• 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.

  • The Election of Barack Obama 44th President of the United States

    Barack Hussein Obama, 44th President of the United States (2009 to present).

    In this lesson, students put Barack Obama’s election as the first African American President of the United States in historical context by studying two of his speeches and reviewing some of the history of African American voting rights.

  • Lesson 3: Abraham Lincoln and Wartime Politics

    Created July 17, 2010
    The re-election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency in 1864

    This lesson will look at the partisan political issues which emerged in the election of 1864 around Abraham Lincoln's role as a wartime president. Through an examination of primary documents, students will focus on Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus, the Emancipation Proclamation, his decision to arm the freed slaves, his refusal to accept a compromise peace with the South, and the election of 1864.

  • Lesson 1: On the Eve of War: North vs. South

    Created July 17, 2010
    A Confederate artillery battery at Charleston, South Carolina

    This lesson will examine the economic, military and diplomatic strengths and weaknesses of the North and South on the eve of the Civil War. In making these comparisons students will use maps and read original documents to decide which side, if any, had an overall advantage at the start of the war.

  • Lesson 2: The First Inaugural Address (1861)—Defending the American Union

    Photo of Lincoln’s first Inauguration, March 4, 1861. The Nation was on the  brink of war.

    Abraham Lincoln felt that the attempt of seven states to leave the American union peacefully was, in fact, a total violation of law and order. This lesson will examine Lincoln's First Inaugural Address to understand why he thought his duty as president required him to treat secession as an act of rebellion and not a legitimate legal or constitutional action by disgruntled states.

  • "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.

  • Lesson 3: The Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854: Popular Sovereignty and the Political Polarization over Slavery

    Stephen A. Douglas

    Popular sovereignty allowed the settlers of a federal territory to decide the slavery question without interference from Congress. This lesson plan will examine how the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 affected the political balance between free and slave states and explore how its author, Stephen Douglas, promoted its policy of popular sovereignty in an effort to avoid a national crisis over slavery in the federal territories.

  • 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 Battle Over Reconstruction: The Politics of Reconstruction

    Abolitionist Frederick Douglass

    In reviewing events, documentary evidence, and biographical information, students come to understand the complex nature of political decision-making in the United States. In this lesson, they consider the momentous questions facing the country during the Reconstruction debate by weighing the many factors that went into the solutions offered. Students also think critically as they consider whether and how other solutions might have played out.

    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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    The Unit

    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 students need practice in analyzing primary source documents, excellent resource materials are available at this page from the Library of Congress and this page from the National Archives.

    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 > U.S. > Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Civil Rights
    • History and Social Studies > People > Other
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Economic Transformation
    • 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