Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
Curriculum Unit

The Presidential Election of 1824: The Election is in the House (3 Lessons)

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Overview

John Quincy Adams defeated Andrew Jackson in 1824

John Quincy Adams defeated Andrew Jackson in 1824 by garnering more electoral votes through the House of Representatives, even though Jackson originally received more popular and electoral votes.

Credit: Courtesy of American Memory at the Library of Congress.

The presidential election of 1824 represents a watershed in American politics. The collapse of the Federalist Party and the illness of the "official candidate" of the Democratic-Republicans led to a slate of candidates who were all Democratic-Republicans. This led to the end of the Congressional Caucus system for nominating candidates, and eventually, the development of a new two-party system in the United States. In the election, Andrew Jackson won a plurality of both the popular and electoral vote. But John Quincy Adams became president. Four crucial elements of our election system were highlighted in the election of 1824: the nomination of candidates, the popular election of electors, the Electoral College, and the election of the president in the House when no candidate receives a majority in the Electoral College.

In this unit, students will read an account of the election from the Journal of the House of Representatives, analyze archival campaign materials, and use an interactive online activity to develop a better understanding of the election of 1824 and its significance.

Guiding Questions

  • Why was the election of 1824 decided in the House of Representatives?
  • Who were the candidates in 1824?
  • What were the important issues in the campaign of 1824?
  • How did John Quincy Adams win election in 1824?

Learning Objectives

  • Summarize relevant portions of the Constitution on presidential election procedures.
  • Explain why the election of 1824 was decided in the House of Representatives.
  • Cite examples from presidential campaign materials from 1824.
  • Explain how John Quincy Adams won election in 1824.
  • Take a stand, supported by evidence, on whether or not there was a "corrupt bargain" between Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams.

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.
  • Each of the lessons below can be used as a stand-alone. Taught in order as a unit, the lessons are structured like a mystery in which the author reveals the solution-that is, the results of the 1824 election-at the beginning. The fun is coming to understand what led up to that conclusion. Lesson 3, "Was There a Corrupt Bargain?" offers a culminating activity that is enhanced by an understanding of the issues covered in Lessons 1 and 2.
  • If possible, choose student volunteers for the transcript reading for the first activity the day before teaching Lesson One, below, to allow time for them to review their parts.
  • In Lesson One, hypothetical examples of what could happen in a close election are offered as a check for understanding the numerical results of the 2000 election. Take care not to get embroiled in the politics of the 2000 election.
  • For a comprehensive introduction to the history of the presidential election process, consult Presidential Elections in the United States: A Primer HTML or Presidential Elections in the United States: A Primer PDF on the website of the United States Senate, a link from the EDSITEment resource Congress Link. Students will read material from the introduction to the Teaching With Documents Lesson Plan: Tally of the 1824 Electoral College Vote, on the EDSITEment-reviewed website Digital Classroom, for background on the election of 1824, the history of presidential elections prior to 1824, and modern issues surrounding the electoral college.
  • In Lesson Three and Extending the Lesson, students will look at a variety of evidence to see if it indicates whether there was a "corrupt bargain" in John Quincy Adams's victory in the presidential election. Considering that there is no agreement among historians about the "corrupt bargain," all student conclusions should be accepted as long as reasonable evidence is offered to support ideas.
  • Extending the Lesson requires that students work on computers to use the Interactive Election Results activity, found on Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections, available via a link from the EDSITEment resource Explore DC.
  • Some new trends in the electorate were apparent in the election of 1824. The franchise, or right to vote, was being extended to more white males as income-related eligibility requirements were being dropped by more states. The major change was the elimination of property requirements. Later, tax-paying requirements were also dropped. Direct election was replacing selection by state legislatures as the method for choosing electors, increasing the importance of the popular vote. Political campaigns felt more strongly than ever the need to appeal to the masses. The nation was expanding as western states joined the Union bringing their own issues and a desire for full participation. The Kentucky legislature in joint session unanimously nominated favorite son Henry Clay, looking to a time "when the people of the West may, with some confidence, appeal to the magnanimity of the whole Union, for a favorable consideration of their equal and just claim to a fair participation in the executive government of these states" (Hopkins, James F., "Election of 1824," History of American Presidential Elections, Volume 1. Ed. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. editor. 5 vols. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1971, 363.). With no more national heroes of the Revolution left to succeed Monroe, regional figures and regional issues were becoming even more important. In the presidential election of 1824, regionalism and regional issues predominated. Choosing the president in the House became a matter of political deal-making. One important result was the eventual development of a new two-party system. By 1828, the expanded electorate, with all its implications, became significant on a national level. Voter participation in almost every state rose dramatically. In the complementary EDSITEment lesson, "The 1828 Campaign of Andrew Jackson and the Growth of Party Politics," students review the election of 1824, 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 Andrew Jackson's election and the new trends in the electorate.
  • It may be necessary to clarify for students party names during the period covered in this lesson and the period just beyond. What follows is, in the interest of brevity, a somewhat simplified explanation. In 1824, all of the candidates claimed allegiance to the Democratic-Republican Party (often called Republican) which linked back directly to Jefferson and Madison. When Jackson became President in 1828, he ran as a Democrat. Members of the new second party that rose in opposition called themselves National Republicans at first. Later, the core of that opposition to Jackson took the name Whigs. So someone like Henry Clay, at one time or another, was a member of the Democratic-Republicans, National Republicans, and Whigs. In addition, The Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans are not the same as either our modern Democrats or Republicans, though our Democrats lay claim to the Jefferson legacy through their connection to Jackson's Democrats.
  • Many links to the EDSITEment-reviewed website American Memory, used throughout this unit, lead to an index page that includes a digitized image of an original document. On that page will be found links to higher-quality image files and transcriptions of text.
  • Throughout this unit, students 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:

