Advanced Placement United States History content
  • 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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    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
    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    The Campaign of 1840: William Henry Harrison and Tyler, Too (3 Lessons)

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    The Unit

    Overview

    After the debacle of the one-party presidential campaign of 1824, a new two-party system began to emerge. Strong public reaction to perceived corruption in the vote in the House of Representatives, as well as the popularity of Andrew Jackson, allowed Martin Van Buren to organize a Democratic Party that resurrected a Jeffersonian philosophy of minimalism in the federal government. This new party opposed the tendencies of National Republicans such as John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay to invest more power in the federal government. Van Buren built a political machine to support Jackson in the 1828 election. Van Buren's skills helped give the Democrats a head start on modern-style campaigning and a clear advantage in organization. The Democrats and Jackson defeated the National Republicans in 1828 and 1832 and maintained their hold on the presidency when they bested the Whigs—a union of former National Republicans, Antimasons, and some states' rights advocates—in 1836. But a major economic depression in 1837 finally gave the Whigs their best chance to occupy the White House. They faced Andrew Jackson's political organizer, vice president, and handpicked successor, President Martin Van Buren, vying for a second term in the midst of hard times.

    As they prepared for the election of 1840, both Democrats and Whigs were organized for campaigning on a national scale. In an election that would turn out an astounding 80 percent of a greatly expanded electorate, campaigners sought to appeal to a wide range of voters in a variety of voting blocks. The contest between Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison marked the first truly modern presidential campaign, with methods today's students are sure to recognize.

    Lessons in this unit allow students to become familiar with the issues and personalities and to review an assortment of primary documents. As students analyze them, they reflect on the presidential campaign of 1840. How was it conducted? What was the role of campaign advertising? How crucial were issues to the election of William Henry Harrison? How crucial was image?

    Guiding Questions

    • What issues were important to the presidential campaign of 1840?
    • In what ways was the campaign about issues? In what way was it about image?
    • What in William Henry Harrison's background made him the choice of the Whig Party in 1840?
    • How did the Whigs promote Harrison's image in 1840?
    • In what ways did Harrison's background correspond with or contradict his image?
    • What made Martin Van Buren the choice of the Democratic Party in 1836?
    • How did the Democrats promote Martin Van Buren's image?
    • In what ways did Van Buren's background correspond with or contradict that image?
    • Why is the campaign of 1840 often cited as the first modern campaign?

    Learning Objectives

    • List some issues important during the campaign of 1840.
    • Compare and contrast the careers of Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison before they became president.
    • Explain why the Whigs wanted to find a candidate in the mold of former president Andrew Jackson.
    • Discuss the ways in which Harrison did and did not fit the mold.
    • Identify some basic differences between the Democrats and Whigs.
    • Discuss the use of visual images in the 1840 campaign.
    • Take a stand as to whether the campaign of 1840 was based more on substance or image.

    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.
    • Links to graphics on the EDSITEment resource American Memory, which are used throughout this lesson, lead to a page with a low-resolution image and links to bibliographic material and higher-resolution images.
    • Andrew Jackson's enormous popularity greatly contributed to the ability of the newly constituted Democratic Party to win three consecutive terms in the White House (1828, 1832, 1836). There are many similarities between Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison, a fact that did not escape the notice of those who backed Harrison's candidacy. Both Jackson and Harrison acquired national reputations as war heroes. Both, at one time or another, embraced the contradictory goals of fair treatment of American Indians and the acquisition by the U.S. of land from the American Indians. Both men led troops in important victories in the War of 1812. Though Jackson was the first presidential candidate to use a variety of campaign novelties such as buttons, posters, flasks, matchboxes, and mugs, Harrison's campaign took such promotion to new heights. Harrison won election by a wide margin in a year when about 80 percent of eligible voters went to the polls.

