Common Core: 11th Grade English Language Arts : Reading: Informational Text

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Reading: Informational Text

Adapted from “Federalist No.19” in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison (1788)

Among the confederacies of antiquity, the most considerable was that of the Grecian republics, associated under the Amphictyonic council. From the best accounts transmitted of this celebrated institution, it bore a very instructive analogy to the present Confederation of the American States. The members retained the character of independent and sovereign states, and had equal votes in the federal council. This council had a general authority to propose and resolve whatever it judged necessary for the common welfare of Greece; to declare and carry on war; to decide, in the last resort, all controversies between the members; to fine the aggressing party; to employ the whole force of the confederacy against the disobedient; and to admit new members.

The Amphictyons were the guardians of religion, and of the immense riches belonging to the temple of Delphos, where they had the right of jurisdiction in controversies between the inhabitants and those who came to consult the oracle. As a further provision for the efficacy of the federal powers, they took an oath mutually to defend and protect the united cities, to punish the violators of this oath, and to inflict vengeance on sacrilegious despoilers of the temple.

In theory, and upon paper, this apparatus of powers seems amply sufficient for all general purposes. In several material instances, they exceed the powers enumerated in the Articles of Confederation. The Amphictyons had in their hands the superstition of the times, one of the principal engines by which government was then maintained; they had a declared authority to use coercion against refractory cities, and were bound by oath to exert this authority on the necessary occasions.

Very different, nevertheless, was the experiment from the theory. The powers, like those of the present Congress, were administered by deputies appointed wholly by the cities in their political capacities, and exercised over them in the same capacities. Hence the weakness, the disorders, and finally the destruction of the confederacy. The more powerful members, instead of being kept in awe and subordination, tyrannized successively over all the rest. Athens, as we learn from Demosthenes, was the arbiter of Greece seventy-three years. The Lacedaemonians next governed it twenty-nine years; at a subsequent period, after the battle of Leuctra, the Thebans had their turn of domination. It happened but too often, according to Plutarch, that the deputies of the strongest cities awed and corrupted those of the weaker; and that judgment went in favor of the most powerful party. Even in the midst of defensive and dangerous wars with Persia and Macedon, the members never acted in concert, and were, more or fewer of them, eternally the dupes or the hirelings of the common enemy. The intervals of foreign war were filled up by domestic vicissitudes, convulsions, and carnage.

After the conclusion of the war with Xerxes, it appears that the Lacedaemonians required that a number of the cities should be turned out of the confederacy for the unfaithful part they had acted. The Athenians, finding that the Lacedaemonians would lose fewer partisans by such a measure than themselves, and would become masters of the public deliberations, vigorously opposed and defeated the attempt. This piece of history proves at once the inefficiency of the union, the ambition and jealousy of its most powerful members, and the dependent and degraded condition of the rest. The smaller members, though entitled by the theory of their system to revolve in equal pride and majesty around the common center, had become, in fact, satellites of the orbs of primary magnitude.

Had the Greeks, says the Abbe Milot, been as wise as they were courageous, they would have been admonished by experience of the necessity of a closer union, and would have availed themselves of the peace which followed their success against the Persian arms to establish such a reformation. Instead of this obvious policy, Athens and Sparta, inflated with the victories and the glory they had acquired, became first rivals and then enemies, and did each other infinitely more mischief than they had suffered from Xerxes. Their mutual jealousies, fears, hatreds, and injuries ended in the celebrated Peloponnesian war, which itself ended in the ruin and slavery of the Athenians who had begun it.

The author of this passage would have most likely considered the Civil War to be __________.

Possible Answers:

an inevitable result of a confederacy in which power is equally balanced between multiple parties

a viable solution to the massive economic and social differences between the North and the South

a wholly unacceptable division of the nation based on mutual jealousies and antipathy

an evil conflict conducted by a morally bankrupt nation

Correct answer:

a wholly unacceptable division of the nation based on mutual jealousies and antipathy

Explanation:

In order to make an accurate prediction based on the text, you, as the reader, must understand the fundamental principles and arguments made in the text. 

