Advanced Placement United States History content
  • Lesson 2: Religion and the Argument for American Independence

    Pastor Jonathan Mayhew of Boston

    Using primary documents, this lesson aims to introduce students to how the American revolutionaries employed religion in their arguments for independence.

  • Common Sense: The Rhetoric of Popular Democracy

    Thomas Paine

    This lesson looks at Thomas Paine and at some of the ideas presented in his pamphlet Common Sense, such as national unity, natural rights, the illegitimacy of the monarchy and of hereditary aristocracy, and the necessity for independence and the revolutionary struggle.

  • The Declaration of Independence: "An Expression of the American Mind"

    The Declaration of Independence, original document.

    This lesson plan looks at the major ideas in the Declaration of Independence, their origins, the Americans’ key grievances against the King and Parliament, their assertion of sovereignty, and the Declaration’s process of revision. Upon completion of the lesson, students will be familiar with the document’s origins, and the influences that produced Jefferson’s “expression of the American mind.”

  • Lesson 2: The Battles of the Civil War

    Created July 17, 2010
    "A Harvest of Death."

    Through the use of maps and original documents, this lesson will focus on the key battles of the Civil War, Gettysburg and Vicksburg and show how the battles contributed to its outcome. It will also examine the "total war" strategy of General Sherman, and the role of naval warfare in bringing about a Union victory.

  • Lesson 3: The Gettysburg Address (1863)—Defining the American Union

    Photo of Lincoln at Gettysburg dedication. Lincoln is highlighted in this image  in the middle of the crowd at the dais.

    This lesson will examine the most famous speech in American history to understand how Lincoln turned a perfunctory eulogy at a cemetery dedication into a concise and profound meditation on the meaning of the Civil War and American union.

  • Lesson 1: Fragment on the Constitution and Union (1861)—The Purpose of the American Union

    Library of  Congress image of 1860 campaign illustration of Republican nominee Abraham Lincoln

    How did Abraham Lincoln understand the relationship between principles of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution? In this lesson students will examine Lincoln's "Fragment on the Constitution and Union" a brief but insightful reflection on the importance of the ideal of individual liberty to the constitutional structure and operation of the American union written in the last days of December 1860 when his election as president had brought the crisis of the American "house divided" to a head.

  • Lesson 1: Anti-federalist Arguments Against "A Complete Consolidation"

    Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794)

    This lesson focuses on the chief objections of the Anti-federalists, especially The Federal Farmer (Richard Henry Lee), Centinel, and Brutus, regarding the extended republic. Students become familiar with the larger issues surrounding this debate, including the nature of the American Union, the difficulties of uniting such a vast territory with a diverse multitude of regional interests, and the challenges of maintaining a free republic as the American people moved toward becoming a nation rather than a mere confederation of individual states.

    Lesson Plans: Grades 6-8
    Curriculum Unit

    Life in the North and South 1847–1861: Before Brother Fought Brother (5 Lessons)

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    The Unit

    Overview

    More Americans lost their lives in the Civil War than in any other conflict. How did the United States arrive at a point at which the South seceded and some families were so fractured that brother fought brother?

    A complex series of events led to the Civil War. The lessons in this unit are designed to help students develop a foundation on which to understand the basic disagreements between North and South. Through the investigation of primary source documents —photographs, census information and other archival documents—students gain an appreciation of everyday life in the North and South, changes occurring in the lives of ordinary Americans, and some of the major social and economic issues of the years before the Civil War.

    Guiding Questions

    • What differences existed between ordinary Americans living in the North and those living in the South in the years before the Civil War?
    • What important issues are reflected in the differences between life in the North and the South?
    • What kinds of changes were taking place in the United States at the time?

    Learning Objectives

    • List three differences and three similarities between life in the North and the South in the years before the Civil War.
    • Discuss how these differences contributed to serious disagreements between the North and South.

    Preparation Instructions

    The Civil War erupted after a long history of compromises and sectional debates over representation, federalism, tariffs and territories. Though many of the political differences are beyond the scope of the intermediate curriculum, students can use their analysis of archival documents to begin to appreciate the differences between the North and South and the changes afoot in the United States that contributed to the developing conflict.

    Before you begin to teach this unit, review the suggested activities and familiarize yourself with the websites involved. Select, download and duplicate, as necessary, any documents you want the class to use.