This succinct but valuable lesson offers three basic steps for analyzing primary sources:

  1. Time and Place Rule
  2. Bias Rule
  3. Questions for Analyzing Primary Sources

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 > Politics and Citizenship
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Reform
Skills
  • Compare and contrast
  • Critical analysis
  • Critical thinking
  • Developing a hypothesis
  • Discussion
  • Evaluating arguments
  • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
  • Historical analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • Oral presentation skills
  • Using primary sources
Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
Curriculum Unit

Civil War: A "Terrible Swift Sword" (3 Lessons)

Created July 17, 2010

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The Unit

Overview

Whether it be called the Civil War, the War between the States, the War of the Rebellion, or the War for Southern Independence, the events of the years 1861-1865 were the most traumatic in the nation's history. The secession of the southern states, and President Lincoln's decision to prevent them forcibly from leaving the Union, triggered a conflict that would see fighting on battlefields as far apart as Pennsylvania and Texas, Missouri and Florida, and would leave nearly a million Americans on both sides dead or wounded. Indeed, casualties in the Civil War exceeded those of every other war in which the United States has ever participated, combined.

But the sheer costs of the war were matched by its importance. It was fought over two basic questions-whether it was legal under the U.S. Constitution for a state to leave the constitution, and whether the practice of chattel slavery was consistent with the nation's founding principles. The Union victory established that the answer to both questions was no.

This curriculum unit will introduce students to several important questions pertaining to the war. In the first, they will examine original documents and statistics in an attempt to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each side at the start of the conflict. The second addresses the two turning points of the war-the concurrent battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg-as well as the morality of the Union's use of "total war" tactics against the population of the South. Finally, in the third lesson students will examine a series of case studies in Abraham Lincoln's wartime leadership; by using primary sources they will be asked to assess whether, based on his performance during his first term of office, he deserved a second.

