U.S. History and Politics Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 2 (page 2)
U.S. History and Politics Critical Reading
Questions 1–8 are based on the following passage.
The following passage explores the role of Chinese Americans in the nineteenth-century westward expansion of the United States, specifically their influence on the development of California.
While the Chinese, in particular those working as sailors, knew the west coast of North America before the Gold Rush, our story begins in 1850, as the documentation from the Gold Rush provides the starting point with which to build a more substantial narrative. Most Chinese immigrants entered California through the port of San Francisco. From San Francisco and other ports, many sought their fortunes in other parts of California. The Chinese formed part of the diverse gathering of peoples from throughout the world who contributed to the economic and population explosion that characterized the early history of the state of California. The Chinese who emigrated to the United States at this time were part of a larger exodus from southeast China searching for better economic opportunities and fleeing a situation of political corruption and decline. Most immigrants came from the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong (Canton) Province.
Chinese immigrants proved to be productive and resourceful contributors to a multitude of industries and businesses. The initial group of Chinese argonauts sought their livelihood in the gold mines, calling California Gam Saan, Gold Mountain. For the mining industry, they built many of the flumes and roads, allowing for easier access and processing of the minerals being extracted. Chinese immigrants faced discrimination immediately upon arrival in California. In mining, they were forced to work older claims, or to work for others. In the 1850s, the United States Constitution reserved the right of naturalization for white immigrants to this country. Thus, Chinese immigrants lived at the whim of local governments with some allowed to become naturalize citizens, but most not. Without this right, it was difficult to pursue livelihoods. For example, Chinese immigrants were unable to own land or file mining claims. Also in the 1850s, the California legislature passed a law taxing all foreign miners. A though stated in general terms, it was enforced chiefly against the Mexicans and the Chinese through 1870. This discrimination occurred in spite of the fact that the Chinese often contributed the crucial labor necessary to the mining enterprise.
Discriminatory legislation forced many Chinese out of the gold fields and into low-paying, menial, and often arduous jobs. In many cases, they took on the most dangerous and least desirable components of work available. They worked on reclaiming marshes in the Central Valley so that the land could become agriculturally productive. They built the stone bridges and fences, constructed roads, and excavated storage areas for the wine industry in Napa and Sonoma counties. The most impressive construction feat of Chinese Americans was their work on the western section of the transcontinental railroad. Chinese-American workers laid much of the tracks for the Central Pacific Railroad through the foothills and over the high Sierra Nevada, much of which involved hazardous work with explosives to tunnel through the hills. Their speed, dexterity, and outright perseverance, often in brutally cold temperatures and heavy snow through two record breaking winters, is a testimony to their outstanding achievements and contributions to opening up the West.
- The first paragraph (lines 1–14) of the passage serves what function in the development of the passage?
- provides an expert's opinion to support the author's thesis
- introduces the topic by describing general patterns
- compares common myths with historical facts
- draws a conclusion about the impact of Chinese immigration on the state of California
- condemns outdated concepts
- Which of the following best describes the approach of the passage?
- theoretical analysis
- historical overview
- dramatic narrative
- personal assessment
- description through metaphor
- Lines 15–20 portray Chinese immigrants as
- The author cites the United States Constitution (lines 23–24) in order to
- praise the liberties afforded by the Bill of Rights.
- show that the government valued the contributions of its immigrants.
- imply that all American citizens are equal under the law.
- emphasize the importance of a system of checks and balances.
- suggest that it did not protect Chinese immigrants from discrimination.
- The word enterprise as it is used in line 33 most nearly means
- According to the passage, which of the following is NOT a contribution made by Chinese immigrants?
- worked land so that it would yield more crops
- performed dangerous work with explosives
- built roads and bridges
- purchased older mining claims and mined them
- dug storage areas for California wine
- In line 37 reclaiming most nearly means
- The last sentence (lines 46–49) in the passage provides
- an example supporting the thesis of the passage.
- a comparison with other historical viewpoints.
- a theory explaining historical events.
- a summary of the passage.
- an argument refuting the position taken earlier in the passage.
Questions 9–16 are based the following passage.
The following passage describes the advent of American manufacturing, imported from England in the 1790s. The Arkwright system mentioned in the passage refers to a water frame, a water-powered spinning machine that was used to make cloth.
