• 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 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: 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 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.

  • 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.

  • The Preamble to the Constitution: How Do You Make a More Perfect Union?

    Constitution thumb

    Students will learn how the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution was shaped by historical events and how it reflected the fundamental values and principles of a newly independent nation.

  • Lesson 3: Religion and the Fight for American Independence

    Commander of the Continental Army, George Washington

    Using primary documents, this lesson explores how religion aided and hindered the American war effort; specifically, it explores how Anglican loyalists and Quaker pacifists responded to the outbreak of hostilities and how the American revolutionaries enlisted religion in support of the fight for independence.

  • Lesson 4: The Second Inaugural Address (1865)—Restoring the American Union

    Photograph of Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural. Lincoln is at the very center  of the picture surrounded by dignitaries.

    The newly re-elected Abraham Lincoln sought to unite the American people by interpreting the waning conflict as a divine judgment upon both sides of the war. This lesson will examine Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address to determine how he sought to reunite a divided country through a providential interpretation of the Civil War.

    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    The First American Party System: Events, Issues, and Positions (3 Lessons)

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    The Unit

    Overview

    Jefferson's revolutionary viewpoints soon shaped the beginnings of a profound split in American politics. On one side, centering on the figure of the secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton, were those favoring an energetic federal government, a strong presidency, and ties to England. On the other side, centered on Thomas Jefferson, were those favoring a less dynamic national government, a limited presidency, and ties to revolutionary France.
    —From His Empire of Liberty on the EDSITEment resource The American President

    The idea of a legitimate opposition—recognized opposition, organized and free enough in its activities to be able to displace an existing government by peaceful means—is an immensely sophisticated idea, and it was not an idea that the Fathers found fully developed and ready to hand when they began their enterprise in republican constitutionalism in 1788.
    —Richard Hofstadter in The Idea of a Party System (University of California Press, 1970. p. 8.)

    Fear of factionalism and political parties was deeply rooted in Anglo-American political culture before the American Revolution. Leaders such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson hoped their new government, founded on the Constitution, would be motivated instead by a common intent, a unity. Though dominant, these sentiments were not held by all Americans. A delegate to the Massachusetts ratifying convention, for example, asserted that “competition of interest…between those persons who are in and those who are out office, will ever form one important check to the abuse of power in our representatives.” (Quoted in Hofstader, p. 36) Hamilton argued from a slightly different perspective in Federalist #70: “In the legislature, promptitude of decision is oftener an evil than a benefit. The differences of opinion, and the jarrings of parties in that department of the government, though they may sometimes obstruct salutary plans, yet often promote deliberation and circumspection, and serve to check excesses in the majority.”

    Political parties did form in the United States and had their beginnings in Washington's cabinet. Jefferson, who resigned as Washington's Secretary of State in 1793, and James Madison, who first began to oppose the policies of Alexander Hamilton while a member of the House of Representatives, soon united, as Jefferson wrote in his will, "in the same principles and pursuits of what [they] deemed for the greatest good of our country" (on the Thomas Jefferson Digital Archive, a link from the EDSITEment-reviewed website The American President). Together, they were central to the creation of the first political party in the United States. In the meantime, those who supported Hamilton began to organize their own party, thus leading to the establishment of a two-party system.

    In this unit, students will read the philosophical and policy statements of Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, and others to better understand the nature and positions of the first political parties in the United States.

    Guiding Questions

    • What constitutes a legitimate opposition in a democracy? What is a political party in a democracy?
    • What differences in philosophy led to the development of the Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties?
    • What events and issues were important in causing the differences in opinion?
    • What were the key positions of the parties?
    • What are the essential elements of an organized political party?

    Learning Objectives

    • Cite critical factors leading to the development of the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans.
    • Summarize the key positions of the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans and the reasoning behind those positions.

    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.
    • The philosophical differences that arose during the Constitutional Convention and the ratification process that followed laid the foundation for the political divisions that emerged and solidified once the new government was in place. Article VII of the Constitution provided for ratification by the states, stipulating that approval by nine states would be sufficient for adoption. Support for the new government was mixed. Supporters called themselves Federalists and dubbed their opponents Anti-Federalists. These labels referred to groups that formed for the sole purpose of debating the merits of the Constitution, deciding whether it should be adopted, and, if so, determining what conditions should be placed on its acceptance. Though sharply divided on issues relating to the new framework of government, the Federalists and Anti-Federalists did not adopt the organizational elements associated with formal political parties. Furthermore, the divisions that arose during the ratification process were different from the alignments that emerged during Washington’s administration. Madison, for example was closely aligned with Hamilton during the struggle for ratification but led the opposition to Hamilton’s Federalist Party throughout the 1790s. Exactly when philosophical differences coalesced into recognizable political parties is open to debate. According to the Encyclopedia of American History (Morris and Morris, Harper Collins, 1996):

      Competent latter-day authorities differ over the approximate date of origin of these parties. Among the dates indicated for their definite emergence are 1787-88 (C.A. Beard), 1791-92 (J.S. Bassett: D. Malone), 1792-1793 (N. Cunningham) and 1798 (O.G.Libby).