Guiding Questions

  • Which side possessed the overall advantage at the start of the Civil War?
  • How did the Union win the war?
  • Did Lincoln's performance as a wartime president during his first term of office justify his reelection in 1864?

Learning Objectives

  • Compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of the North and South using various primary source documents.
  • Analyze the economic advantages possessed by both sides on the eve of the Civil War.
  • Compare and contrast each side's strategic objectives for the war.
  • Explain Great Britain's interests in the Civil War, and how they might have affected the balance of forces between the two sides.
  • Explain why the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg were the turning points of the war.
  • Evaluate the role of Sherman's "total war" tactics in bringing about a Union victory.
  • Argue whether it was necessary for Abraham Lincoln to suspend habeas corpus.
  • Assess whether the Emancipation Proclamation was sound wartime policy.
  • Explain why the decision to arm slaves was so controversial in the North.
  • Evaluate Lincoln's refusal to conclude a compromise peace with the Confederacy.
  • Identify the major issues in the 1864 presidential election, and make an overall judgment as to whether Lincoln deserved a second term.

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. Alternatively, excerpted versions of these documents are available as part of the downloadable PDF, such as this one for Lesson Plan One.

Download the Text Documents for each lesson, available as PDFs, such as this one for Lesson Plan One. This file contains excerpted versions of the documents used in the first and second 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.

Working with 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 pages on "Making Sense of Maps" and "Making Sense of Oral History" which give helpful advice to teachers in getting their students to use such sources effectively.

The Lessons

  • 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 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: 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.

The Basics

Grade Level

9-12

Subject Areas
  • History and Social Studies > People > African American
  • History and Social Studies
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Civil Rights
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Culture
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Demographic Changes
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
  • 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 > Globalization
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Immigration/Migration
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Politics and Citizenship
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Reform
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Religion
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Slavery
  • 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
  • Debate
  • Evaluating arguments
  • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
  • Historical analysis
  • Internet skills
  • Interpretation
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • Map Skills
  • Online research
  • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
  • Textual analysis
  • Using primary sources
  • Visual analysis
  • Vocabulary
  • Writing skills
Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
Curriculum Unit

The 1828 Campaign of Andrew Jackson and the Growth of Party Politics (4 Lessons)

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The Unit

Overview

Changes in voting qualifications and participation, the election of Andrew Jackson, and the formation of the Democratic Party—due largely to the organizational skills of Martin Van Buren—all contributed to making the election of 1828 and Jackson's presidency a watershed in the evolution of the American political system. The campaign of 1828 was a crucial event in a period that saw the development of a two-party system akin to our modern system, presidential electioneering bearing a closer resemblance to modern political campaigning, and the strengthening of the power of the executive branch.

In this unit, students analyze changes in voter participation and regional power, and review archival campaign documents reflecting the dawn of politics as we know it during the critical years from 1824 to 1832.

Guiding Questions

  • How did changes in the electorate affect the election of 1828?
  • How were party politics reflected in the campaign of 1828?
  • What was the source of Andrew Jackson's popularity?
  • What was the importance of Andrew Jackson's popularity?
  • What were the positions of the fledgling Democratic Party and its opposition?

Learning Objectives

  • Give examples to indicate how the franchise was extended in the first half of the 19th century.
  • Discuss possible effects of the extension of the franchise on the election of 1828.
  • Make a connection between changes in voting participation and the election of 1828.
  • Describe regional factors evidenced by the voting results in the election of 1828.
  • Analyze campaign materials from 1828.

