and internationally. The United States declared war on the United Kingdom for a second time in 1812, once again pitting the small nation against a powerful empire. We will start this section with questions and explanations about the causes of the War of 1812.

Chesapeake-Leopard Affair Source

Get the official Omninox eBook from Amazon by clicking on the book cover above to view more stimulus-based multiple choice questions.

Stimulus 1

"But if the reports which we now hear are true, that with England all hope of honorable accommodation is at an end, and that with France our negotiations are in a forwardness encouraging expectations of a favorable result, where is the motive for longer delay? The final step ought to be taken... Our wrongs have been great; our cause is just; and if we are decided and firm, success is inevitable....Let war therefore be forthwith proclaimed against England. With her there can be no motive for delay. Any further discussion, any new attempt at negotiation, would be as fruitless as it would be dishonorable...."

"But is is said that we are not prepared for war, and ought therefore not to declare it. This is an idle objection, which can have weight with the timid and pusillanimous only. The fact is otherwise. Our preparations are adequate to every essential object."

"Do we apprehend danger to ourselves? From what quarter will it assail us? From England, and by invasion? The idea is too absurd to merit a moment's consideration. Where are her troops? But lately she dreaded an invasion of her own dominions from her powerful and menacing neighbor. That danger, it is true, has diminished, but it has not entirely and forever disappeared. The war in the Peninsula, which lingers, requires strong armies to support it....Can anyone believe that, under such circumstances, the British government could be so infatuated as to send troops here for the purpose of invasion?"

-editorial, Washington National Intelligencer, April 14, 1812

Question 1A

The excerpt provides evidence to SUPPORT the argument that:

  • A. European events related to the Napoleonic Wars caused controversies in American politics.
  • B. the legacy of Jay’s Treaty allowed for a period characterized by very little diplomatic strife.
  • C. Jefferson’s and Madison’s attempts at ‘peaceable coercion’ were successful.
  • D. the majority of Americans in the early 19th century could be characterized as isolationists.

Answer: A


European events related to the Napoleonic Wars caused controversies in American politics. (See War of 1812)

Why it's the right answer:

Let’s first talk about the historical context of this excerpt. The section comes from an editorial in a Washington newspaper published in April, 1812 regarding the current political situation with the British government. That year should hopefully ring a bell to any APUSH student. The War of 1812, declared just a few months after this publication, was the second military conflict between the United States and the United Kingdom, and to many at the time was called “the second war of independence.”

The United States declared war on the United Kingdom for many reasons, however of greatest importance was concern over the impressment (when individuals are forced into military service) of thousands Americans into the Royal Navy, British trade restrictions against France, and expansionist fervor within the United States. Expansionism came in two distinct varieties that gave impetus for conflict with the United Kingdom. First, many Americans sought to annex Canadian territories to the north which were under the dominion of Britain. Second, the British had been supplying and aiding Native American tribes in the west that frequently harassed colonists and frontier communities, slowing down American settlement toward the Pacific.

Many intellectuals believed that the time was right to retaliate against the British for grievances on land, at sea, and the economy by striking while the Empire was preoccupied with the Napoleonic Wars raging across Europe. The author of this article is clearly an individual arguing for the United States to declare war on the United Kingdom. He cites that the US has “just cause” to initiate conflict given the “great wrongs” executed by Britain, and that the current strategic advantages against Britain, primarily its involvement in European wars, indicated an excellent time to strike. At this time, events in Europe were much discussed in American politics for their effects on the American ability to make war with the United Kingdom. As such, we can select A as the correct answer.

Jay’s Treaty was an attempt to make peace with Great Britain and resolve territorial and commercial issues between the Americans and the British. Chief Justice John Jay ended up conceding more abilities and rights to the Great Britain than expected, and the Treaty became very unpopular among the American public. The failure of Jay’s Treaty to establish a peace agreement that satisfied both sides was one reason that the United States declared war on the United Kingdom, and certainly did not create a period with “little diplomatic strife.”

“Peaceful coercion” was one of Thomas Jefferson’s diplomatic strategies, which relied on soft power policies like embargos to attempt to force Great Britain and France into changing their methods of impressment and unfavorable trade conditions, in lieu of a direct military engagement with a great power nation. The Embargo Act of 1807 was one such law that eliminated American exports in an effort to restore better commercial environments with the British and the French, however the plan backfired and resulted in greater damage to the American economy than to that of any foreign power. These efforts of “peaceful coercion” were obviously unsuccessful as war with the British loomed just over the horizon.

Although many American leaders and intellectuals advocated for isolationism in the early 1800’s, it would be an overarching generalization to suggest that a clear majority were in favor of such a policy. In terms of events occurring in the first half of the 19th century, the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War illustrated that American political institutions would still support open conflict if seen to be beneficial to the United States.

Question 1B

The excerpt serves as a response to the national debate leading up to the:

  • A. French and Indian War.
  • B. American Revolution.
  • C. Barbary Wars.
  • D. War of 1812.

Answer: D


The War of 1812 was a military conflict that lasted from June 1812 to February 1815, fought between the United States of America and the United Kingdom, its North American colonies, and its Native American allies.

