Phillip Hamilton’s “‘No Event Could Have Filled Me with Greater Anxieties’: George Washington and the First Inaugural Address” reminds us how precedent setting our first president was. Anxious that his lack of administrative experience might make his task as the executive of a new nation difficult, Washington nevertheless proved he was as expert at statesmanship as he was on the battlefield. Registration at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is required to view this resource.
Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
Founded in 1994, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is a nonprofit organization devoted to the improvement of history education. Each year the Institute offers programs, support and resources to tens of thousands of teachers in all 50 states, and through them enhances the education of more than a million students. The Institute’s programs have been recognized by awards from the White House, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Organization of American Historians.
In his essay “James Madison and the Constitution,” Professor Jack Rakove probes the mind of James Madison — the delegate known as the “architect of the Constitution,” explores the weaknesses of the Articles government, and develops arguments for a stronger union in a memorandum entitled Vices of the Political System of the United States.
The Fourteenth Amendment was the most important constitutional change in the nation’s history since the Bill of Rights. Its heart was the first section, which declared all persons born or naturalized in the United States (except Indians) to be both national and state citizens, and which prohibited the states from abridging their “privileges and immunities,” depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or denying them “equal protection of the laws.”
In “Modern Women Persuading Modern Men: The Nineteenth Amendment Completes the Movement for Woman Suffrage,” Jonathan Soffer explains how Carrie Chapman Catt’s “Winning Plan” achieved what over half a century of struggle had failed to achieve: women’s full political citizenship.
Saul Cornell, from Fordham University, and James Basker, the president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute, discuss anti-federalism and dissent in constitutional history. Anti-federalists were advocates against the ratification of the Constitution.
These lessons on the Bill of Rights are part of Gilder Lehrman’s series of Common Core–based units. These units were written to enable students to understand, summarize, and analyze original texts of historical significance. Students will demonstrate this knowledge by writing summaries of selections from the original document and, by the end of the unit, articulating their understanding of the complete document by answering questions in an argumentative writing style to fulfill the Common Core Standards. Through this step-by-step process, students will acquire the skills to analyze any primary or secondary source material.
At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, delegates analyzed, argued, and debated the new Constitution. George Mason, a Virginian, pleaded with the fifty-five delegates for the inclusion of a list of guaranteed rights. Mason (sometimes referred to as the “father of the Bill of Rights”) wanted the new Constitution to guarantee freedom of speech, press, and religion, and the right to a fair jury trial. He also wanted to include the freedom to vote.
Anthony Badger uses the career of President Jimmy Carter to frame the questions of change in the American South and the relative impact that economic modernization, nonviolent protest, and armed self-defense had on the end of segregation and the steps taken toward political and social equality.
In the real world, the ability of free blacks to enjoy their natural rights and exercise the privileges and immunities of citizenship depended on the states where they actually lived. When those states imposed a raft of legal discriminations on free blacks they cheapened the meaning of freedom and discounted the value of citizenship. I suspect this bothered Lincoln, but it wasn’t his issue. It would take other men and women, and another century of struggle, before “states rights” was abolished.
Professor Clarence Taylor reminds us of the role African American soldiers played in the conflict—and the role their military service played in shaping the racial politics that followed in peacetime. Taken together, these essays help us appreciate the complexity of mobilization for modern warfare and drive home the impact of events on the world stage upon domestic affairs.