The Supremacy Clause

Tension between the states and the federal government has been a constant throughout U.S. history. This video explores the supremacy clause in Article VI of the Constitution and key moments in the power struggle, including the landmark case McCulloch v. Maryland. In McCulloch, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote that the supremacy clause unequivocally states that the “Constitution, and the Laws of the United States … shall be the supreme Law of the Land.”

Grades 8, 9-12
Foundations of Democracy
Video

The Amendment Process: Ratifying the 19th Amendment

In this activity, students will analyze historical records of Congress and the U.S. government to understand the sequence of steps in the amendment process. Students will study each document and match it to the step in the process that it illustrates.
When put in proper sequence, the documents will show the process by which the 19th Amendment – prohibiting the federal government or states from denying the right to vote on the basis of sex – was added to the Constitution.
Then students will reflect on the process, and the roles that the people, president, Congress and the states play.

Expansion of Voting Rights

This lesson provides students with a brief overview of the historical evolution and expansion of voting rights in the United States. Students will discuss examples of previous “voting qualifications” used by states in the past to deny minorities the right to vote. They will reflect on why the right to vote is important, and appreciate the outcomes of constitutional amendments, Supreme Court decisions, and the Voting Rights Act in the expansion of this right.

The History of Immigration Law in the United States

This lesson provides a background on the history of immigration policy in the United States, that is the philosophical origins, legal debates, and legal history from the Founding of the nation to the late 1900s. Students will come to understand how American lawmakers viewed immigrants and the reasoning behind the evolving nature of immigration policy.

Natural Rights, Citizenship Rights, State Rights, and Black Rights: Another Look at Lincoln and Race

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.

James Madison in the 1790s

This short video examines the “Madison problem”: Did the nationalist of the 1780s become an ardent supporter of strong states in the 1790s? Professor Jack Rakove explains that Madison consistently sought to balance the powers of the states and the federal government. In the 1780s, the weak government under the Articles needed to be strengthened by the Constitution while in the 1790s, the strong government under the Federalists needed to be checked by the states asserting their powers.

Grades 11, 12
Foundations of Democracy
Video