      Additional information may be found in the document "Background for the Teacher" (see  Pages 1-4 of the Master PDF), and in the introduction to each lesson below.
    • Students will learn about the careers of Jackson, Harrison, and Martin Van Buren, when they read the following essays on the EDSITEment reviewed website The American President: NOTE: The section of The American President about William Henry Harrison is accompanied by an essay entitled A Manufactured Hero (From Philip Kunhardt, Jr., et. al., The American President [New York: Riverhead Books, 1999], pp. 18-23). It raises many questions that were the impetus for this lesson. What would it mean to manufacture a hero? Were Jackson and Harrison truly heroes in their time? Would their deeds be considered heroic today? Were either Jackson or Harrison manufactured heroes? How were the similarities and differences between Jackson and Harrison reflected in the content and conduct of the campaign of 1840? How were issues and image used to promote Harrison (and, to a lesser extent, Van Buren)? Was the campaign of 1840 focused more on image or substance? In what ways? Why?
    • For background on prior presidential election history, consult two complementary EDSITEment curriculum units. The Election Is in the House: The Presidential Election of 1824 reviews the several serious contenders for president, all claiming allegiance to the Democratic-Republican Party. It also covers the vote in the House of Representatives after no contender received a majority of electoral votes. Students are given the opportunity to reflect on the corruption claims of Andrew Jackson's supporters and how historians gather evidence and draw conclusions. The expansion of the electorate and the contest of 1828 are covered in The 1828 Campaign of Andrew Jackson and the Growth of Party Politics. In this unit, students study the personalities and issues in the election of 1828, and analyze statistics reflecting voting participation rates from 1824 to 1836 and voting results in 1828 to gauge the impact of both the new trends in the electorate and the candidacy of Andrew Jackson.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > AP US History
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Culture
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
    • History and Social Studies > People > Other
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Immigration/Migration
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Politics and Citizenship
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
    Skills
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Discussion
    • Evaluating arguments
    • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Using primary sources
    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    James Madison: From Father of the Constitution to President (4 Lessons)

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    The Unit

    Overview

    Q. Who was called the "Father of the Constitution"? A. James Madison, of Virginia, because in point of erudition and actual contributions to the formation of the Constitution, he was preeminent.
    —From Constitution Q and A on the EDSITEment resource Digital Classroom

    …if the letter of the Constitution is strictly adhered to, and if no flexibility is allowed, no power could be exercised by Congress, and all the good that might be reasonably expected from an efficient government would be entirely frustrated.
    — James Madison, February 2, 1791, from James Madison Debates the Constitutionality of a National Bank on The James Madison Center, a link from the EDSITEment-reviewed website The American President

    The Framers gave us a document durable and flexible enough to take us from the agrarian land of the 18th century, of the musket, the axe and the plow-to the country we know today, of the Internet and the human genome and a thousand different cultures living together in one nation like a glittering mosaic.
    —Michael Beschloss at the ceremony to unveil page two of the Constitution in its new encasement, September 15, 2000, in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building, Washington, D.C. (available on the EDSITEment resource Digital Classroom)

    Even in its first 30 years of existence, the U.S. Constitution had to prove its durability and flexibility in a variety of disputes. More often than not, James Madison, the "Father of the Constitution," took part in the discussion. Madison had been present at the document's birth as the mastermind behind the so-called Virginia Plan. He had worked tirelessly for its ratification including authoring 29 Federalist Papers, and he continued to be a concerned guardian of the Constitution as it matured. However, it should be noted that Madison chose not to allow his notes from the Constitutional Convention to be published until after his death,

    In the early years of the Republic, Madison held a variety of offices, both appointed and elected. At other times, he was part of the loyal opposition. Both in office and out, he played an important role in the continuing debate [stet]. Virtually every important event was precedent-setting, raising crucial questions about how the constitution should be interpreted and implemented. How should the Constitution be applied to situations not specified in the text? How can balance be achieved between the power of the states and that of the federal government? How can a balance of power be achieved among the three branches of the federal government? In this curriculum unit, Madison's words will help students understand the constitutional issues involved in some controversies that arose during Madison's presidency.