Based on the author’s considerations that conflict within a confederacy is an inevitable result of an imbalance of power between different member states of a union that was not centralized or strong enough and the author’s emphasis on maintaining peace and unity above all else, the reader can infer that the author would have considered the Civil War to be “a wholly unacceptable division of the nation based on mutual jealousies and antipathy.” This answer most clearly and accurately frames the fundamental political principle underpinning this work: the maintenance of peace and the development of strength through unity.

The most pertinent evidence that supports this answer in the text can be found in the conclusion, "Athens and Sparta, inflated with the victories and the glory they had acquired, became first rivals and then enemies; and did each other infinitely more mischief than they had suffered from Xerxes. Their mutual jealousies, fears, hatreds, and injuries ended in the celebrated Peloponnesian war, which itself ended in the ruin and slavery of the Athenians who had begun it.” The answer choice “an evil conflict conducted by a morally bankrupt nation” is incorrect because the words “evil” and “morally bankrupt” are too strong to represent the author’s attitude. The answer choice “an understandable, but regrettable, deviation from the conduct of a true confederacy” is incorrect for the opposite reason; it is too weak. The answer choice "an inevitable result of a confederacy in which power is equally balanced between multiple parties" does not align with the author's opinions; he provides evidence as to why confederacies in which power is balanced would work, but how in practice those with imbalances of power amongst their member states have failed.

Example Question #2 : Reading: Informational Text

Adapted from the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America by Thomas Jefferson (1776)

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

If this text were to continue what can most reasonably be inferred to follow the final paragraph?

Possible Answers:

A list of the acts committed by England against the colonies

A list of demands to be met by England

An outline of the proposed format of the new government for the colonies

A longer philosophical treatise on the rights of man

Correct answer:

A list of the acts committed by England against the colonies

Explanation:

The last two sentences of this selection form the key to unlocking this question. Consider the sentences directly: "The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world." The first of these sentences states that the current king of Great Britain had repeatedly and continually acted against the colonies. Then, the author states that "facts" are to be "submitted" to the world. That is, the facts proving the claim about the king will then be listed at length. Hence, we can suppose that there will be a list of acts committed against the colonies by England. (Indeed, this is what follows in the actual document.)

Example Question #3 : Reading: Informational Text

Adapted from the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America by Thomas Jefferson (1776)

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Who is the addressee of this passage?

Possible Answers:

The people of America

The world

The King of England

The people of England

Correct answer:

The world

Explanation:

The key clue needed to answer this question is found in the final sentence of this selection, "To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world." The Declaration did have purposes in the colonies and in England; however, it was above all addressed to the world. The general tone implies this, but this sentence in particular shows the universal audience of this passage. In declaring its independence from Britain, America simultaneously announced its entrance onto the world stage.

Example Question #1 : Reading: Informational Text

Adapted from “Federalist No.19” in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison (1788)

Among the confederacies of antiquity, the most considerable was that of the Grecian republics, associated under the Amphictyonic council. From the best accounts transmitted of this celebrated institution, it bore a very instructive analogy to the present Confederation of the American States. The members retained the character of independent and sovereign states, and had equal votes in the federal council. This council had a general authority to propose and resolve whatever it judged necessary for the common welfare of Greece; to declare and carry on war; to decide, in the last resort, all controversies between the members; to fine the aggressing party; to employ the whole force of the confederacy against the disobedient; and to admit new members.

The Amphictyons were the guardians of religion, and of the immense riches belonging to the temple of Delphos, where they had the right of jurisdiction in controversies between the inhabitants and those who came to consult the oracle. As a further provision for the efficacy of the federal powers, they took an oath mutually to defend and protect the united cities, to punish the violators of this oath, and to inflict vengeance on sacrilegious despoilers of the temple.

In theory, and upon paper, this apparatus of powers seems amply sufficient for all general purposes. In several material instances, they exceed the powers enumerated in the Articles of Confederation. The Amphictyons had in their hands the superstition of the times, one of the principal engines by which government was then maintained; they had a declared authority to use coercion against refractory cities, and were bound by oath to exert this authority on the necessary occasions.