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 blackline masters for this lesson, available here as a PDF. Print out and make an appropriate number of copies of any handouts you plan to use in class.
  • This unit is one of a series of complementary EDSITEment lessons on the early growth of political parties in the United States. Some student knowledge of the events and issues covered in the following complementary lessons is essential to a complete understanding of the presidential election of 1828.
    • The Growth of Political Parties covers such issues and events as the negative attitude among the Founders toward political parties, as reflected in Washington's Farewell Address; the differences in philosophy and policy between followers of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (who favored a less active federal government and eventually formed the Democratic-Republican Party) and the followers of Alexander Hamilton (who espoused a more powerful and active federal government and eventually formed the Federalist Party).
    • Certain Crimes Against the United States: The Sedition Act deals with—among other issues and events—foreign affairs during the Federalist presidency of John Adams, and the political differences that contributed to the creation of the Sedition Act, which led, in turn, to the demise of the Federalist Party.
    • The Election Is in the House: The Presidential Election of 1824 touches on events in the presidential campaign of 1824, in which every candidate belonged to the Democratic-Republican Party, throwing the election into the House of Representatives, and thus setting the stage for the election of 1828. The lesson also discusses the Electoral College and the procedure to be used when an election is thrown into the House of Representatives.
  • The first three lessons in this unit look at different aspects of the changes in the electorate that were occurring in the first half of the 19th century. With that background, students are better prepared to study the election campaign of 1828 in the final lesson. It is also important for students to have some knowledge of the controversial election of 1824. For relatively brief yet comprehensive background on the election of 1824 and the election of 1828 and its aftermath, read the following one-page articles from Digital History, a project of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, a link from the EDSITEment-reviewed resource History Matters:

If time permits, some students would benefit from the background gained through reading the essays as well.

The Lessons

The Basics

Grade Level

9-12

Subject Areas
  • History and Social Studies > People > African American
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > AP US History
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
  • History and Social Studies > People > Native American
  • History and Social Studies > People > Other
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Politics and Citizenship
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Reform
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
Skills
  • Compare and contrast
  • Critical thinking
  • Historical analysis
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • Using primary sources
  • Visual analysis
  • Lesson 2: People and Places in the North and South

    Anti-slavery poster form the 1850s

    Students develop a foundation on which to understand the basic disagreements between North and South.

  • 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 Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    The Growing Crisis of Sectionalism in Antebellum America: A House Dividing (4 Lessons)

    Created July 17, 2010

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    The Unit

    Overview

    Our political problem now is “Can we, as a nation, continue together permanently—forever—half slave, and half free?” The problem is too mighty for me. May God, in his mercy, superintend the solution.

    —Abraham Lincoln to George Robertson, August 15, 1855

    In this unit, students will trace the development of sectionalism in the United States as it was driven by the growing dependence upon, and defense of, black slavery in the southern states. Initially seen as contrary to freedom but tolerated in order to produce the U.S. Constitution, by the 1830s the "peculiar institution" found advocates who saw it as a "positive good." Its expansion into Missouri, southern outrage over federal tariffs, and westward expansion into new territory produced a volatile and persistent debate over slavery that increasingly threatened to divide the American union. By 1860, the nation found an old Democratic Party split over the right to extend slavery into federal territory, and a new Republican Party nominating an anti-slavery, though not abolitionist, president. When Abraham Lincoln's election produced no national consensus to settle the matter of slavery's future, a southern "secession" sealed the fate of the Union.

    What characterized the debates over American slavery and the power of the federal government for the first half of the 19th century? How did regional economies and political events produce a widening split between free and slaveholding states in antebellum America? Who were the key figures and what were their arguments regarding the legitimacy of slavery and the proper role of the national government in resolving its future in the American republic? This unit of study will equip students to answer these questions through the use of interactive maps, primary texts, and comparative biographies.

    Guiding Questions

    • How did the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Nullification Crisis a decade later illustrate the widening divide between northern and southern states?
    • What were the leading arguments against slavery in the antebellum era and how did slaveholders defend the "peculiar institution"?
    • How did Senator Stephen Douglas try to reduce the growing sectionalism of America over the slavery controversy through the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and its policy of popular sovereignty?
    • In the 1860 presidential election, what political options regarding the spread of slavery did the American people face, and how did Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party differ from advocates of immediate abolition, popular sovereignty, and national slavery?

