“Corner Stone” Speech

This speech was delivered in Savannah after Georgia and six other states had seceded from the Union but before hostilities had begun with the Confederate assault on Fort Sumter. Stephens lauded the Confederate states for rejecting the radical theories of Thomas Jefferson and the American founders and establishing instead, for the first time in history, a government resting upon the self-evident truth of racial inequality.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Primary Sources
  • Subject: Legislative Branch/Congress
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The United States Constitution (CKHG Unit)

This unit explores the creation and central ideas of the United States Constitution. Across 18 lessons, students learn how, after the Revolution, the Founding Fathers worked to confront the shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation. They learn why the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution, and explore reasons why the Constitution has survived as the guiding document of government in the United States.

  • Resource Type: Assessments, Books, Descriptive Text, Lesson Plans, Media, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources, Timelines
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

The Constitutional Convention: Lesson 1: The Road to the Constitutional Convention

In February of 1787, Congress authorized a convention, to be held in Philadelphia in May of that year, for the purpose of recommending changes to the Articles of Confederation. In what has come to be known as the Constitutional Convention of 1787, all of the states—with the exception of Rhode Island—sent delegates to debate how to amend the Articles of Confederation in order to alleviate several problems experienced by the United States after the War for Independence.

This lesson focuses on the problems under the Articles of Confederation between 1783 and 1786 leading to the 1787 Convention. Through examination of primary sources, students will see why some prominent American founders, more than others, believed that the United States faced a serious crisis, and that drastic changes, rather than minor amendments, to the Articles were necessary.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

The Supreme Court: The Judicial Power of the United States

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. The lesson is designed to help students understand how the Supreme Court operates.

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. The first governing document of this nation, the Articles of Confederation, gave Congress certain judicial powers, but did not establish a distinct federal court system.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8

Abraham Lincoln and Executive Power

This lesson traces the rise of Abraham Lincoln from his humble beginnings to the presidency. It examines Lincoln’s ideas and decisions regarding slavery and the use of presidential power to preserve the Union during the Civil War. After the lesson, students should be able to explain how Lincoln overcame daunting disadvantages to become a great president, analyze and evaluate his decisions in response the critical constitutional issues of the Civil War, and understand and appreciate his legacy to American constitutionalism and citizenship.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 9, 10

The Federalist Debates: Balancing Power Between State and Federal Governments

This series of activities introduces students to one of the most hotly debated issues during the formation of the American government — how much power the federal government should have — or alternatively, how much liberty states and citizens should have.

By tracing the U.S. federal system of government to its roots, established by America’s Founding Fathers in the late 18th century, student examine the controversial issue of state sovereignty versus federal power. Students compare the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution, analyzing why weaknesses in the former led to the creation of the latter. Then they examine the resulting system of government formed by the Constitution.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8

James Madison at the Constitutional Convention

This video focuses on James Madison’s efforts to shape deliberation at the Constitutional Convention. His major goal was to replace the system of voluntary compliance of the states under the Article of Confederation with a system of law to compel compliance under the federal Constitution. Professor Jack Rakove explains Madison’s perspective that without such a system, the different interests within each state, coupled with diverse interests among the states, precluded effective governance.

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 11, 12

The Constitution: Counter Revolution or National Salvation

It is Fall 1787. The Federal Convention has recently concluded its closed door meetings in Philadelphia and presented the nation with a new model for the government. It is now up to each special state convention to decide whether to replace the Articles of Confederation with this new constitution. The debate is passionate and speaks directly to what the founding fathers had in mind in conceiving this new nation. Does this new government represent salvation or downfall?

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Primary Sources
  • Subject: Legislative Branch/Congress
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Challenges to Ratification of the Constitution

This video examines the need for and the challenges faced by the new Constitution. Delegates to the Constitutional Convention, originally an ad hoc gathering to revise the Articles of Confederation, quickly realized the need for a new political structure to strengthen the federal government. Professor John Kaminksi notes the role played by George Washington in legitimizing the Convention, as well as the significance of the decision to require ratification through conventions in 9/13 states.

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 11, 12