Lesson Plans: Grades 6-8
Curriculum Unit

Life in the North and South 1847–1861: Before Brother Fought Brother (5 Lessons)

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The Unit

Overview

More Americans lost their lives in the Civil War than in any other conflict. How did the United States arrive at a point at which the South seceded and some families were so fractured that brother fought brother?

A complex series of events led to the Civil War. The lessons in this unit are designed to help students develop a foundation on which to understand the basic disagreements between North and South. Through the investigation of primary source documents —photographs, census information and other archival documents—students gain an appreciation of everyday life in the North and South, changes occurring in the lives of ordinary Americans, and some of the major social and economic issues of the years before the Civil War.

Guiding Questions

  • What differences existed between ordinary Americans living in the North and those living in the South in the years before the Civil War?
  • What important issues are reflected in the differences between life in the North and the South?
  • What kinds of changes were taking place in the United States at the time?

Learning Objectives

  • List three differences and three similarities between life in the North and the South in the years before the Civil War.
  • Discuss how these differences contributed to serious disagreements between the North and South.

Preparation Instructions

The Civil War erupted after a long history of compromises and sectional debates over representation, federalism, tariffs and territories. Though many of the political differences are beyond the scope of the intermediate curriculum, students can use their analysis of archival documents to begin to appreciate the differences between the North and South and the changes afoot in the United States that contributed to the developing conflict.

Before you begin to teach this unit, review the suggested activities and familiarize yourself with the websites involved. Select, download and duplicate, as necessary, any documents you want the class to use.

For the census activity in Lesson 3, either the teacher or students will need to keep a calculator at hand.

You may wish to provide students with a copy of the Document Analysis Worksheet, available through the EDSITEment resource The Digital Classroom, to guide them as they review the documents in this unit.

The purpose of this lesson is to prepare students with background information for understanding the causes of the Civil War. You can find information on the causes of the Civil War, accessible through a link from the EDSITEment resource The Internet Public Library.

The Lessons

The Basics

Grade Level

6-8

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 > Place > The Americas
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Demographic Changes
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
  • History and Social Studies > World > The Modern World (1500 CE-Present)
  • 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 > Slavery
  • 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
  • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
  • Textual analysis
  • Using primary sources
Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
Curriculum Unit

The Campaign of 1840: William Henry Harrison and Tyler, Too (3 Lessons)

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The Unit

Overview

After the debacle of the one-party presidential campaign of 1824, a new two-party system began to emerge. Strong public reaction to perceived corruption in the vote in the House of Representatives, as well as the popularity of Andrew Jackson, allowed Martin Van Buren to organize a Democratic Party that resurrected a Jeffersonian philosophy of minimalism in the federal government. This new party opposed the tendencies of National Republicans such as John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay to invest more power in the federal government. Van Buren built a political machine to support Jackson in the 1828 election. Van Buren's skills helped give the Democrats a head start on modern-style campaigning and a clear advantage in organization. The Democrats and Jackson defeated the National Republicans in 1828 and 1832 and maintained their hold on the presidency when they bested the Whigs—a union of former National Republicans, Antimasons, and some states' rights advocates—in 1836. But a major economic depression in 1837 finally gave the Whigs their best chance to occupy the White House. They faced Andrew Jackson's political organizer, vice president, and handpicked successor, President Martin Van Buren, vying for a second term in the midst of hard times.

As they prepared for the election of 1840, both Democrats and Whigs were organized for campaigning on a national scale. In an election that would turn out an astounding 80 percent of a greatly expanded electorate, campaigners sought to appeal to a wide range of voters in a variety of voting blocks. The contest between Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison marked the first truly modern presidential campaign, with methods today's students are sure to recognize.

Lessons in this unit allow students to become familiar with the issues and personalities and to review an assortment of primary documents. As students analyze them, they reflect on the presidential campaign of 1840. How was it conducted? What was the role of campaign advertising? How crucial were issues to the election of William Henry Harrison? How crucial was image?

