Alexander Hamilton and the Roots of Federalism
Author: Julie Bedard
School: Eagle Ridge Middle
Grade Level: 6th
Time Estimated: 1.5 days (90 minute periods)
Shortly after George Washington took office as the country's first president under its new Constitution in 1789, a rift developed within his administration regarding how the Constitution should be interpreted to govern the country. As Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton advocated for a strong central government that supported industries and large agricultural enterprises as well as renewed strong economic relations with Britain. The views expressed by Alexander Hamilton in his Report on Manufactures can be contrasted with the views supported by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and the emerging Democratic-Republican faction. The Democratic-Republicans, or Jeffersonian Democrats, would support a weaker central government with an economy focused on a strong segment of small farmers. This rift would eventually evolve into the division into political parties, which as become a permanent part of American government.
- Students will be able to identify within a primary source key beliefs of Alexander Hamilton, which will form the roots of the Federalist party.
- Students will be able to make predictions about other Federalist beliefs based on the economic beliefs detailed in the primary source.
- Students will be able to identify symbols in political cartoons and assess their meaning in the context of the developing split between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans.
U.S. I.1a The student will develop skills for historical and geographical analysis, including the ability to identify and interpret primary and secondary source documents to increase understanding of events and life in United States history to 1877.
U.S. I.1e The student will develop skills for historical and geographical analysis, including the ability to evaluate and discuss issues orally and in writing.
U.S. I.1h The student will develop skills for historical and geographical analysis, including the ability to interpret political slogans and excerpts from notable speeches and documents.
U.S. I.7a The student will demonstrate knowledge of the challenges faced by the new nation by identifying the conflicts that resulted in the emergence of two political parties.
- Selections from Alexander Hamilton's "Report on Manufactures"
- Chart of excerpts and a matching chart of meanings
- Report on Manufactures Questions
- Federalists vs. Democratic Republicans Worksheet
Resource packets and worksheets for all students containing each of the following:
- 6 large copies of the political cartoon, "The Providential Detection," from which to extract segments. Segments should be attached to foam board or bristol board.
- A transparency with initial/early questions for the students.
- Copies of the full "Providential Detection" cartoon for each student.
- A transparency of the full "Providential Detection" cartoon.
- Introduction: The class will be reminded that the two players in today’s lesson have previously been mentioned in our discussions on George Washington’s cabinet. We are going to see a split in the ways that people see the government, similar to the differences between the Federalists and anti-Federalists during the Constitutional Convention. (5 minutes)
- Students will receive a copy of the excerpts from Alexander Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures, written when he was the Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington.
- Teacher will read the selection aloud and inquire if students understood everything, anticipating that few will understand the whole document.
- Students will then receive the chart of excerpts and the matching chart of meanings and will work (individually or in small groups, depending on the class) to match the meanings to the excerpt. The students will cut out and paste the meanings next to their appropriate excerpt.
- The students will then proceed to answering the Report on Manufactures questions, which the class will go over together as part of a group discussion. (30 minutes)
- Using the Federalists vs. Democratic Republicans worksheet, students will then take notes on the actual beliefs of the Federalists based on teacher lecture/discussion. (10 minutes – 15 minutes)
- Based on the idea that the Democratic-Republicans fundamentally disagreed with the Federalists, the students will make predictions about Jefferson’s party (on the same worksheet used for previous activity). (10-15 minutes)
- The class will follow up with discussion and notes similar to that for the Federalists. (10 – 15 minutes)
- As the students enter the room, each will receive a piece of the political cartoon ("The Providential Detection") outlined in one of 6 colors. Each color will have four segments, representing a near complete cartoon.
- The teacher will instruct students to find the other students with the same color outline to their pieces. They will try to construct the picture and answer the following "early" questions posted on the overhead (5-10 minutes):
- What do you notice about the picture/pictures that you have put together?
- What pieces of the picture could be symbols that stand for something else?
- What do you think is happening in this picture?
- After most groups have completed their construction and have answer the questions, the class should have a discussion about what they think is going on. (5 minutes)
- The teacher will distribute the full copies of the cartoon and will go through our primary source assessment of the cartoon, using the following as guiding questions (10 minutes):
- What do you notice about the picture? (this should generate some more observations than the small segment did)
- Who is at the center of the picture?
- What is the subject trying to do?
- Who in the picture is “happy” about the subjects actions?
- Who in the picture is trying to stop the subject?
- Which side – Federalists or Democratic-Republicans – probably created this cartoon? What that you observed in the cartoon supports this assessment?
- The class discussion should reveal that this is a Federalist cartoon:
- The cartoon shows Jefferson trying to burn the Constitution
- The Devil is laughing, suggesting what is happening is evil
- An American eagle and God are trying to prevent this from happening
Day 2: Federalists Attack Jefferson – Political Cartoon
As a warm-up, the students will practice their political cartoon analysis on a pro-Federalist cartoon that portrays Thomas Jefferson doing the work of the devil as he attempts to burn the Constitution.
Day 1: Students will draft a rebuttal or an answer to Hamilton's thesis as would be written by Jefferson. The draft should address Democratic-Republican beliefs about the national government, state governments, economics, and the national bank and should discuss how these beliefs are different than Hamilton's.
Day 2: Similar to the previous day's homework, students will be asked (either in class or as homework) to create a political cartoon from the perspective of Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans. They will need to have at least 2 or 3 symbols that represent how Jefferson felt about the national bank, the state and national governments, and businesses. The cartoon should also try to show how Jefferson felt about Hamilton’s opposite view, since this cartoon showed Jefferson doing the work of the devil.
Day 1: The homework assignment can be submitted as a "comic strip," or series of drawings for students with issues of writing or language.
Day 2: Students who are uncomfortable drawing could describe in words what such a cartoon would look like, listing the important symbols and what they would represent.
Day 1: The teacher can make informal assessments based on circulating the room during the definition task and the subsequent questions about the primary source to asses an understanding. Similarly, an observation of predictions about the Democratic-Republicans will provide an idea of student understanding of the conflict and differences between the two groups.
The homework assignment will provide a more formal assessment of student understanding of the beliefs of the two factions and how they would have responded to each other.
Day 2: Observing the discussions can provide the teacher with informal assessments of students understanding of the rift between Hamilton and Jefferson as well as their ability to analyze political cartoons.
The homework/classwork can provide teachers will an insight into the students’ abilities to think critically as well as their understanding of the purposes of political cartoons.
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
The Gilder Lehrman collection contains a series of exhibits about Alexander Hamilton and his quest for federal power, including the above document.
"The Providential Detection", Library of Congress
The Library of Congress has an extensive collection reflecting Thomas Jefferson’s contributions. This cartoon is used to provide context to Jefferson’s strong views on state’s rights and is included among a collection of sources including an version of the Federalist Papers annotated by Jefferson (which would be an ideal additional source for older students), a letter from Jefferson to James Madison, and a Jeffersonian Democratic newspaper.