The mounting conflict between the colonies and England in the 1760s and 1770s reinforced a growing conviction that Americans should be less dependent on their mother country for manufactures. Spinning bees and bounties encouraged the manufacture of homespun cloth as a substitute for English imports. But manufacturing of cloth outside the household was associated with relief of the poor. In Boston and Philadelphia, Houses of Industry employed poor families at spinning for their daily bread.
Such practices made many pre-Revolutionary Americans dubious about manufacturing. After independence there were a number of unsuccessful attempts to establish textile factories. Americans needed access to the British industrial innovations, but England had passed laws forbidding the export of machinery or the emigration of those who could operate it. Nevertheless it was an English immigrant, Samuel Slater, who finally introduced British cotton technology to America.
Slater had worked his way up from apprentice to overseer in an English factory using the Arkwright system. Drawn by American bounties for the introduction of textile technology, he passed as a farmer and sailed for America with details of the Arkwright water frame committed to memory. In December 1790, working for mill owner Moses Brown, he started up the first permanent American cotton spinning mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Employing a workforce of nine children between the ages of seven and twelve, Slater successfully mechanized the carding and spinning processes.
A generation of millwrights and textile workers trained under Slater was the catalyst for the rapid proliferation of textile mills in the early nineteenth century. From Slater's first mill, the industry spread across New England to places like North Uxbridge, Massachusetts. For two decades, before Lowell mills and those modeled after them offered competition, the "Rhode Island System" of small, rural spinning mills set the tone for early industrialization.
By 1800 the mill employed more than 100 workers. A decade later 61 cotton mills turning more than 31,000 spindles were operating in the United States, with Rhode Island and the Philadelphia region the main manufacturing centers. The textile industry was established, although factory operations were limited to carding and spinning. It remained for Francis Cabot Lowell to introduce a workable power loom and the integrated factory, in which all textile production steps take place under one roof.
As textile mills proliferated after the turn of the century, a national debate arose over the place of manufacturing in American society. Thomas Jefferson spoke for those supporting the "yeoman ideal" of a rural Republic, at whose heart was the independent, democratic farmer. He questioned the spread of factories, worrying about factory workers' loss of economic independence. Alexander Hamilton led those who promoted manufacturing and saw prosperity growing out of industrial development. The debate, largely philosophical in the 1790s, grew more urgent after 1830 as textile factories multiplied and increasing numbers of Americans worked in them.
- The primary purpose of the passage is to
- account for the decline of rural America.
- contrast political views held by the British and the Americans.
- summarize British laws forbidding the export of industrial machinery.
- describe the introduction of textile mills in New England.
- make an argument in support of industrial development.
- The passage refers to Houses of Industry (line 7) to illustrate
- a highly successful and early social welfare program.
- the perception of cloth production outside the home as a social welfare measure.
- the preference for the work of individual artisans over that of spinning machines.
- the first textile factory in the United States.
- the utilization of technological advances being made in England at the time.
- The first paragraph (lines 1–8) of the passage implies that early American manufacturing was
- entirely beneficial.
- politically and economically necessary.
- symbolically undemocratic.
- environmentally destructive.
- spiritually corrosive.
- The description of Slater's immigration to the American colonies (lines 17–20) serves primarily to
- demonstrate Slater's craftiness in evading British export laws.
- show the attraction of farming opportunities in the American colonies.
- explain the details of British manufacturing technologies.
- illustrate American efforts to block immigration to the colonies.
- describe the willingness of English factories to share knowledge with the colonies.
- Lines 22–24 imply that Slater viewed child labor as
- an available workforce.
- a necessary evil.
- an unpleasant reality.
- an immoral institution.
- superior to adult labor.
- The author implies that the catalyst (line 26) behind the spread of American textile mills in the early 1800s was
- Slater's invention of a water-powered spinning machine.
- the decline in the ideal of the self-sufficient American farm family.
- the expertise of the workforce trained in Slater's prototype mill.
- an increased willingness to employ child laborers.
- the support of British manufacturers who owned stock in American mills.
- In line 29, modeled most nearly means
- Which of the following techniques is used in the last paragraph of the passage (lines 40–49)?
- explanation of terms
- description of consensus reached by historians
- contrast of different viewpoints
- generalized statement
- illustration by example
Question 17–24 are based on the following passage.
The following passage describes the Great Depression and the relief policies introduced under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt that aimed to mitigate the effects of the crisis.