Very different, nevertheless, was the experiment from the theory. The powers, like those of the present Congress, were administered by deputies appointed wholly by the cities in their political capacities, and exercised over them in the same capacities. Hence the weakness, the disorders, and finally the destruction of the confederacy. The more powerful members, instead of being kept in awe and subordination, tyrannized successively over all the rest. Athens, as we learn from Demosthenes, was the arbiter of Greece seventy-three years. The Lacedaemonians next governed it twenty-nine years; at a subsequent period, after the battle of Leuctra, the Thebans had their turn of domination. It happened but too often, according to Plutarch, that the deputies of the strongest cities awed and corrupted those of the weaker; and that judgment went in favor of the most powerful party. Even in the midst of defensive and dangerous wars with Persia and Macedon, the members never acted in concert, and were, more or fewer of them, eternally the dupes or the hirelings of the common enemy. The intervals of foreign war were filled up by domestic vicissitudes, convulsions, and carnage.

After the conclusion of the war with Xerxes, it appears that the Lacedaemonians required that a number of the cities should be turned out of the confederacy for the unfaithful part they had acted. The Athenians, finding that the Lacedaemonians would lose fewer partisans by such a measure than themselves, and would become masters of the public deliberations, vigorously opposed and defeated the attempt. This piece of history proves at once the inefficiency of the union, the ambition and jealousy of its most powerful members, and the dependent and degraded condition of the rest. The smaller members, though entitled by the theory of their system to revolve in equal pride and majesty around the common center, had become, in fact, satellites of the orbs of primary magnitude.

Had the Greeks, says the Abbe Milot, been as wise as they were courageous, they would have been admonished by experience of the necessity of a closer union, and would have availed themselves of the peace which followed their success against the Persian arms to establish such a reformation. Instead of this obvious policy, Athens and Sparta, inflated with the victories and the glory they had acquired, became first rivals and then enemies, and did each other infinitely more mischief than they had suffered from Xerxes. Their mutual jealousies, fears, hatreds, and injuries ended in the celebrated Peloponnesian war, which itself ended in the ruin and slavery of the Athenians who had begun it.

What key rhetorical contrast does the author use to structure his discussion of the Amphictyons?

Possible Answers:

A contrast between theory and practice

A contrast between religious and secular law-making

A contrast between the Amphictyons and the Persians as cultures

A contrast between the Amphictyons and Americans

Correct answer:

A contrast between theory and practice

Explanation:

This question is interrogating the reader's ability to recognize stylistic and rhetorical features within a passage. Now, the question asks you which rhetorical contrast is used to structure the analogical example of the Amphictyons, and here an understanding of the nature of rhetorical structures can help you. Two of the answer choices discuss contrasts between the Amphictyons and other cultures, Americans and Persians, which is inherently a weaker, less rhetorically effective structure. Since, the discussion of the Greek republics is being used as a "very instructive analogy," it makes sense to look past a literal (and almost certainly oversimplified) direct contrast between the whole of one culture and the whole of another. Analogies are metaphorical tools, and so it makes sense that the contrast structuring the example of the Amphictyons would not be so strictly literal, that it would relate to a larger thematic concept with a direct application to the contemporary climate of American political thinking to which the author is contributing.

So, we are left with two options: a contrast between theory and practice and a contrast between religious and secular law-making. The Amphictyons are said to have been "the guardians of religion," and a good deal of their political power is said to be dependent on and devoted to their ability to "inflict vengeance on the sacrilegious despoilers of the temple" they are charged with protecting. Now, if we were being extremely hasty, we might rush right into making a choice, but how wrong we would be. In order for a contrast to be in play we must also see evidence of the other end of this spectrum, secular law-making. The description of the Amphictyons makes no mention of any kind of secularity, so the contrast cannot exist, as we cannot find evidence to support one end of that contrast. 

Also, there is ample evidence to support all elements of the correct answer.  The author tells us that "In theory, and upon paper this apparatus seems amply sufficient," implying with the use of seems that it is not. The rest of the example then demonstrates how "very different [...] was the experiment from the theory." Here, "experiment" is being used to mean "practice." This answer is also the best as it presents the clearest allegorical lesson for the political thinkers of the United States, in setting down the laws of a nation they must be careful to attend to the practical realities of ruling and the cooperation of different regions and levels of government, not just the theoretical side of law-making.