    For the census activity in Lesson 3, either the teacher or students will need to keep a calculator at hand.

    You may wish to provide students with a copy of the Document Analysis Worksheet, available through the EDSITEment resource The Digital Classroom, to guide them as they review the documents in this unit.

    The purpose of this lesson is to prepare students with background information for understanding the causes of the Civil War. You can find information on the causes of the Civil War, accessible through a link from the EDSITEment resource The Internet Public Library.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    6-8

    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > People > African American
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > AP US History
    • History and Social Studies
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Civil Rights
    • History and Social Studies > Place > The Americas
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Demographic Changes
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
    • History and Social Studies > World > The Modern World (1500 CE-Present)
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Economic Transformation
    • History and Social Studies > People > Other
    • History and Social Studies > People > Women
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Politics and Citizenship
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Slavery
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
    Skills
    • Compare and contrast
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Debate
    • Discussion
    • Evaluating arguments
    • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
    • Textual analysis
    • Using primary sources
    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    The Federalist and Anti-federalist Debates on Diversity and the Extended Republic (2 Lessons)

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    Overview

    In September of 1787, the delegates to the Convention in Philadelphia presented their work to the American public for ratification. The proposed Constitution marked a clear departure from the Articles of Confederation, which had essentially established a federal “league of friendship” between thirteen sovereign and largely independent states. Under the newly proposed plan of government, the union between the states would be strengthened under a national government that derived its authority—at least in part—directly from the American people rather than purely from the state legislatures. And under the new Constitution, the people would be represented equally in the House, regardless of the state in which they lived—unlike the Articles of Confederation, according to which the Continental Congress equally represented the states. In other words, the proposed Constitution would make the United States a nation of one people rather than a loose confederation of states.

    The proposed Constitution, and the change it wrought in the nature of the American Union, spawned one of the greatest political debates of all time. In addition to the state ratifying conventions, the debates also took the form of a public conversation, mostly through newspaper editorials, with Anti-federalists on one side objecting to the Constitution, and Federalists on the other supporting it. Writers from both sides tried to persuade the public that precious liberty and self-government, hard-earned during the late Revolution, were at stake in the question.

    Anti-federalists such as the Federal Farmer, Centinel, and Brutus argued that the new Constitution would eventually lead to the dissolution of the state governments, the consolidation of the Union into “one great republic” under an unchecked national government, and as a result the loss of free, self-government. Brutus especially believed that in such an extensive and diverse nation, nothing short of despotism “could bind so great a country under one government.” Federalists such as James Madison (writing as Publius) countered that it was precisely a large nation, in conjunction with a well-constructed system of government, which would help to counter the “mortal disease” of popular governments: the “dangerous vice” of majority faction. In an extended republic, interests would be multiplied, Madison argued, making it difficult for a majority animated by one interest to unite and oppress the minority. If such a faction did form, a frame of government that included “auxiliary precautions” such as separation of powers and legislative checks and balances would help to prevent the “factious spirit” from introducing “instability, injustice, and confusion … into the public councils.”

    In this unit, students will examine the arguments of Anti-federalists against and Federalists for the extended republic that would result from the new Constitution. They will become familiar with some of the greatest thinkers on both sides of the argument and their reasons for opposing or supporting the Constitution. They will learn why Anti-federalists believed that a large nation could not long preserve liberty and self-government. They will also learn why Federalists such as James Madison believed that a large nation was vital to promote justice and the security of rights for all citizens, majority and minority alike. Finally, students will see the seriousness of the question as one that both sides believed would determine the happiness, liberty, and safety of future generations of Americans.

    Guiding Questions

    • What are the merits of the Anti-federalist argument that an extended republic will lead to the destruction of liberty and self-government?
    • Was James Madison correct when he claimed that a republican government over an extended territory was necessary to both preserve the Union and secure the rights of citizens?