Why it's the right answer:

As we’ve discussed in the last section, this excerpt is clearly referring to the political conditions prior to the United States declaring war on the United Kingdom beginning the War of 1812. The French and Indian War and Revolutionary War were occurred in the previous century before the United States even formally existed. The Barbary Wars in and around North Africa spanned from 1801 to 1815, but were far smaller in scope than the War of 1812. Furthermore, the argument in this text revolves around conflict with England, not pirates in the Mediterranean Sea.

Question 1C

Which of the following does NOT represent one of the ‘great wrongs’ to which the excerpt alludes?

  • A. transfer of Louisiana from Spanish to French control
  • B. Chesapeake-Leopard incident
  • C. British impressment of American sailors
  • D. British arming of American Indian tribes

Answer: A


Transfer of Louisiana from Spanish to French control-it is not mentioned as a "great wrong" within the passage.

Why it's the right answer:

Like we explored in question 1a, two key reasons for America’s anger towards the United Kingdom arose from continual British aid to various Native American tribes and the Royal Navy’s policy of impressment. One particular event that infuriated the American public was the Chesapeake-Leopard incident, in which the USS Chesapeake was pursued by the HMS Leopard and subsequently boarded by British marines looking for deserters. Four crewmen of the Chesapeake were seized by the British, one of whom was executed. Not only did this incident prove to be a national embarrassment, but it re-ignited public fury over British impressment on the high seas.

Answers B, C, and D are clearly some of the “wrongs” to which the excerpt alludes. The correct choice for this question is A, since this newspaper article concerns disputes between the United States and the United Kingdom, not international relations with other major powers. The US was not an actor in the transfer of Louisiana from Spain to France until the Louisiana Purchase was finalized in late 1803, establishing American sovereignty over the new territory.

Portrait of James Madison Source

Get the official Omninox eBook from Amazon by clicking on the book cover above to view more stimulus-based multiple choice questions.

Stimulus 2

...The authority, therefore, given to the Supreme Court by the act establishing the judicial courts of the United States to issue writs of mandamus to public officers appears not to be warranted by the Constitution, and it becomes necessary to inquire whether a jurisdiction so conferred can be exercised....The question whether an act repugnant to the Constitution can become the law of the land is a question deeply interesting to the United States...

That the people have an original right to establish for their future government such principles as, in their opinion, shall most conduce to their own happiness is the basis on which the whole American fabric has been erected... This original and supreme will organizes the government and assigns to different departments their respective powers.... [Within] the government of the United States... The powers of the legislature are defined and limited; and that those limits may not be mistaken or forgotten, the Constitution is written.

-Marbury v. Madison, 1803

Question 2A

The Supreme Court case referenced above established the principle of:

  • A. executive privilege.
  • B. judicial review.
  • C. interposition.
  • D. nullification.

Answer: B


Judicial review is review by the US Supreme Court of the constitutional validity of a legislative act.

Why it's the right answer:

The Supreme Court as it is known today is vastly different in composition and scope than the institution formed by the Constitution and the Judiciary Act of 1789 decreed shortly thereafter. The Constitution acknowledged the existence of a judicial system but give Congress the right to form it as they saw fit. The Judiciary Act of 1789 established six seats on the Supreme Court and 13 judicial districts, each containing a district court and a circuit court. At this point, the judiciary was given the right to issue “writ mandamus”--legally enforceable orders--however the concept of the court evaluating a law’s accordance to the Constitution was not explicit.

The case of Marbury v Madison is extremely important to the history of the judicial branch and its modern function. The Supreme Court ruled that the basis through which it could enforce Marbury’s complaint against Madison (which we will talk about in greater depth in the next question), using “writ mandamus” was granted through an unconstitutional law and therefore could not be executed. This established the principle of judicial review, where the courts can decide that a law violates a concurrent law or a clause within a state or federal constitution.

Executive privilege provides the executive branch a limited right to withhold documents or other information from the other branches of government. Interposition and nullification refer to the occasionally asserted (and debated) right of states to resist federal law that their courts deem unconstitutional. While this concept will be extremely important in the next chapter with the national argument over slavery, it was not discussed in the Marbury v Madison case that this excerpt concerns.

Question 2B

The dispute that led to the court case referenced above came about because:

  • A. Democratic-Republicans contested the results of the Election of 1800 due to the questionable morality of the newly elected Vice President, Aaron Burr.
  • B. anti-Federalists refused to ratify the Constitution due to its neglect of clauses guaranteeing states’ rights and individual civil liberties.
  • C. Federalists argued for a strict interpretation of the Constitution that would limit the power of the executive branch, meaning that the President did not have the right to make judicial appointments.
  • D. Federalists attempted to assert their power through the judiciary branch in the face of Democratic-Republican victories in the executive and legislative branches.

Answer: D


Federalists attempted to assert their power through the judiciary branch in the face of Democratic-Republican victories in the executive and legislative branches.=, hence a court ruling establishing checks and balances of power within the Federal government was created.