The worst and longest economic crisis in the modern industrial world, the Great Depression in the United States had devastating consequences for American society. At its lowest depth (1932–33), more than 16 million people were unemployed, more than 5,000 banks had closed, and over 85,000 businesses had failed. Millions of Americans lost their jobs, their savings, and even their homes. The homeless built shacks for temporary shelter—these emerging shantytowns were nicknamed "Hoovervilles," a bitter homage to President Herbert Hoover, who refused to give government assistance to the jobless. Farmers were hit especially hard. A severe drought coupled with the economic crisis ruined small farms throughout the Great Plains as productive farmland turned to dust and crop prices dropped by 50%. The effects of the American depression—severe unemployment rates and a sharp drop in the production and sales of goods could also be felt abroad, where many European nations were still struggling to recover from World War I.
Although the stock market crash of 1929 marked the onset of the depression, it was not the cause of it: deep underlying fissures already existed in the economy of America's Roaring Twenties. For example, the tariff and war-debt policies after World War I contributed to the instability of the banking system. American banks made loans to European countries following World War I. However, the United States kept high tariffs on goods imported from other nations. These policies worked against one another: If other countries could not sell goods in the United States, they could not make enough money to pay back their loans or to buy American goods.
And while the United States seemed to be enjoying a prosperous period in the 1920s, the wealth was not evenly distributed. Businesses made gains in productivity, but only one segment of the population—the wealthy—reaped large profits. Workers received only a small share of the wealth they helped produce. At the same time, Americans spent more than they earned. Advertising encouraged Americans to buy cars, radios, and household appliances instead of saving or purchasing only what they could afford. Easy credit polices allowed consumers to borrow money and accumulate debt. Investors also wildly speculated on the stock market, often borrowing money on credit to buy shares of a company. Stocks increased beyond their worth, but investors were willing to pay inflated prices because they believed stocks would continue to rise. This bubble burst in the fall of 1929, when investors lost confidence that stock prices would keep rising. As investors sold off stocks, the market spiraled downward. The stock market crash affected the economy in the same way that a stressful event can affect the human body, lowering its resistance to infection.
The ensuing depression led to the election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. Roosevelt introduced relief measures that would revive the economy and bring needed relief to Americans who were suffering the effects of the depression. In his first hundred days in office, Roosevelt and Congress passed major legislation that saved banks from closing and regained public confidence. These measures, called the New Deal, included the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which paid farmers to slow their production in order to stabilize food prices; the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which insured bank deposits in the case that banks fail; and the Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulated the stock market. Although the New Deal offered relief, it did not end the depression. The economy sagged until the nation entered World War II. However, the New Deal changed the relationship between government and American citizens, by expanding the role of the central government in regulating the economy and creating social assistance programs.
- The author's main point about the Great Depression is that
- government policies had nothing to do with it.
- the government immediately stepped in with assistance for the jobless and homeless.
- underlying problems in the economy preceded it.
- the New Deal policies introduced by Franklin D. Roosevelt ended it.
- its effects were severe but not far-reaching.
- The passage is best described as
- an account of the causes and effects of a major event.
- a statement supporting the value of federal social policies.
- a condemnation of outdated beliefs.
- a polite response to a controversial issue.
- a comparison of economic conditions in the 1930s and that of today.
- The author cites the emergence of "Hoovervilles" (line 8) as an example of
- federally sponsored housing programs.
- the resilience of Americans who lost their jobs, savings, and homes.
- the government's unwillingness to assist citizens in desperate circumstances.
- a new paradigm of "safety net" social programs introduced by the government.
- the effectiveness of the Hoover administration in dealing with the crisis.
- In line 10, coupled most nearly means
- The term policies as it is used in lines 23–24 most nearly means
- The passage suggests that the 1920s was a decade that extolled the value of
- The example of the human body as a metaphor for the economy (lines 41–43) suggests that
- a stressful event like the stock market crash of 1929 probably made a lot of people sick.
- the crash weakened the economy's ability to withstand other pressures.
- the crash was an untreatable disease.
- a single event caused the collapse of the economy.
- there is no way to "diagnose" the factors that led to the depression.
- The content of the last paragraph of the passage (lines 44–59) would most likely support which of the following statements?
- The New Deal policies were not radical enough in challenging capitalism.