    Learning Objectives

    • Understand what Anti-federalists meant by the terms “extended republic” or “consolidated republic.”
    • Articulate the problems the Anti-federalists believed would arise from extending the republic over a vast territory.
    • Better understand the nature and purpose of representation, and why, according to Anti-federalists, it would not be successful in a large nation.
    • Explain why Anti-federalists believed that eventually the extended republic would result in rebellion or tyranny.
    • Articulate how the problem of representation in a large republic would lead to abuse of power by those in national office or the use of force to execute the laws.
    • Explain why a great diversity of interests in a large republic was an obstacle, according to Anti-federalists, to uniting Americans together as one nation.
    • Articulate the arguments of Federalists Alexander Hamilton and James Madison in favor of a large or “extended” republic.
    • Understand why the Federalists believed that faction – especially majority faction – is so dangerous in popular forms of government.
    • Understand the Federalist argument about the beneficial effects of a large republic by multiplying the number of diverse interests within the United States, and how this especially helps to control the effects of faction.
    • Articulate the difference between a “pure democracy” and a representative republic, and which of these James Madison considered best for the American people.
    • Have a working knowledge of the Federalist belief that multiplying interests over a large republic, combined with the constitutional separation of powers, makes it difficult for government to pass factious laws that deprive the minority of their rights.

    Preparation Instructions

    Review each lesson plan. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and links from EDSITEment-reviewed websites. Download and print out selected documents and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing.

    • Text Document for Lesson 1, Activity 1
    • Text Document for Lesson 1, Activity 2
    • Text Document for Lesson 2, Activity 1
    • Text Document for Lesson 2, Activity 2

    These Text Documents contain excerpted versions of the documents used in the activities, as well as questions for students to answer.

    Analyzing primary sources:
    If your students lack experience in dealing with primary sources, you might use one or more preliminary exercises to help them develop these skills. The Learning Page at the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress includes a set of such activities. Another useful resource is the Digital Classroom of the National Archives, which features a set of Document Analysis Worksheets.

    The Lessons

    • Lesson 1: Anti-federalist Arguments Against "A Complete Consolidation"

      Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794)

      This lesson focuses on the chief objections of the Anti-federalists, especially The Federal Farmer (Richard Henry Lee), Centinel, and Brutus, regarding the extended republic. Students become familiar with the larger issues surrounding this debate, including the nature of the American Union, the difficulties of uniting such a vast territory with a diverse multitude of regional interests, and the challenges of maintaining a free republic as the American people moved toward becoming a nation rather than a mere confederation of individual states.

    • Lesson 2: The Federalist Defense of Diversity and "Extending the Sphere"

      Alexander Hamilton was pro-federalist, and authored a number of the papers.

      This lesson involves a detailed analysis of Alexander Hamilton’s and James Madison’s arguments in favor of the extended republic in The Federalist Nos. 9, 10 and 51. Students consider and understand in greater depth the problem of faction in a free republic and the difficulty of establishing a government that has enough power to fulfill its responsibilities, but which will not abuse that power and infringe on liberties of citizens.

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > AP US History
    • History and Social Studies
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Civil Rights
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Economic Transformation
    • History and Social Studies > People > Other
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Politics and Citizenship
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Religion
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
    Skills
    • Compare and contrast
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Debate
    • Discussion
    • Evaluating arguments
    • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Textual analysis
    • Using primary sources
    • Vocabulary
    • Writing skills
    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    What Made George Washington a Good Military Leader? (4 Lessons)

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    The Unit

    Overview

    …tactics…is only a small part of generalship. For a general must also be capable of furnishing military equipment and providing supplies for the men; he must be resourceful, active, careful, hardy and quick-witted; he must be both gentle and brutal, at once straightforward and designing, capable of both caution and surprise, lavish and rapacious, generous and mean, skilful in defense and attack; and there are many other qualifications, some natural, some acquired, that are necessary to one who would succeed as a general.

    —Attributed to Socrates in The Memorabilia (3.1.5-3.1.6) by Xenophon on the EDSITEment resource The Perseus Digital Library

    I cannot insist too strongly how I was surprised by the American Army. It is truly incredible that troops almost naked, poorly paid, and composed of old men and children and Negroes should behave so well on the march and under fire. —Attributed to a French Officer in George Washington: Life Before the Presidency on the EDSITEment-reviewed website The American President

    George Washington's early military career (1754-1758)—during the Seven Years' War—was not uniformly successful. In his first battle, he and his men were ambushed and forced to surrender Fort Necessity on the Pennsylvania frontier. Washington's reputation for leadership and courage was based on his actions in another defeat at the hands of the French. In that battle, at Fort Duquesne (1755, often called the "Battle of the Wilderness" or "Braddock's Defeat"), Washington had two horses shot from under him and eventually had to assume command from the mortally wounded General Edward Braddock. Washington led the surviving British and Colonial soldiers on a successful retreat.

