Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington
Credit: Courtesy of American Memory
The Founders were faced with a difficult decision—fix the flawed Articles of Confederation or develop a new system. Essays in favor of the passage of the Constitution by Founders such as Madison and Hamilton were published in the Federalist Papers, available on the EDSITEment resource Avalon Project at the Yale Law School. About the Federalist Papers, on the EDSITEment-reviewed website American Memory, explains:
…the Federalist Papers, is a series of 85 essays written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison between October 1787 and May 1788. The essays were published anonymously, under the pen name "Publius," in various New York state newspapers of the time.
The Federalist Papers were written and published to urge New Yorkers to ratify the proposed United States Constitution, which was drafted in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787. In lobbying for adoption of the Constitution over the existing Articles of Confederation, the essays explain particular provisions of the Constitution in detail. For this reason, and because Hamilton and Madison were each members of the Constitutional Convention, the Federalist Papers are often used today to help interpret the intentions of those drafting the Constitution.
Pass out the excerpts from Alexander Hamilton's The Real Character of the Executive (Federalist Paper #69) that are provided in the handout “From The Federalist Papers: The Real Character of the Executive,” on pages 1-2 of the Master PDF.
As a class or in small groups, with each group assigned one section only, look at seven elements of the office of President in Hamilton's words.
Compile a list of the powers and responsibilities of the President based on Hamilton's essay and/or additional resources.
Then compare the Presidency under the Constitution to the British monarchy and to the President of the United States in Congress Assembled under the Articles of Confederation. (See curriculum unit: Background on the Patriot Attitude Toward the Monarchy and Lesson One in this unit: Before and Beyond the Constitution: What Should a President Do?.
2-3 class periods