    Learning Objectives

    Upon completing the lessons in this unit, students should be able to do the following:

    • use maps of the 1820 Missouri Compromise and the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act to understand political and economic changes in the U.S. and why those changes provoked a debate over the expansion of slavery in America
    • list the main provisions of the 1820 Missouri Compromise and 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act
    • highlight the basic economic differences between the commerce of the North and the South
    • explain John Calhoun's theory of nullification, Andrew Jackson's view of national sovereignty, Stephen Douglas's policy of popular sovereignty, and Lincoln's understanding of constitutional self-government
    • identify influential opponents and defenders of American slavery
    • explain the reasons given for and against the morality and legitimacy of slavery under the U.S. Constitution
    • articulate the different solutions to the controversy over slavery in the territories proposed by Abraham Lincoln, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Stephen Douglas, Jefferson Davis, and William Lowndes Yancey
    • distinguish the priorities of the Republican Party from those of the two factions of the Democratic Party and the Constitutional Union Party during the 1860 election
    • explain how the differing views regarding slavery in the territories eventually produced a southern secession and a civil war
    • discuss whether or not the American Civil War was an avoidable war or "an irrepressible conflict"

    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 blackline masters for this lesson, available here as a PDF. 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, comprising three forty-five minute class periods. Taken all together, the lessons provide an overview of the causes of sectionalism that led to the American Civil War. Since available time and curriculum needs vary by classroom, the following guidelines for use are provided:

    Another approach you can use is to skim each lesson plan to see what specific activities each offers and choose only those that suit specific course objectives and content. Each lesson plan indicates how best to streamline that lesson's content and will suggest essential versus more rigorous treatment of a given subject.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    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 > Themes > Demographic Changes
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
    • 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 > Reform
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Slavery
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
    Skills
    • Compare and contrast
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Debate
    • Discussion
    • Essay writing
    • Evaluating arguments
    • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Map Skills
    • Online research
    • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
    • Using primary sources
    • Visual analysis
    • Writing skills
    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    Abraham Lincoln on the American Union: "A Word Fitly Spoken" (4 Lessons)

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    The Unit

    Overview

    This unit explores the political thought of Abraham Lincoln on the subject of American union. For him, the union was not just a structure to govern the national interests of American states; it also represented a consensus about the future of freedom in America—a future where slavery would eventually be eliminated and liberty protected as the birthright of every human being. Students will examine Lincoln's three most famous speeches—the Gettysburg Address and the First and Second Inaugural Addresses—in addition to a little known fragment on the Constitution, union, and liberty to see what they say regarding the significance of union to the prospects for American self-government.

    Although Lincoln did not attend high school or college, he possessed a logical and inquisitive mind that found clarity in working out legal and political problems on paper. One fragment he wrote after the 1860 presidential election addressed how the Constitution and union were informed by the ideals of the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln wrote that while America's prosperity was dependent upon the union of the states, "the primary cause" was the principle of "Liberty to all." He believed this central ideal of free government embraced all human beings, and concluded that the American revolution would not have succeeded if its goal was "a mere change of masters." For Lincoln, union meant a particular kind of government of the states, one whose equality principle "clears the path for all—gives hope to all—and, by consequence, enterprize, and industry to all."

    As president of the United States, Lincoln used his First and Second Inaugural Addresses to explore the meaning of the American union in the face of a divided country. Upon assuming the presidency for the first time, he spoke at length about the nature of union, why secession was antithetical to self-government, and how the federal constitution imposed a duty upon him to defend the union of the states from rebellious citizens. When he was reelected four years later, and as the Civil War drew to a close, Lincoln transcended both Northern triumphalism and Southern defiance by offering a providential reading of the war and emancipation in hopes of reuniting the country.