Example Question #11 : Common Core: 11th Grade English Language Arts

Adapted from “Federalist No.19” in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison (1788)

Among the confederacies of antiquity, the most considerable was that of the Grecian republics, associated under the Amphictyonic council. From the best accounts transmitted of this celebrated institution, it bore a very instructive analogy to the present Confederation of the American States. The members retained the character of independent and sovereign states, and had equal votes in the federal council. This council had a general authority to propose and resolve whatever it judged necessary for the common welfare of Greece; to declare and carry on war; to decide, in the last resort, all controversies between the members; to fine the aggressing party; to employ the whole force of the confederacy against the disobedient; and to admit new members. The Amphictyons were the guardians of religion, and of the immense riches belonging to the temple of Delphos, where they had the right of jurisdiction in controversies between the inhabitants and those who came to consult the oracle. As a further provision for the efficacy of the federal powers, they took an oath mutually to defend and protect the united cities, to punish the violators of this oath, and to inflict vengeance on sacrilegious despoilers of the temple.

In theory, and upon paper, this apparatus of powers seems amply sufficient for all general purposes. In several material instances, they exceed the powers enumerated in the Articles of Confederation. The Amphictyons had in their hands the superstition of the times, one of the principal engines by which government was then maintained; they had a declared authority to use coercion against refractory cities, and were bound by oath to exert this authority on the necessary occasions.

Very different, nevertheless, was the experiment from the theory. The powers, like those of the present Congress, were administered by deputies appointed wholly by the cities in their political capacities, and exercised over them in the same capacities. Hence the weakness, the disorders, and finally the destruction of the confederacy. The more powerful members, instead of being kept in awe and subordination, tyrannized successively over all the rest. Athens, as we learn from Demosthenes, was the arbiter of Greece seventy-three years. The Lacedaemonians next governed it twenty-nine years; at a subsequent period, after the battle of Leuctra, the Thebans had their turn of domination. It happened but too often, according to Plutarch, that the deputies of the strongest cities awed and corrupted those of the weaker; and that judgment went in favor of the most powerful party. Even in the midst of defensive and dangerous wars with Persia and Macedon, the members never acted in concert, and were, more or fewer of them, eternally the dupes or the hirelings of the common enemy. The intervals of foreign war were filled up by domestic vicissitudes, convulsions, and carnage.

After the conclusion of the war with Xerxes, it appears that the Lacedaemonians required that a number of the cities should be turned out of the confederacy for the unfaithful part they had acted. The Athenians, finding that the Lacedaemonians would lose fewer partisans by such a measure than themselves, and would become masters of the public deliberations, vigorously opposed and defeated the attempt. This piece of history proves at once the inefficiency of the union, the ambition and jealousy of its most powerful members, and the dependent and degraded condition of the rest. The smaller members, though entitled by the theory of their system to revolve in equal pride and majesty around the common center, had become, in fact, satellites of the orbs of primary magnitude.

Had the Greeks, says the Abbe Milot, been as wise as they were courageous, they would have been admonished by experience of the necessity of a closer union, and would have availed themselves of the peace which followed their success against the Persian arms to establish such a reformation. Instead of this obvious policy, Athens and Sparta, inflated with the victories and the glory they had acquired, became first rivals and then enemies, and did each other infinitely more mischief than they had suffered from Xerxes. Their mutual jealousies, fears, hatreds, and injuries ended in the celebrated Peloponnesian war, which itself ended in the ruin and slavery of the Athenians who had begun it.

What is the primary function of the third paragraph?

