Identify Unstated Assumptions

An assumption is something that is taken for granted and does not need an explanation.  Earlier the example of the “White House” speaking was given as an example for an unstated assumption.  The author made an unstated assumption that the reader knew that “White House” refers to the President and his administration.  In an unstated assumption the speaker or author believes that an explanation would be unnecessary.  When President Obama holds a press conference he does not introduce himself. He assumes that the public knows who he is.  It is not necessary for him to introduce himself every time he is in front of a camera.


Example

Lee Surrender

Excerpt from the Surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia
Appomattox Court House, Virginia April 10, 1865


Agreement entered into this day in regard to the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to the United States Authorities.
1st The troops shall march by Brigades and Detachments to a designated point, stock their Arms, deposit their flags, Sabres, Pistols, etc. and from thence march to their homes under charge of their Officers, superintended by their respective Division and Corps Commanders, Officers, retaining their side Arms, and the authorized number of private horses.
2. All public horses and public property of all kinds to be turned over to Staff Officers designated by the United States Authorities…
5. The surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia shall be construed to include all the forces operating with that Army ...1

In the text above there is no mention that the Army of Northern Virginia was part of the Confederacy. The authors did not believe it was necessary to explain that the Army of Northern Virginia was fighting for the Confederacy. They made an assumption that the reader would know that the Army of Northern Virginia was with the Confederacy.


Practice

Response to Danbury Baptist Association (January 1, 1802)
Thomas Jefferson
GENTLEMAN,
The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist Association, give me the highest satisfaction. My duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, and in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State.2


Which of the following is an unstated assumption made by President Jefferson?

“make no law respecting an establishment of religion” is a reference to the Bill of Rights and the 1st Amendment

2. He believes that religion is a matter that is between God and man
3. He believes that there is a wall of separation between church and state
4. The Danbury Baptist Association’s sentiments expressed towards Jefferson gave him satisfaction
5. Individuals owe account only God and none other for matters of faith and worship

Next

1http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=39

Lee Surrenders to Grant Image - http://www.nps.gov/archive/apco/surrend.htm

2http://millercenter.org/scripps/archive/speeches/detail/3473