Guiding Questions

  • What issues were important to the presidential campaign of 1840?
  • In what ways was the campaign about issues? In what way was it about image?
  • What in William Henry Harrison's background made him the choice of the Whig Party in 1840?
  • How did the Whigs promote Harrison's image in 1840?
  • In what ways did Harrison's background correspond with or contradict his image?
  • What made Martin Van Buren the choice of the Democratic Party in 1836?
  • How did the Democrats promote Martin Van Buren's image?
  • In what ways did Van Buren's background correspond with or contradict that image?
  • Why is the campaign of 1840 often cited as the first modern campaign?

Learning Objectives

  • List some issues important during the campaign of 1840.
  • Compare and contrast the careers of Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison before they became president.
  • Explain why the Whigs wanted to find a candidate in the mold of former president Andrew Jackson.
  • Discuss the ways in which Harrison did and did not fit the mold.
  • Identify some basic differences between the Democrats and Whigs.
  • Discuss the use of visual images in the 1840 campaign.
  • Take a stand as to whether the campaign of 1840 was based more on substance or image.

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.
  • Links to graphics on the EDSITEment resource American Memory, which are used throughout this lesson, lead to a page with a low-resolution image and links to bibliographic material and higher-resolution images.
  • Andrew Jackson's enormous popularity greatly contributed to the ability of the newly constituted Democratic Party to win three consecutive terms in the White House (1828, 1832, 1836). There are many similarities between Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison, a fact that did not escape the notice of those who backed Harrison's candidacy. Both Jackson and Harrison acquired national reputations as war heroes. Both, at one time or another, embraced the contradictory goals of fair treatment of American Indians and the acquisition by the U.S. of land from the American Indians. Both men led troops in important victories in the War of 1812. Though Jackson was the first presidential candidate to use a variety of campaign novelties such as buttons, posters, flasks, matchboxes, and mugs, Harrison's campaign took such promotion to new heights. Harrison won election by a wide margin in a year when about 80 percent of eligible voters went to the polls.

    Additional information may be found in the document "Background for the Teacher" (see  Pages 1-4 of the Master PDF), and in the introduction to each lesson below.
  • Students will learn about the careers of Jackson, Harrison, and Martin Van Buren, when they read the following essays on the EDSITEment reviewed website The American President: NOTE: The section of The American President about William Henry Harrison is accompanied by an essay entitled A Manufactured Hero (From Philip Kunhardt, Jr., et. al., The American President [New York: Riverhead Books, 1999], pp. 18-23). It raises many questions that were the impetus for this lesson. What would it mean to manufacture a hero? Were Jackson and Harrison truly heroes in their time? Would their deeds be considered heroic today? Were either Jackson or Harrison manufactured heroes? How were the similarities and differences between Jackson and Harrison reflected in the content and conduct of the campaign of 1840? How were issues and image used to promote Harrison (and, to a lesser extent, Van Buren)? Was the campaign of 1840 focused more on image or substance? In what ways? Why?
  • For background on prior presidential election history, consult two complementary EDSITEment curriculum units. The Election Is in the House: The Presidential Election of 1824 reviews the several serious contenders for president, all claiming allegiance to the Democratic-Republican Party. It also covers the vote in the House of Representatives after no contender received a majority of electoral votes. Students are given the opportunity to reflect on the corruption claims of Andrew Jackson's supporters and how historians gather evidence and draw conclusions. The expansion of the electorate and the contest of 1828 are covered in The 1828 Campaign of Andrew Jackson and the Growth of Party Politics. In this unit, students 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 both the new trends in the electorate and the candidacy of Andrew Jackson.