Possible Answers:

To explain why an American confederacy would function differently than the confederacy of the ancient Greeks

To elaborate on an earlier point regarding the impact that rule by the minority has on the liberty and wealth of the majority

To highlight the aggression and audacity of the Athenian and Lacedaemonians states

To demonstrate the negative effect that a confederacy has on the prosperity and freedom of its smaller members

Correct answer:

To demonstrate the negative effect that a confederacy has on the prosperity and freedom of its smaller members

Explanation:

The primary function of the third paragraph is to use the example of the behavior of the Athenians and Lacedaemonians to demonstrate the negative effect that a confederacy has on the prosperity and freedom of its smaller members. This can be seen in the part of the text that follows the description of the conduct of Athens and Lacedaemonia: “This piece of history proves at once the inefficiency of the union, the ambition and jealousy of its most powerful members, and the dependent and degraded condition of the rest. The smaller members, though entitled by the theory of their system to revolve in equal pride and majesty around the common center, had become, in fact, satellites of the orbs of primary magnitude.” Remember that the purpose of each paragraph feeds into the overall purpose of the passage, namely to elucidate political principles directly relevant to the confederation of the United States.

Example Question #5 : Reading: Informational Text

Adapted from “Federalist No.19” in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison (1788)

Among the confederacies of antiquity, the most considerable was that of the Grecian republics, associated under the Amphictyonic council. From the best accounts transmitted of this celebrated institution, it bore a very instructive analogy to the present Confederation of the American States. The members retained the character of independent and sovereign states, and had equal votes in the federal council. This council had a general authority to propose and resolve whatever it judged necessary for the common welfare of Greece; to declare and carry on war; to decide, in the last resort, all controversies between the members; to fine the aggressing party; to employ the whole force of the confederacy against the disobedient; and to admit new members.

The Amphictyons were the guardians of religion, and of the immense riches belonging to the temple of Delphos, where they had the right of jurisdiction in controversies between the inhabitants and those who came to consult the oracle. As a further provision for the efficacy of the federal powers, they took an oath mutually to defend and protect the united cities, to punish the violators of this oath, and to inflict vengeance on sacrilegious despoilers of the temple.

In theory, and upon paper, this apparatus of powers seems amply sufficient for all general purposes. In several material instances, they exceed the powers enumerated in the Articles of Confederation. The Amphictyons had in their hands the superstition of the times, one of the principal engines by which government was then maintained; they had a declared authority to use coercion against refractory cities, and were bound by oath to exert this authority on the necessary occasions.

Very different, nevertheless, was the experiment from the theory. The powers, like those of the present Congress, were administered by deputies appointed wholly by the cities in their political capacities, and exercised over them in the same capacities. Hence the weakness, the disorders, and finally the destruction of the confederacy. The more powerful members, instead of being kept in awe and subordination, tyrannized successively over all the rest. Athens, as we learn from Demosthenes, was the arbiter of Greece seventy-three years. The Lacedaemonians next governed it twenty-nine years; at a subsequent period, after the battle of Leuctra, the Thebans had their turn of domination. It happened but too often, according to Plutarch, that the deputies of the strongest cities awed and corrupted those of the weaker; and that judgment went in favor of the most powerful party. Even in the midst of defensive and dangerous wars with Persia and Macedon, the members never acted in concert, and were, more or fewer of them, eternally the dupes or the hirelings of the common enemy. The intervals of foreign war were filled up by domestic vicissitudes, convulsions, and carnage.

After the conclusion of the war with Xerxes, it appears that the Lacedaemonians required that a number of the cities should be turned out of the confederacy for the unfaithful part they had acted. The Athenians, finding that the Lacedaemonians would lose fewer partisans by such a measure than themselves, and would become masters of the public deliberations, vigorously opposed and defeated the attempt. This piece of history proves at once the inefficiency of the union, the ambition and jealousy of its most powerful members, and the dependent and degraded condition of the rest. The smaller members, though entitled by the theory of their system to revolve in equal pride and majesty around the common center, had become, in fact, satellites of the orbs of primary magnitude.

Had the Greeks, says the Abbe Milot, been as wise as they were courageous, they would have been admonished by experience of the necessity of a closer union, and would have availed themselves of the peace which followed their success against the Persian arms to establish such a reformation. Instead of this obvious policy, Athens and Sparta, inflated with the victories and the glory they had acquired, became first rivals and then enemies, and did each other infinitely more mischief than they had suffered from Xerxes. Their mutual jealousies, fears, hatreds, and injuries ended in the celebrated Peloponnesian war, which itself ended in the ruin and slavery of the Athenians who had begun it.