    Guiding Questions

    • How was Madison involved in the creation and implementation of the Constitution?
    • What events during Madison's presidency raised constitutional questions?
    • What were the constitutional issues that arose during his presidency?
    • What positions did Madison take on each of these issues?
    • Did his thinking evolve and, if so, what factors influenced his thinking and actions?

    Learning Objectives

    • List reasons why Madison is called the "Father of the Constitution."
    • Summarize three significant issues during Madison's presidency that raised constitutional questions.
    • Explain the constitutional questions raised by these events.
    • Discuss Madison's opinions on the constitutional questions.

    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.
    • In Lesson One, a graphic organizer helps students see how involved James Madison was in the major events of his time. Though the lesson can stand alone, it works to demonstrate Madison's importance and to show why his opinions are so central to understanding the on-going process of creating a working democracy based on the Constitution. EDSITEment offers the following complementary lessons you may want to use in part or whole:
    • Lesson One helps students see that James Madison had connections to many of the important events of the day. Among other things, he:
      • served in the Continental Congress before and while the Articles of Confederation were in effect;
      • conceived the Virginia Plan, which became the foundation of the Constitution;
      • worked to get the Constitution ratified (by writing many Federalist Papers, for example);
      • became the principal author of the Bill of Rights while serving in the House of Representatives;
      • served as Secretary of State during Jefferson's administrations;
      • as Secretary of State, supported Jefferson with the Louisiana Purchase;
      • co-founded the Democratic-Republican Party, which favored a strict interpretation of the Constitution and less power for the central government;
      • raised serious objections to the Alien and Sedition Acts in the Virginia Resolutions and elsewhere;
      • served as President during the War of 1812;
      • signed the act establishing the Second National Bank;
      • supported internal improvements, such as the Cumberland Road and the Erie Canal, but felt there should be a constitutional amendment making it clear that the central government had the authority to raise money for and administer such projects.

        The focus here is not an in-depth understanding of the specifics (such as the Virginia Resolutions), though many of those issues are covered in the related EDSITEment lessons listed above. This lesson asks students to understand how the Constitution has been applied and to appreciate the depth of Madison's involvement with that document and many controversies surrounding its interpretation.
    • There are a variety of ways in which this curriculum unit can be used. Lessons Two, Three, and Four each deal with a single event during Madison's presidency that raised constitutional questions—the chartering of the Second National Bank, the raising of an army for the War of 1812, and the need for the country to make internal improvements. You can complete all three lessons in a whole-class setting. You might choose only one for your class as an example of constitutional interpretation. Each lesson strives to raise the level of student appreciation for the relevance of the Constitution to the events in Madison's presidency and the importance of Madison's opinions, even though he did not always prevail. Each event raises constitutional issues of interest. Another option is to split the class into three or six groups, each of which takes on Lessons Two, Three, and Four and then reports back to the class.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > AP US History
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Civil Rights
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)
    • History and Social Studies > People > Other
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Politics and Citizenship
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > War and Foreign Policy
    Skills
    • Compare and contrast
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Discussion
    • Evaluating arguments
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Textual analysis
    • Using archival documents
    • Using primary sources
    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    The American War for Independence (3 Lessons)

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    The Unit

    Overview

    The decision of Britain's North American colonies to rebel against the Mother Country was an extremely risky one. Although each colony had its own militia—of varying quality—there was no Continental Army until Congress created one, virtually from scratch, in 1775. This army, placed under the command of a Virginian named George Washington, would have the unenviable task of taking on the world's largest empire, with a first-rate army, supported by what was at the time the most formidable navy in history. Indeed, it was no doubt with these risks in mind that the Continental Congress waited until July 1776—more than a year after the outbreak of hostilities—to issue a formal Declaration of Independence.

    This is not to say that the Americans lacked advantages of their own. In order to fight the colonists the British had to maintain a large army on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean—over 3,000 miles away from home. Moreover, this army actually had to conquer an area much larger than Great Britain itself; the Continental Army, on the other hand, could win simply by preventing this from happening. Even so, the first years of war were difficult ones for the Americans, and ultimately it required substantial aid from France to bring the war to a successful conclusion.