Why it's the right answer:

After losing the presidential election of 1800 to Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the Federalist-leaning “lame duck” Congress hoped to establish greater partisan power in the judicial branch before the Democratic-Republicans took control of the executive and legislative branches. To do so, the Federalists expanded the number of circuit and district courts and increased the number of seats in each court, while initiating the ability of the President to appoint federal judges. In what was known as the “Midnight Appointments,” President Adams appointed a total of 58 federal judges days before his term in office expired. These highly political moves were a desperate attempt by the Federalists to cling to power, therefore answer D is correct.

However, not all of the commissions were actually transported to the appropriate offices before Adams left his position, and under the Jefferson presidency the few appointments left undelivered were not enforced. William Marbury, appointed as the justice of the peace in the District of Columbia by John Adams, was not able to assume his role because then-Secretary of State James Madison, under President Jefferson, declined to deliver the paperwork. Marbury demanded that the Supreme Court order Madison to finalize his appointment. Although the court decided that Madison’s actions were improper and illegal, they also ruled that Marbury’s petition in itself was unconstitutional because it unlawfully expanded the original purview of the Supreme Court. This established the precedent of judicial review discussed in question 2a.

Answer C is false because it was the Federalists themselves that granted the President the right to make judicial appointments. Additionally, Federalists generally favored expansion of the federal government which is the opposite of the strict construction philosophy that the Democratic-Republicans espoused. Answer B doesn’t make sense in the context of this question. The Federalist and anti-Federalist debate surrounding the limits and authority of the Constitutional government occurred around the year 1790. By the time the Supreme Court ruled on Marbury v Madison, the Democratic-Republican party had become the primary opposition to the Federalists. Answer A is false because the Democratic-Republicans won the Presidency and Vice-Presidency in the Election of 1800, and therefore would not contest the results.

Question 2C

The excerpt reflects a continuity over time with regard to debates over the:

  • A. rights of individual citizens.
  • B. authority of the branches of government.
  • C. morality of slavery.
  • D. relationship between state and federal power.

Answer: B


Chief Justice John Marshall established the principle of judicial review, an important addition to the system of “checks and balances” created to prevent any one branch of the Federal Government from becoming too powerful.

Why it's the right answer:

While all of the choices represent fierce debates in the legal sphere, only the authority of branches of government directly corresponds to this excerpt. The establishment of judicial review was significant because it added a “check” on the powers of the legislative and executive branches over unconstitutional laws and enforcement practices, respectively. This helped to define the authority and jurisdiction of the courts as a full-fledged branch of the federal government.

The morality of slavery and the relationship between state and federal power were two questions left unanswered at the formation of the Union, and would continue to be intensely debated for decades after the Marbury v Madison decision. Although the Civil War made slavery illegal and put a legal end to that discussion, even today there are still many arguments about the appropriate balance of power between state and federal government in the United States.

Question 2D

The excerpt above provides evidence to support the argument that Supreme Court decisions asserted the role of:

  • A. the judiciary branch in determining the Constitutionality of Congressional legislation.
  • B. acting presidents in reversing unpopular decisions made by previous administrations.
  • C. the federal government as more powerful than the state governments.
  • D. the legislative branch in making policies to regulate international and interstate trade.

Answer: A


Marbury v. Madison, arguably the most important case in Supreme Court history, was the first U.S. Supreme Court case to apply the principle of "judicial review" -- the power of federal courts to void acts of Congress in conflict with the Constitution.

Why it's the right answer:

As we’ve discussed in the last few questions, the ability of the judiciary to determine the Constitutionality of the law was the most important precedent set by Marbury v Madison and fundamentally shaped the role of the court in American government. Answers C and D are irrelevant to this question and can be eliminated. Option B is false because in the decision of Marbury v Madison, the courts explicitly did not alter any decisions made by another branch of government.

Portrait of James Madison Source

Get the official Omninox eBook from Amazon by clicking on the book cover above to view more stimulus-based multiple choice questions.


The War of 1812 between the United States and the United Kingdom ended mostly in a stalemate, but did provide a period of nationalism called the “Era of Good Feelings” which saw enhanced cooperation between parties. However, the rise of populist Andrew Jackson in the 1820’s marked the rebirth of intense political disagreement across the nation. Under Jackson’s administration, military action against Native Americans caused the death or displacement of millions of indigenous people across the continent. Another important imperialist event was the Mexican-American War, in which the US reaffirmed sovereignty over Texas and annexed most of the modern day Western United States.

Socially, the Second Great Awakening was a powerful religious movement that swept the country in the earlier half of this period. In the 1840’s abolitionism began to take hold in many parts of the country, and arguments about the legality and morality of slavery were one reason for the dissolution of the newly formed Whig party that briefly opposed the Democrats. The debate over slavery and the tangential discussion of states rights, including the ability for a state to nullify federal laws it did not agree with or found unconstitutional, would become the key issue on the national stage for years to come. These immense social and legal conflicts would eventually result in the bloody American Civil War in the 1860’s. We will talk about all that in our next blog post. Thanks for reading!