What is the primary purpose of this passage?

Possible Answers:

To advocate for fundamental political principles the author believes are important

To provide a political analysis of a widely-known historical period

To provide an alternative perspective in the face of proposed legislation

To accurately convey the history of Greek statehood

Correct answer:

To advocate for fundamental political principles the author believes are important

Explanation:

A vital step in accurately interpreting a passage is understanding the point of view of the author and their purpose in producing the document you are reading. It is important, when approaching texts, not simply to ask what a text is saying, but to go a step further and ask why it is saying what it is saying in the way it is saying it. Since the vast majority of this passage selection is devoted to providing historical context and detail, if you were simply at every step interrogating what the text was saying, you would find yourself tricked into thinking you were reading a work of history. That is NOT the case here. While the example is extremely lengthy it is just that, an example. The author believes that this example will act as "a very instructive analogy to the present Confederation of the American States," thus the purpose of the passage cannot be limited to the explication of this example. The purpose of the text is thus to present and advocate for political principles, using the historical example as a mere tool.

Example Question #1 : Reasoning, Premises, Purposes, And Arguments In Seminal U.S. Texts: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.11 12.8

Adapted from “Federalist No.19” in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison (1788)

Among the confederacies of antiquity, the most considerable was that of the Grecian republics, associated under the Amphictyonic council. From the best accounts transmitted of this celebrated institution, it bore a very instructive analogy to the present Confederation of the American States. The members retained the character of independent and sovereign states, and had equal votes in the federal council. This council had a general authority to propose and resolve whatever it judged necessary for the common welfare of Greece; to declare and carry on war; to decide, in the last resort, all controversies between the members; to fine the aggressing party; to employ the whole force of the confederacy against the disobedient; and to admit new members.

The Amphictyons were the guardians of religion, and of the immense riches belonging to the temple of Delphos, where they had the right of jurisdiction in controversies between the inhabitants and those who came to consult the oracle. As a further provision for the efficacy of the federal powers, they took an oath mutually to defend and protect the united cities, to punish the violators of this oath, and to inflict vengeance on sacrilegious despoilers of the temple.

In theory, and upon paper, this apparatus of powers seems amply sufficient for all general purposes. In several material instances, they exceed the powers enumerated in the Articles of Confederation. The Amphictyons had in their hands the superstition of the times, one of the principal engines by which government was then maintained; they had a declared authority to use coercion against refractory cities, and were bound by oath to exert this authority on the necessary occasions.

Very different, nevertheless, was the experiment from the theory. The powers, like those of the present Congress, were administered by deputies appointed wholly by the cities in their political capacities, and exercised over them in the same capacities. Hence the weakness, the disorders, and finally the destruction of the confederacy. The more powerful members, instead of being kept in awe and subordination, tyrannized successively over all the rest. Athens, as we learn from Demosthenes, was the arbiter of Greece seventy-three years. The Lacedaemonians next governed it twenty-nine years; at a subsequent period, after the battle of Leuctra, the Thebans had their turn of domination. It happened but too often, according to Plutarch, that the deputies of the strongest cities awed and corrupted those of the weaker; and that judgment went in favor of the most powerful party. Even in the midst of defensive and dangerous wars with Persia and Macedon, the members never acted in concert, and were, more or fewer of them, eternally the dupes or the hirelings of the common enemy. The intervals of foreign war were filled up by domestic vicissitudes, convulsions, and carnage.

After the conclusion of the war with Xerxes, it appears that the Lacedaemonians required that a number of the cities should be turned out of the confederacy for the unfaithful part they had acted. The Athenians, finding that the Lacedaemonians would lose fewer partisans by such a measure than themselves, and would become masters of the public deliberations, vigorously opposed and defeated the attempt. This piece of history proves at once the inefficiency of the union, the ambition and jealousy of its most powerful members, and the dependent and degraded condition of the rest. The smaller members, though entitled by the theory of their system to revolve in equal pride and majesty around the common center, had become, in fact, satellites of the orbs of primary magnitude.