- The economic policies of the New Deal brought about a complete business recovery.
- The Agricultural Adjustment Act paid farmers to produce surplus crops.
- The federal government became more involved in caring for needy members of society.
- The New Deal measures went too far in turning the country toward socialism.
- b. The first paragraph introduces the passage's thesis and gives an overview about who emigrated to California and why they came.
- b. The passage provides a historical overview supported by facts and interpreted by the author. The author's opinion is evidenced in the last sentence of the passage (lines 48–49): a testimony to their outstanding achievements and contributions.
- c. Line 15 states that the Chinese immigrants proved to be productive and resourceful. Lines 46 and 47 praises their speed, dexterity, and outright perseverance.
- e. The passage states that at the time, the U.S. Constitution reserved the right of naturalization for white immigrants, excluding Chinese immigrants. Chinese immigrants could become citizens, depending on the whim (line 25) of local governments.
- c. Enterprise means an undertaking that is especially risky. It could also mean a unit of economic organization. In this instance, industry fits best within the context.
- d. Chinese immigrants faced discriminatory laws that made them unable to own land or file mining claims (lines 27 and 28).
- a. One meaning of reclaim is to reform or protest improper conduct. Other meanings are to rescue from an undesirable state, or to make something available for human use—this definition applies to the context.
- a. The last sentence provides an example (Chinese immigrants performing hazardous railroad work in brutal conditions) that supports the general thesis of the passage—that Chinese immigrants made major contributions to opening up the West (line 49).
- d. The passage describes the introduction of British cotton technology to America (line 15), specifically to New England.
- b. The passage mentions the Houses of Industry in Boston and Philadelphia (line 5) as an example of the association of cloth manufacturing with relief of the poor (lines 6–7).
- b. The mounting conflict between the colonies and England described in line 1 suggests that America had political and/or economic reasons for developing its own textile industry.
- a. The description of Samuel Slater's immigration to America shows the deceptive measures necessary to evade British export laws and introduce cotton technology to the colonies. Slater posed as a farmer in order to emigrate to America and committed to memory (line 20) the cotton technology he learned in English factory.
- a. The author does not offer Slater's personal viewpoint on child labor, only the fact that Slater hired nine children between the ages of seven and twelve (line 23) to work in his Rhode Island mill.
- c. According to the passage, the knowledge and training acquired in Slater's mill of a generation of millwrights and textile workers (line 25) provided the catalyst for the spread of cotton mills in New England.
- e. One meaning of to model is to display by means of wearing, using, or posing. In this context, to model means to construct or fashion after a pattern.
- c. The author offers a contrast of different viewpoints exemplified by the philosophy of Thomas Jefferson, who supported a republic whose heart was the independent, democratic farmer (lines 43–44) and that of Alexander Hamilton, who promoted manufacturing (line 46) and industrial development.
- c. According to the passage, deep underlying fissures that already existed in the economy (lines 18–19) led to the Great Depression.
- a. The passage is primarily an account that describes the causative factors (for example, tariff and war-debt policies, disproportionate wealth, and the accumulation of debt) that led to the depression and its effects (for example, business failures, bank closings, homelessness, federal relief programs).
- c. Lines 7–8 state that shantytowns were called "Hoovervilles" because citizens blamed their plight on the Hoover administration's refusal to offer assistance. Choice b may be true, but the passage does not directly support this claim.
- d. In this context, coupled means to join for combined effect.
- b. Although policies can refer to regulations or laws (choice c) or guiding principles or theories (choice a), in this context policy refers to a course or method of action of a government or business intended to influence decisions or actions. Choice b is the only selection that implies action.
- e. The passage describes the decade as one in which spending won out over prudent measures like saving (lines 31–32). The wild stock market speculation described in lines 35–37 is another example of the exuberant decade.
- b. The analogy depicts the stock market crash of 1929 as a weakening agent to the economy (the way a stressful event may weaken the body's resistance to illness), not as the sole cause of the depression.
- d. Lines 56–59 state that the New Deal expanded the role of the central government in regulating the economy and creating social assistance programs. Choices b and c are incorrect and choices a and e require an opinion; the author does not offer his or her viewpoint about the New Deal measures.
For more practice on U.S. history and politics critical reading questions, review:
- U.S. History and Politics Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 1
- U.S. History and Politics Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 2 You are here
- U.S. History and Politics Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 3
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