    In his most famous speech, delivered upon the dedication of a national cemetery at the battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Lincoln gave a brief but profound meditation on the meaning of the Civil War and American union. With the Emancipation Proclamation as a new and pivotal development of the federal war effort, Lincoln sought to explain why the war to preserve the Union had to become a war to secure the freedom of former slaves. The nation would need to experience "a new birth of freedom" so that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

    Upon completing this unit, students should have a better understanding of why Lincoln revered the union of the American states as "the last best, hope of earth."

    Guiding Questions

    • How did Lincoln understand the principles of the Declaration of Independence as the goal of the American union?
    • How did Lincoln defend the Union from states seeking to leave or "secede" from the Union?
    • How did Lincoln see the Civil War as an opportunity for the nation to bring forth a "new birth of freedom" (or liberty for all), and why was this necessary for the survival of American self-government?
    • How did Lincoln seek to restore the American union as the Civil War drew to a close?

    Learning Objectives

    • Explain what Lincoln thought was the chief cause of America's prosperity.
    • Explain the principles of human equality and government by consent expressed in the Declaration of Independence.
    • Show how the principles of the Declaration represent the aim of the American union and constitution.
    • Articulate how Lincoln used a verse from Proverbs to symbolize the relationship between the principle of individual freedom and the practice of constitutional self-government.
    • Explain provisions of the federal constitution that Lincoln believed empowered him to defend the American union from attempts at secession.
    • Explain how South Carolina, as the first state to try to leave the Union, defended her attempt to secede upon Lincoln's election to the presidency.
    • Articulate why Lincoln thought he had a constitutional obligation as president to preserve the Union from attempts at secession.
    • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the pro-Union and pro-secession arguments, and decide which argument is the most philosophically defensible.
    • Explain why some Northern Democrats criticized Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
    • Explain why Lincoln thought July 4, 1776, was the birthday of the United States.
    • Articulate the connection Lincoln made between emancipation and preserving the Union.
    • Describe the "unfinished task" that Lincoln presented to the American people at Gettysburg.
    • Describe the historical context for Lincoln's second inauguration as president.
    • Articulate some of the concerns of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, a leader of the Radical Republicans, who controlled Congress after the election of 1864.
    • Describe the mood of the South as reflected in Confederate President Jefferson Davis's rhetoric in early 1865.
    • Explain Lincoln's understanding of how the war began, its relation to slavery, and the role of God in the conflict.

    Preparation Instructions

    • Review the lesson plans in the unit. 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 PDFs listed on the left-hand sidebar under "Additional Student/Teacher Resources."
    • Download the Text Documents for the lessons, available as PDFs. These files contain excerpted versions of the documents used in each lesson, 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.
    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.

    Unit Lesson Plans

    Each lesson in this unit is designed to stand alone; taken together they present a robust portrait of how Lincoln viewed the American union. If there is not sufficient time to use all four lessons in the unit, either the first or third lesson convey Lincoln's understanding of the American union as a means to securing "Liberty to all"—with the first lesson focusing on the principled connection between the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, and the third lesson addressing the practical connection between the Union war effort, the freedom of the newly emancipated slaves, and the preservation of American self-government. Adding the second lesson would show why Lincoln's understanding of the union and Constitution obliged the president to defend the nation from secession. Adding the fourth lesson would explore how Lincoln thought that only a common memory of the war as the chastening of God to both sides for the national (not Southern) sin of slavery could restore national unity.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > People > African American
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > AP US History
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Civil Rights
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Culture
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
    • 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 > Reform
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Religion
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Slavery
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > War and Foreign Policy
    Skills
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Developing a hypothesis
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Textual analysis
    • Using primary sources
    • Writing skills

    After School

    Interview your Parents, Family, and Neighbors

    Jackie Robinson quoteJack Roosevelt Robinson (1919-72), the first black man to "officially" play in the big leagues in the 20th century, possessed enormous physical talent and a fierce determination to succeed. In the course of a distinguished 10-year career beginning in 1947, Robinson led the Brooklyn Dodgers to six National League titles and one victorious World Series.