The Constitution in Action: Republic or Democracy?

History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. This lesson places students at the First Federal Congress and asks them to consider whether citizens have the right to instruct their elected representatives on how to vote. This gets to the very heart of what our government is all about. Should we have a republic—a representative government in which elected leaders are free to deliberate and decide on their own—or a democracy, in which representatives follow the lead of their constituents?

The Constitution in Action: The Early Republic

This unit presents students with several such issues faced by Americans in the Early Republic as they tried to interpret and implement the Constitution. Lessons address “Origin of the Bill of Rights,” “Strict v. Loose Construction,” “Who Shapes Foreign Policy?” “State Challenges to Federal Authority: The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions,” and “Political Parties and Presidential Electors: The Election of 1800.”

Lesson 1: Anti-federalist Arguments Against “A Complete Consolidation”

This lesson focuses on the chief objections of the Anti-federalists, especially The Federal Farmer (Richard Henry Lee), Centinel, and Brutus, regarding the extended republic. Students will become familiar with the larger issues surrounding this debate, including the nature of the American Union, the difficulties of uniting such a vast territory with a diverse multitude of regional interests, and the challenges of maintaining a free republic as the American people moved toward becoming a nation.

Lesson 2: The Federalist Defense of Diversity and “Extending the Sphere”

This lesson involves a detailed analysis of Alexander Hamilton’s and James Madison’s arguments in favor of the extended republic in The Federalist Nos. 9, 10 and 51. Students consider and understand in greater depth the problem of faction in a free republic and the difficulty of establishing a government that has enough power to fulfill its responsibilities, but which will not abuse that power and infringe on liberties of citizens.

The Emoluments Clause and the President (Civil Conversation)

The emoluments clause is a provision in the U.S. Constitution. An emolument is a profit or advantage an official gains from his or her office. The framers of the Constitution feared that ambassadors in the early republic might be corrupted by gifts from foreign countries. The framers wanted public servants to be free from outside influence.

Grades 10, 11, 12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Lesson Plans

Drafting the Nation

As the Framers drafted different versions of our founding documents, their ideas of what it meant to be a republic also changed. In this unit, four lessons based on the drafts of the Articles of Confederation, Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution, held at the collection at HSP, allow students to explore the language and ideas behind these pivotal documents

Grades 12, 9, 10, 11
Federal Government
Lesson Plans

The Constitution in Action – Political Parties and Presidential Electors: The Election of 1800

History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. This simulation places students in the Early Republic and asks them to engage in the politics of those times. Acting as either Federalists or Republicans, they will be asked to develop strategies for electing their party’s standard bearer as president, using the Constitution’s complex system of presidential electors to their advantage.

The Constitution in Action: Who Shapes Foreign Policy?

History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. This simulation places students in the Early Republic and asks them to engage with a fundamental question of Constitutional interpretation faced at that time: Who controls foreign policy, Congress or the President? Students will explore this sweeping question with respect to Washington’s Neutrality Proclamation of 1793 and Jay’s Treaty.

The Constitution in Action: Strict vs. Loose Construction

History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. This simulation places students in the Early Republic and asks them to engage with questions of Constitutional interpretation faced by President Washington and the First Federal Congress. Did the Constitution empower Congress to charter a national bank? Finance and maintain lighthouses? Regulate working conditions of merchant seamen? Support higher education?