    In this unit, consisting of three lesson plans, students will learn about the diplomatic and military aspects of the American War for Independence. Through an examination of original documents and an interactive map they will learn about the strategies employed by both sides, and how those strategies played out in reality. They will study the most important military engagements, both in the North and the South. Students will also become familiar with the critical assistance provided by France, as well as the ongoing negotiations between the Americans and Great Britain.

    Guiding Questions

    • What hardships and difficulties did the Continental army face in the early years of the war, and how were they able to sustain the war effort in spite of those challenges?
    • Why did the decision of the British leadership to move the war into the South prove unsuccessful?
    • How successful were the Americans in obtaining their goals in the Revolutionary War?

    Learning Objectives

    • Explain the significance of the battles of Lexington and Concord on both America and Great Britain.
    • List the expectations that the Continental Congress had of George Washington, and assess how well he met them.
    • Articulate the problems that the Continental Army faced during the early phase of the war.
    • Explain how Washington and his men turned the tide in the North in 1777-78.
    • Identify the most important military engagements and explain their significance.
    • List the major terms of the Franco-American alliance, and explain their importance to the cause of independence.
    • Identify the most important military engagements in the South and explain their significance for the outcome of the war.
    • Explain the role that African-Americans played in the southern phase of the war.
    • Describe the American peace feelers of 1775, and why the British rejected them.
    • Describe the British peace offers of 1776 and 1778, and why the Americans rejected them.
    • Explain why Britain was willing to grant American independence by 1782.
    • Articulate the main provisions of the 1783 Treaty of Paris.

    Preparation Instructions

    Review each lesson plan. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and links from EDSITEment-reviewed websites used in this lesson. Download and print out selected documents and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing. Alternatively, excerpted versions of these documents are available as part of the downloadable Text Document.

    Download the Text Document for this lesson, available here as a PDF. This file contains excerpted versions of the documents used in the various activities, as well as questions for students to answer. Print out and make an appropriate number of copies of the handouts you plan to use in class.

    Perhaps most importantly, study the interactive map that accompanies this lesson. This map will walk students through the major campaigns in the North (for the first lesson) and the South (for the second lesson). In addition, students can use this interactive to map the borders of the new United States of America, as determined in the 1783 Treaty of Paris.

    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. Finally, History Matters offers helpful pages on "Making Sense of Maps" and "Making Sense of Letters and Diaries" which gives helpful advice to teachers in getting their students to use such sources effectively.

    The Lessons

    • Lesson 1: The War in the North, 1775–1778

      George Washington in the uniform of the Continental Army, by Rembrandt  Peale.

      Lacking any organized army before 1775 (aside from local colonial militias), the Continental Congress had to assemble a more or less improvised fighting force that would be expected to take on the army of the world's largest empire. This lesson will trace events in the North from 1775 to 1778. By looking at documents of the time, and using an interactive map, students will see how an army was created and understand the challenges that Washington and his men faced during this critical early stage of the war.

    • Lesson 2: The War in the South, 1778–1781

      The battle of Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina, 1781.

      The failure to restore royal authority in the northern colonies, along with the signing of an alliance between the American rebels and the French monarchy, led the British to try an entirely new strategy in the southern colonies. This lesson will examine military operations during the second, or southern, phase of the American Revolution.

    • Lesson 3: Ending the War, 1783

      Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown.

      During the Revolutionary War there were several attempts made to end the fighting. In this lesson students will consider the various peace attempts made by both sides during the Revolutionary War.

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > AP US History
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)
    • History and Social Studies > People > Other
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Politics and Citizenship
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > War and Foreign Policy
    Skills
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Discussion
    • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Map Skills
    • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
    • Role-playing/Performance
    • Textual analysis
    • Using primary sources
    • Writing skills