    Later (1775-1783), Washington would lead the Patriots to a surprising victory over Great Britain, "…the best-trained, best-equipped fighting force in the Western world. …Although he lost most of his battles with the British, year after year he held his ragtag, hungry army together"—from the EDSITEment resource The American President.

    What combination of experience, strategy, and personal characteristics enabled Washington to succeed as a military leader?

    In this unit, students will read the Continental Congress's resolutions granting powers to General Washington; analyze some of Washington's wartime orders, dispatches, and correspondence in terms of his mission and the characteristics of a good general; and study—with frequent reference to primary material—four battles. In the final lesson in the unit, students will take one last measure of Washington. They will examine his words in response to a proposal that he become the head of a military dictatorship and a movement among some disaffected soldiers to circumvent civilian authority.

    Guiding Questions

    • What qualities made George Washington an effective military leader? These qualities should be reflected in discussions of the following:
      • What was Washington's military background before the American Revolution?
      • What was Washington's approach to military discipline?
      • What was Washington's basic strategy for defeating the British?
      • What were some specific tactics Washington employed in battle?
      • How important was Washington's personal charisma to the success of the Patriots?
    • How were the responsibilities of the Commander-in-Chief affected by conditions during the Revolutionary War?
    • How did Washington's responses to these challenges demonstrate his ability to handle a wide range of problems? These conditions included:
      • The uneasy relationship between civil authorities and the military, including the inability of the military or the Continental Congress to compel individual states to assist the war effort.
      • The advantages of fighting on home soil.
      • The problem of keeping troops supplied.
      • The presence of many colonists loyal to the British crown.
      • The difficulty of defeating the powerful British.

    Learning Objectives

    • List qualities they believe made George Washington an effective military leader.
    • List some practical lessons Washington may have learned from his early military experiences.
    • Discuss some difficulties Washington faced as Commander-in-Chief.
    • Discuss how Washington responded to the difficulties he faced as the leader of the Continental Army.
    • Give examples of Washington's leadership during one or more Revolutionary War battles.
    • Summarize briefly the Newburgh Conspiracy.
    • Describe Washington's response to the Newburgh Conspiracy.

    Preparation Instructions

    • Review the lesson plan. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and other useful websites. Download and print out documents you will use and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing.
    • Download the Master PDF. Print out and make an appropriate number of copies of any handouts you plan to use in class.
    • For a general introduction to George Washington, the man, read The Surprising George Washington by Richard Norton Smith from Prologue Online Magazine, Spring 1994, Vol. 26, No. 1, available on the EDSITEment resource Digital Classroom. For a condensed but complete summary of the life and achievements of George Washington, read the complete entry for George Washington on the EDSITEment-reviewed website The American President.
    • For background on the nature of the Revolutionary War, read the essay The Wars of the American Revolution on Liberty! The American Revolution, a link from the EDSITEment resource American Memory. You may wish to have students read this essay as well, particularly if they have not had recent background on the Revolutionary War.
    • The qualities that make anyone an effective leader, military or otherwise, are difficult to pinpoint. Washington's many leadership successes commanding the Continental Army, heading the Constitutional Convention, and serving as President of the United States make him an obvious choice as a subject for analysis. But there is no comprehensive list of Washington's leadership qualities to use as a standard to evaluate student responses. The process of historical research is at the center of this unit. Students will benefit in other ways as well. In scrutinizing the challenges Washington faced, they will better understand the Revolutionary War, especially the problems faced by the Patriots.
    • In this unit, students read and analyze a variety of primary documents. The following materials from EDSITEment resources may be useful to teachers seeking advice on the use of primary documents:

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > AP US History
    • History and Social Studies
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)
    • History and Social Studies > Place > The Americas
    • Literature and Language Arts > Place > Modern World
    • History and Social Studies > World > The Modern World (1500 CE-Present)
    • History and Social Studies > People > Other
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > War and Foreign Policy
    Skills
    • Compare and contrast
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Debate
    • Discussion
    • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Map Skills
    • Using primary sources