• Lesson 3: The Monroe Doctrine: A Close Reading

    Thomas Jefferson played a role in the development of the so-called Monroe  Doctrine.

    To what events in United States and European foreign affairs does the Monroe Doctrine refer? What was the primary purpose behind the Monroe Doctrine?

  • Lesson 2: The Monroe Doctrine: President Monroe and the Independence Movement in South America

    An early portrait of James Monroe.

    How did conditions in Europe relate to the independence movements in South America? What reasons did President Monroe give for recognizing the independence movements in South America?

  • William Penn's Peaceable Kingdom

    William Penn, Founder of the English colony of Pennsylvania

    By juxtaposing the different promotional tracts of William Penn and David Pastorius, students will understand the ethnic diversity of Pennsylvania along with the “pull” factors of migration in the 17th century English colonies.

  • 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.

  • Pearl S. Buck: "On Discovering America"

    American author Pearl S. Buck spent most of her life in China. She returned to  the U.S. in 1934 and became an advocate for immigration.

    American author Pearl S. Buck spent most of her life in China. She returned to America in 1934, "an immigrant among immigrants…in my native land." In this lesson, students will explore American attitudes toward immigration in the 1930s through Pearl S. Buck's essay, "On Discovering America." They will explore the meaning of the term "American" in this context and look at how the media portrayed immigrants.

  • Images of the New World

    Detail of an engraving by Theodor De Bry (printed 1590)

    How did the English picture the native peoples of America during the early phases of colonization of North America? This lesson plan will enable students to interact with written and visual accounts of this critical formative period at the end of the 16th century, when the English view of the New World was being formulated, with consequences that we are still seeing today.

  • 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 4: The 1828 Campaign of Andrew Jackson: Issues in the Election of 1828 (and Beyond)

    Daguerrotype of Andrew Jackson late in life.

    How were party politics reflected in the campaign of 1828? What were the positions of the fledgling Democratic Party and its opposition?

  • Lesson 3: The 1828 Campaign of Andrew Jackson: Territorial Expansion and the Shift of Power

    President Andrew Jackson.

    By 1828, the United States had changed greatly, though it was still a young country. Instead of 13 states, there were 24, and enough territory to make quite a few more. What was the source of Andrew Jackson's popularity?

    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    The Monroe Doctrine: Origin and Early American Foreign Policy (4 Lessons)



    The Unit


    [This document is] the most momentous [pronouncement] which has been . . . offered . . . since that of Independence. That made us a nation. This sets our compass and points the course.
    Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, October 24, 1823 from the EDSITEment resource American Memory, from correspondence in which the authors discussed ideas eventually incorporated into the Monroe Doctrine.

    In Monroe's message to Congress on December 2, 1823, [the President] delivered what we have always called the Monroe Doctrine, although in truth it should have been called the Adams Doctrine.
    The Monroe Doctrine from Information USA, an exhibit of the U.S. Department of State, a link from the EDSITEment-reviewed website Internet Public Library.

    James Monroe spent most of his life in public office, devoting a significant portion of his career to foreign affairs. He served as George Washington's Minister to France, but was eventually recalled by the President. Thomas Jefferson appointed Monroe as a special envoy for negotiating the purchase of New Orleans and West Florida. He and principal negotiator Robert Livingston exceeded their authority and all expectations by acquiring the entire Louisiana Territory as well as a claim to all of Florida. Next, Monroe became Minister to Great Britain. Under James Madison, he served as Secretary of State and Secretary of War.

    Monroe brought a vision of an expanded America to his presidency—a vision that helped facilitate the formulation of what has become known as the Monroe Doctrine. Because this Doctrine bears his name, the general public is not inclined to recognize the significant contributions made by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams and unofficial presidential advisor Thomas Jefferson.

    In this unit, students will review the Monroe Doctrine against a background of United States foreign relations in the early years of the republic. In particular, they will examine Monroe's involvement in American diplomacy while serving in a variety of positions before he was elected president. They will become familiar with Monroe's beliefs in an expanded United States as well as an expanded role for the United States in the Americas. Students will also read primary source material reflecting the independence movement in South America, which served as the direct impetus for the Monroe Doctrine. Finally, small groups will analyze some documentary evidence of Adams's role and Jefferson's advice regarding the Monroe Doctrine. The class will debate how credit for the Doctrine should be "allocated."

    This unit of study prepares students to reflect on the Doctrine. What were its most significant goals? In what ways, if any, was it intended to provide peace and safety for the United States, protect the newly independent Latin American states, and/or promote expansionist goals of the United States in the Western Hemisphere?

    Guiding Questions

    • What were the circumstances leading to the formulation of the Monroe Doctrine?
    • What were its major provisions?
    • What were Monroe's contributions to American foreign policy prior to and during his terms as president?
    • What contributions did John Quincy Adams and Thomas Jefferson make to the formulation of the Monroe Doctrine?

    Learning Objectives

    • List events in early American diplomatic history that contributed to the formulation of the Monroe Doctrine.
    • Discuss the reasons President Monroe used when recommending that Congress recognize the revolutionary governments of Spanish America.
    • Paraphrase the central points of the Monroe Doctrine.
    • Weigh the relative contributions to the Monroe Doctrine of President Monroe, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, and former President and unofficial advisor Thomas Jefferson.
    • Decide whether the Doctrine was intended to provide peace and safety for the United States, protect the newly independent Latin American states, and/or promote expansionist goals of the United States in the Western Hemisphere.

    Preparation Instructions

    • Review each 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 for this lesson. Print out and make an appropriate number of copies of any handouts you plan to use in class.
    • Each activity in this unit of study is designed for use as a stand-alone lesson. Taken all together, the lessons provide a fairly comprehensive review of U.S. diplomacy before 1823. Since available time and curriculum needs vary by classroom, the following guidelines for use are provided:
    • According to Information USA, an exhibit of the website of the U.S. Department of State (a link from the EDSITEment resource Internet Public Library):

      In Monroe's message to Congress on December 2, 1823, he delivered what we have always called the Monroe Doctrine, although in truth it should have been called the Adams Doctrine.

      Information USA should not be regarded as an authoritative scholarly source. However, the suggestion that John Quincy Adams—Monroe's Secretary of State—has received insufficient credit for his role in formulating the Monroe Doctrine is not unique. In this lesson, the suggestion provides a motive for students to take a closer look at the Monroe Doctrine, as well as some of the international events and domestic ideas that provided the impetus for it.

      When students read correspondence between Monroe and former President Thomas Jefferson, they also will note Jefferson's apparent influence on Monroe. In the culminating lesson of this unit of study, students will decide for themselves if the famous Doctrine has been correctly or incorrectly named. Any well-reasoned conclusion based on evidence will be fine because this unit has a different underlying purpose: As students explore the relative influence of Monroe, Adams, and Jefferson on the Monroe Doctrine, they also will be analyzing the Monroe Doctrine itself and events contemporary to it.

    • Throughout this unit, students will read and analyze a variety of primary documents. The following materials from EDSITEment resources may be useful to teachers seeking expert advice on the use of primary documents:

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level


    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 > Themes > Civil Rights
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
    • History and Social Studies > People > Native American
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Immigration/Migration
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > War and Foreign Policy
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Debate
    • Discussion
    • Evaluating arguments
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Logical reasoning
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Map Skills
    • Using primary sources