Had the Greeks, says the Abbe Milot, been as wise as they were courageous, they would have been admonished by experience of the necessity of a closer union, and would have availed themselves of the peace which followed their success against the Persian arms to establish such a reformation. Instead of this obvious policy, Athens and Sparta, inflated with the victories and the glory they had acquired, became first rivals and then enemies, and did each other infinitely more mischief than they had suffered from Xerxes. Their mutual jealousies, fears, hatreds, and injuries ended in the celebrated Peloponnesian war, which itself ended in the ruin and slavery of the Athenians who had begun it.

What is the primary argument made in this passage?

Possible Answers:

The lack of peace and unity among the confederacies of Greece provides evidence to support the founding of a strong, centralized union between the American states

Confederacies are always and inevitably going to fail

Greek politicians were different in character than American politicians, and so America may hope for a much brighter experience than that of the Greek confederacy

The Greeks were their own worst enemies, and in order to succeed as a nation, America must avoid the greed and corruption that marred ancient Greece

Correct answer:

The lack of peace and unity among the confederacies of Greece provides evidence to support the founding of a strong, centralized union between the American states

Explanation:

In this passage, the author is arguing in favor of forming a more centrally controlled Federal union of the American states. He uses historical evidence from the experience of the confederacies of the Greeks to support their argument. The author proposes that the experience of the Greek states bear “a very instructive analogy to the present Confederation of the American States.”  In particular, he focuses on the ways in which “the powers" of Greek states were divided, likening the Greek situation to "[the powers] of the present Congress, [...] administered by deputies appointed wholly by the cities in their political capacities; and exercised over them in the same capacities. Hence the weakness, the disorders, and finally the destruction of the confederacy."

The answer choice, “The Greeks were their own worst enemies, and in order to succeed as a nation, America must avoid the greed and corruption that marred ancient Greece”  is a part of the overall argument, but is not the primary one. The key here is to understand the purpose of the argument, which is not to focus on the actual substance of the Greek states (this is a political document using a historical example, not a document focused on explicating history), but rather the applicability of the situation to current policy and principles in the formation of the United States. By starting with the blunt and oversimplified statement that "the Greeks were their own worst enemies" this answer choice fails to emphasize the primary focus and purpose of the political document at hand.

The answer choice that reads “Confederacies are always and inevitably going to fail” is too broad and is not as supported by direct evidence as is the correct answer, although the author would likely agree with this statement. It is important to note that answer choices will often include statements or principles with which the author of the passage would almost certainly agree. Do not be fooled! All correct answer choices will be supportable with direct textual evidence.

Example Question #6 : Reading: Informational Text

Adapted from the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America by Thomas Jefferson (1776)

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

What is the purpose of the first sentence in the text?

Possible Answers:

To address the ministers of England in a direct dialogue about the colonies' issues

To set up a direct address with the American people

To announce the reason for the complaints that will follow

To introduce the topic with an ornamental rhetorical flourish

Correct answer:

To announce the reason for the complaints that will follow

Explanation:

The very end of the sentence helps to transition into the next paragraph by stating, "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation." This means that in what follows the separation discussed in the first sentence will have its causes listed. Some of this is found in this selection, though it continues with a long list of accusations not included here. This sentence both introduces the topic, and takes for granted the initial condition it sets out, namely that "the course of human events" has made it "necessary" for the people of the United States to "dissolve the political bands" which have connected them to England.

Example Question #11 : Common Core: 11th Grade English Language Arts

Adapted from the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America by Thomas Jefferson (1776)

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

What is the best description of the offenses committed by England according to the passage?

Possible Answers:

They have revoked the right of representation from the colonies

They have taxed the colonies beyond possibility of payment

They have fought with the colonies in open battles on the content

They have perpetrated grievous, numerous, various injustices against the colonies for some time

Correct answer:

They have perpetrated grievous, numerous, various injustices against the colonies for some time

Explanation:

Throughout the last few sentences, the passage speaks of "trains of injuries" and "repeated injuries" caused by England. These offenses are cited as having necessitated the action of the colonists, namely "dissolv[ing] the political bands" connecting them to England. The implication is, whatever the particular offenses of England, they have been long-lasting and continuous. This is the primary accusation leveled in this selection—not any of the particular ones that are offered as other potential answers.

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