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 > Immigration/Migration
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Politics and Citizenship
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
Skills
  • Critical analysis
  • Critical thinking
  • Discussion
  • Evaluating arguments
  • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
  • Historical analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • Using primary sources
Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
Curriculum Unit

President Madison's 1812 War Message (3 Lessons)

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The Unit

Overview

Whether the United States shall continue passive under these … accumulating wrongs, or, opposing force to force in defense of their national rights, shall commit a just cause into the hands of the Almighty Disposer of Events, … is a solemn question which the Constitution wisely confides to the legislative department of the Government. In recommending it to their early deliberations I am happy in the assurance that the decision will be worthy the enlightened and patriotic councils of a virtuous, a free, and a powerful nation.
—President James Madison, War Message to Congress Washington, June 1, 1812

According to the essay James Madison, 'Creating the Balance' on the EDSITEment resource The American President, "Madison's presidency was dominated by a crisis with Great Britain, which for years had been grossly violating American shipping rights." This crisis over U.S. shipping rights actually began while George Washington was president and grew during Thomas Jefferson's term in office (1800-1808), when Madison served as Secretary of State. Between 1805-07, a large number of American ships were seized and impressments of American sailors into service on British ships increased, leading Congress to pass an extreme measure, the Embargo Act of 1807. The act restricted trade with foreign nations. A state of war that began in 1803 and would continue until after Napoleon's abdication in 1814 resulted in a loss of commerce that devastated the American economy while doing little to change the policies of France and Britain.

Abuses to American commerce on the part of Britain and France continued. But in 1810 Napoleon's announcement that France would no longer seize American ships convinced President Madison to allow trade with France. The announcement had conditions attached, and France continued to interfere with American shipping. In the end, however, the U.S. declared war only on Great Britain.

The decision to go to war is one of the most serious an American president faces. On June 1, 1812, President Madison sent a letter—later dubbed his war message—to both houses of Congress. In it, he listed a series of transgressions Great Britain had committed against the U.S. He also explained his decision not to recommend war with France at that time. EDSITEment resources offer primary documents that illuminate key points in President Madison's War Message. Help your students understand the reasons the president gave for going to war, while heightening their appreciation of the value of archival sources.

Guiding Questions

  • How did Madison build the case for war in his message to Congress?
  • What were the issues in maritime disputes between the U.S. and Great Britain?
  • What were the accusations against the British in North America?
  • Why did Madison not include a specific declaration of war in his remarks?
  • Why did Madison not recommend that Congress should decide whether to wage war on France?

Learning Objectives

  • Paraphrase Madison's case against the British.
  • Cite important examples of insults to American maritime rights and explain the ways in which they were troubling to the U.S.
  • Explain the position of the U.S. in the maritime disputes.
  • Discuss accusations made against the British in North America.
  • Restate Madison's reasons for asking Congress to postpone making a decision on war with France.

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.
  • This unit consists of three parts. First, students will read President Madison's War Message (in either an edited/annotated or full-text version) and be given the opportunity to raise questions about its contents. Then the teacher—in a series of optional mini-lessons—will share with the class pertinent examples of primary documents (and some secondary accounts) that illuminate key points in President Madison's letter. The lesson identifies 10 statements in the message about which students are likely to have questions, and it provides relevant materials. If students raise questions about other sections of the letter, class members may be able to locate pertinent documents on their own, once they become familiar with some of the sources available in the records of Congress. In the end, students will return to the War Message, review its contents, and consider what documents might be useful in making further analyses of the text.
  • Students can use the Biographical Directory on the EDSITEment resource Congress Link to obtain information (including his party affiliation, when he served, and a link to a brief biography) on any member of Congress mentioned or to explore the influence of party or section of the country on any particular vote mentioned in a document from the House or Senate.
  • 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:

The Lessons

The Basics

Grade Level

9-12

Subject Areas
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
  • History and Social Studies > People > Native American
Skills
  • Critical analysis
  • Critical thinking
  • Discussion
  • Historical analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • Textual analysis
  • Using archival documents
  • Using primary sources
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