• Lesson 2: Chief Executives Compared: The Federalist Papers

    Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington

    The Founders were faced with a difficult decision—fix the flawed Articles of Confederation or develop a new system.

  • Lesson 1: The Monroe Doctrine: U.S. Foreign Affairs (circa 1782–1823) and James Monroe

    Portrait of James Monroe, fifth President of the United States, by Gilbert  Stuart.

    What was the Monroe Doctrine? What principles of foreign policy did this Doctrine establish? What were the significant events in U.S. diplomacy before 1823? What diplomatic roles had James Monroe played before he became president? Here, a careful examination of the document anticipates what is to come.

  • Lesson 1: From the President's Lips: The Concerns that Led to the Sedition (and Alien) Act

    John Adams.

    What conditions provided the impetus for the Sedition Act? Partisan animosity was strong during Adams's presidency. The first two political parties in the U.S. were in their infancy—the Federalists, to which the majority of members of Congress belonged, and the Democratic-Republicans, led by former vice-president Thomas Jefferson and four-term Congressman James Madison, who had left the House in 1796.

  • The Federalist Debates: Balancing Power Between State and Federal Governments

    Alexander Hamilton (l.) and Thomas Jefferson (r.)

    This lesson focuses on the debates among the U.S. Founders surrounding the distribution of power between states and the federal government. Students learn about the pros and cons of state sovereignty vs. federalism and have the opportunity to argue different sides of the issue.

  • Magna Carta: Cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution

    King John of England (right) and an English baron agreeing to Magna Carta

    Magna Carta served to lay the foundation for the evolution of parliamentary government and subsequent declarations of rights in Great Britain and the United States. In attempting to establish checks on the king's powers, this document asserted the right of "due process" of law.

  • Lesson 1: An Early Threat of Secession: The Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Nullification Crisis

    Created July 18, 2010
    Henry Clay, author of the Missouri Compromise.

    Americans affirmed their independence with the ringing declaration that “all men are created equal.” But some of them owned African slaves, and were unwilling to give them up as they formed new federal and state governments. So “to form a more perfect union” in 1787, certain compromises were made in the Constitution regarding slavery. This settled the slavery controversy for the first few decades of the American republic, but this situation changed with the application of Missouri for statehood in 1819.

  • 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.

  • Taking Up Arms and the Challenge of Slavery in the Revolutionary Era

    A  Map of 100 miles round Boston, 1775.

    Was the American Revolution inevitable? This lesson is designed to help students understand the transition to armed resistance and the contradiction in the Americans’ rhetoric about slavery through the examination of a series of documents. While it is designed to be conducted over a several-day period, teachers with time constraints can choose to utilize only one of the documents to illustrate the patriots’ responses to the actions of the British.

  • John Marshall, Marbury v. Madison, and Judicial Review—How the Court Became Supreme

    Chief Justice John Marshall (r.) and Associate Justice Joseph Story

    If James Madison was the "father" of the Constitution" John Marshall was the "father of the Supreme Court"—almost single-handedly clarifying its powers. This new lesson is designed to help students understand Marshall's brilliant strategy in issuing his decision on Marbury v. Madison, the significance of the concept of judicial review, and the language of this watershed case.

  • Lesson 3: George Washington: The Precedent President

    Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington

    George Washington became President—reluctantly—at a critical time in the history of the United States. The Confederation had threatened to unravel; the weak central government (which included a weak executive with the sole responsibility of presiding over meetings of Congress and no special power to initiate laws beyond that of any member of Congress, enforce laws, or check acts of Congress) created by the Articles of Confederation had failed.