• 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.

  • Women's Suffrage: Why the West First?

    Why the West?

    Students compile information to examine hypotheses explaining why the first nine states to grant full voting rights for women were located in the West.

  • Mapping Colonial New England: Looking at the Landscape of New England

    A Dutch Map of the English colonies in North America around 1685 with an inset  view of New Amsterdam.

    The lesson focuses on two 17th-century maps of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to trace how the Puritans took possession of the region, built towns, and established families on the land. Students will learn how these New England settlers interacted with the Native Americans, and how to gain information about those relationships from primary sources such as maps.

  • 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: The War in the North, 1775–1778

    George Washington in the uniform of the Continental Army, by Rembrandt  Peale.

    Lacking any organized army before 1775 (aside from local colonial militias), the Continental Congress had to assemble a more or less improvised fighting force that would be expected to take on the army of the world's largest empire. This lesson will trace events in the North from 1775 to 1778. By looking at documents of the time, and using an interactive map, students will see how an army was created and understand the challenges that Washington and his men faced during this critical early stage of the war.

  • 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.

  • Colonizing the Bay

    John Winthrop wrote "General Observations for the Plantation of New  England"

    This lesson focuses on John Winthrop’s historic "Model of Christian Charity" sermon which is often referred to by its “City on a Hill “ metaphor. Through a close reading of this admittedly difficult text, students will learn how it illuminates the beliefs, goals, and programs of the Puritans. The sermon sought to inspire and to motivate the Puritans by pointing out the distance they had to travel between an ideal community and their real-world situation.

  • 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 5: Women's Lives Before the Civil War

    Anti-slavery poster form the 1850s

    What was life like for women in the first half of the 19th century in America? What influence did women have in shaping the attitudes towards slavery? Towards women's suffrage?

  • Lesson 4: Thomas Jefferson on the Sedition Act

    Thomas Jefferson.

    What arguments were put forth in objection to the Sedition Act? Supporters of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison believed the Sedition Act was designed to repress political opposition to President John Adams and the Federalists.