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.”

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

An Independent Judiciary: Cherokee Nation v. Georgia and Cooper v. Aaron

This documentary explores the Supreme Court cases Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831) and Cooper v. Aaron (1958) that defined our understanding of the role of the judiciary. In Cherokee Nation, the Supreme Court ruled it lacked the jurisdiction to review the claims of an Indian nation in the U.S. In Cooper v. Aaron, the Court affirmed that its interpretation of the Constitution was the “supreme law of the land” and that states were bound by its decisions. A PDF lesson guide is provided.

  • Resource Type: Closed Captions, Special Needs/Language Focus, Surveys, Translated Materials, Video
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Magna Carta: Cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution

Magna Carta served to lay the foundation for later declarations of rights in England and the United States. In attempting to establish checks on the king’s powers, this document asserted the right of “due process” of law. It also provided the basis for an idea of a “higher law,” one that could not be altered either by executive mandate or legislative acts. This concept, embraced by the leaders of the American Revolution, is embedded in the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution.

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

The Constitution in Action – State Challenges to Federal Authority: The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions

Students in this simulation, as Republican members of the Kentucky and Virginia legislatures in 1798 and 1799, consider how they will oppose the Alien and Sedition Acts. Students will then act as members of other state legislatures and consider how to respond to Kentucky and Virginia. By engaging in this historical moment, students will wrestle with the ongoing tension between the Article VI, Clause 2, of the Constitution, which establishes the federal government as the “supreme Law of the Land,” and the Tenth Amendment, which reserves powers “not delegated to the United States” to the states or the people.

  • Resource Type: Interactives, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12