    Additional information on the positions of the Federalists and Anti-Federalists may be found in the EDSITEment lessons Before and Beyond the Constitution: Chief Executives Compared: The Federalist Papers and The Constitutional Convention: Four Founding Fathers You May Never Have Met.

    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 > Themes
    • 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
    Skills
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Debate
    • Discussion
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
    • Textual analysis
    • Using archival documents
    • Using primary sources
    Lesson Plans: Grades 6-8
    Curriculum Unit

    Who Was Really Our First President? A Lost Hero (3 Lessons)

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    The Unit

    Overview

    From 1781 to 1782 he was “President of the United States in Congress Assembled” under the Articles of Confederation. As the presiding officer of Congress, Hanson was responsible for initiating a number of programs that helped America gain a world position.
    John Hanson Statue on the website The Architect of the Capitol, a link from the EDSITEment resource CongressLink

    At the time the Founders were shaping the future of a new country, John Adams suggested the President should be addressed as “His Excellency.” Happily, others recognized that such a title was inappropriate. Though the proper form of address represents only a small detail, defining everything about the Presidency was central to the idea of America that was a work-in-progress when the nation was young.

    In this lesson, students look at the role of President as defined in the Articles of Confederation and consider the precedent-setting accomplishments of John Hanson, the first full-term “President of the United States in Congress Assembled.”

    Guiding Questions

    • How was the role of “President” defined in the Articles of Confederation?
    • What important developments occurred during John Hanson's term as the first full-term “President of the United States in Congress Assembled”?
    • How did they affect the future of the U.S. and the office of the President?

    Learning Objectives

    • Describe the role of “President of the United States in Congress Assembled” under the Articles of Confederation and explain how the President was elected.
    • Describe some of the actions of John Hanson in his role as “President of the United States in Congress Assembled.”
    • List some of the problems and accomplishments that occurred under the Articles of Confederation.

    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.
    • Students with an understanding of the fears of the Founders regarding a powerful executive will benefit the most from this lesson. When discussing the structure of the Executive sketched in the Articles of Confederation, it is useful to refer back to the complaints of the colonists as summarized by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. Help students understand why and how the Founders were cautious. Consult the following EDSITEment lessons for grades 6-8 for more information on:
    • On March 1, 1781, the Articles of Confederation, which had been passed by the Continental Congress in 1777, finally came into force with ratification by Maryland. On October 19 of the same year, British General Cornwallis surrendered a large army to General George Washington, effectively ending the Revolutionary War. Days later, the Continental Congress elected John Hanson of Maryland the "President of the United States in Congress Assembled" with no dissenting votes. On paper, the role was largely ceremonial, with its only specified duty being presiding over the Congress; however, some people believe Hanson was integral to a number of important actions. Many of the initiatives begun during Hanson's term in office were realized later when Washington was Chief Executive (for example, the census and Postal Service).
    • The EDSITEment reviewed website Digital Classroom offers The Declaration of Independence: A History and The Constitution: A History for background on those fundamental documents as well as the Articles of Confederation.
    • Unless otherwise specified, historic documents referred to in the lesson plan are available on the EDSITEment resource Avalon Project at the Yale Law School.
    • The handout "Documents for John Hanson's Term as President of the United States in Congress Assembled," on pages 3-8 of the PDF file (see download instructions, above), uses very brief excerpts from the records of the Continental Congress. The documents are intended to represent a sample of the problems and accomplishments of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation during John Hanson's tenure as President. The interesting but relatively inconsequential question about Hanson's place in history serves in this lesson as a hinge into the more important question of the problems with the Articles of Confederation that eventually led to the drafting of the U.S. Constitution.

      The records of the Continental Congress are presented to students in their original language. Some difficult terms, indicated by underlining, are defined in parentheses. Some grammar and spelling has been standardized. In many classes, students will be able to understand the text sufficiently for the requirements of this lesson; some classes will benefit by simply going through a few (or all) of the documents as a whole class. The passages are all short but vary in length; if students will be looking at them in groups, assign groups and passages accordingly. There are 12 documents; use all of them or choose those most appropriate for your class. Some representing defects in the Articles and accomplishments of the Congress are marked.
    • For further reading, consult the Recommended Reading List provided here as a PDF.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    6-8

    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
    Skills
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Discussion
    • 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
    • Using primary sources