• Lesson 1: The President Under the Articles of Confederation

    Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington

    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.

  • Lesson 3: George Washington on the Sedition Act

    George Washington.

    What arguments were offered in support of the Sedition Act? Washington's favorable attitude toward the Sedition Act illustrates that reasonable men in 1798 could support what most modern Americans would regard as an unjust law.

  • Lesson 1: James Madison: Madison Was There

    James Madison.

    Why is James Madison such an important figure? Why is he known as the "Father of the Constitution"? How involved was James Madison in the most important events in America from 1775 to 1817? The answers to these questions provide context for understanding the importance of James Madison's opinions on constitutional issues.

  • Lesson 3: The First American Party System: Federalists and Democratic-Republicans: The Platforms They Never Had

    Thomas Jefferson, Democratic-Republican, and Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 3

    The rivalry between the Federalists and Republicans in the early days of the American Republic was bitter. What were the key positions of the parties? How important to the parties' positions were their basic attitudes toward constitutional interpretation (Federalists, broad interpretation / Democratic-Republicans, strict interpretation)? Which positions of either party resonate in the politics of today?

  • Lesson 2: The First American Party System: A Documentary Timeline of Important Events (1787–1800)

    Thomas Jefferson, Democratic-Republican, and Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 2

    In this lesson, students examine the critical factors leading to the development of the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans and look at the timeline of key events and issues caused the differences in opinion.

  • Lesson 1: The First American Party System: U.S. Political Parties: The Principle of Legitimate Opposition

    Thomas Jefferson, Democratic-Republican, and Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 4

    Before the birth of opposition political parties, divisions among U.S. leaders developed over the ratification of the Constitution.

  • Lesson 2: People and Places in the North and South

    Anti-slavery poster form the 1850s

    Students develop a foundation on which to understand the basic disagreements between North and South.

  • The Supreme Court: The Judicial Power of the United States

    Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, John G. Roberts.

    The federal judiciary, which includes the Supreme Court as well as the district and circuit courts, is one of three branches of the federal government. The judiciary has played a key role in American history and remains a powerful voice in resolving contemporary controversies. This lesson provides an introduction to the Supreme Court. Students will learn basic facts about the Supreme Court by examining the United States Constitution and one of the landmark cases decided by that court.

  • Lesson 3: The Gettysburg Address (1863)—Defining the American Union

    Photo of Lincoln at Gettysburg dedication. Lincoln is highlighted in this image  in the middle of the crowd at the dais.

    This lesson will examine the most famous speech in American history to understand how Lincoln turned a perfunctory eulogy at a cemetery dedication into a concise and profound meditation on the meaning of the Civil War and American union.

  • Lesson 1: Fragment on the Constitution and Union (1861)—The Purpose of the American Union

    Library of  Congress image of 1860 campaign illustration of Republican nominee Abraham Lincoln

    How did Abraham Lincoln understand the relationship between principles of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution? In this lesson students will examine Lincoln's "Fragment on the Constitution and Union" a brief but insightful reflection on the importance of the ideal of individual liberty to the constitutional structure and operation of the American union written in the last days of December 1860 when his election as president had brought the crisis of the American "house divided" to a head.