- How are the republican principles of limited government, separation of powers, and checks and balances reflected in the U.S. Constitution?
- Students will examine key republican principles found in the U.S. Constitution by analyzing James Madison’s writing in Federalist No. 51.
- Students will examine the concepts of separation of powers and checks and balances by comparing the powers of the three branches of the national government.
- Background Essay: “A Glorious Liberty Document”: The U.S. Constitution and Its Principles
- Background Essay Graphic Organizer
- James Madison and Federalist No. 51
- The Battle of the Branches: Madison’s “Auxiliary Precautions”
- Excerpts from Baron de Montesquieu’s The Spirit of Laws (1748)
Facilitation Notes: Stronger readers can read the background essay and complete the graphic organizer as background/preparatory work. Students will consult Appendix A: Founding Principles and Civic Virtues Organizer and Appendix B: Being an American Unit Graphic Organizer from the first lesson in this curriculum.
- Have students respond to the following prompt in writing: Government has to be limited because people are too ambitious for power.
- After allowing students time to write down their perspective and rationale, have them share with a partner/small group.
- Debrief with a short class discussion.
- Ask students why this prompt is relevant to the creation of the U.S. Constitution.
- Distribute Background Essay and Background Essay Graphic Organizer. Complete as a class/individually/in pairs as best suits your classroom. Review main ideas in the graphic organizer. You may also choose to have students use two different highlighters to annotate the essay as you read. Tell them to highlight the definition of each constitutional principle in one color and the example of the principle in another. Also have them write either another example or a question they have about the principle in the margins.
- Distribute James Madison and Federalist No. 51, and have students complete the reading and questions.
- Distribute The Battle of the Branches: Madison’s “Auxiliary Precautions.” Assign students to teams for each branch.
- Have students present their product for the final “battle.”
Assess & Reflect
- Allow students time to complete the Concluding Analysis and Reflection questions.
- Lead students in a class debrief and/or collect student responses.
- Have students return to Appendix A: Founding Principles and Civic Virtues Organizer from the first lesson in this curriculum and complete the definitions of checks and balances, federalism, and separation of powers based on what they learned in this activity.
- Have students return to Appendix B: Being an American Unit Graphic Organizer from the first lesson in this curriculum and complete the applicable row as an exit ticket.
- Have students read Excerpts from Baron de Montesquieu’s The Spirit of Laws (1748) and answer the accompanying questions. Ask students to write an imagined conversation between Madison and Montesquieu where they discuss separation of powers.
The Creation of the Bill of Rights
Background Essay: “A Glorious Liberty Document:” The U.S. Constitution and Its Principles
Background Essay Graphic Organizer: “A Glorious Liberty Document”: The U.S. Constitution and Its Principles
“A Glorious Liberty Document”: The U.S. Constitution and Its Principles
How are the republican principles of limited government, separation of powers, and checks and balances reflected in the U.S. Constitution?
Constitution of the United States of America (1787)
The Constitution was written in the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by delegates from 12 states, in order to replace the Articles of Confederation with a new form of government. It created a federal system with a national government composed of 3 separated powers, and included both reserved and concurrent powers of states.
Founders and the Constitution
Founders and the Constitution: In Their Own Words, introduces students to twenty-four individuals who had a direct impact on the founding of our constitutional government. Students will explore the lives and ideas of the Founders, analyze their writings, and appreciate each Founder’s role in shaping our government.
The Constitution Explained | A Primary Source Close Read w/ BRI
How is the Constitution structured? In this episode of our "Close Reads: Explained" series, Kirk tackles the Constitution and explains its biggest concepts to you. What does the document teach us about the government it defines?
School, Students, & Speech: A Constitution Day Special w/ Civics 101’s Nick Capodice
Do your rights end at the schoolhouse door? In a special episode of Fabric of History, Mary and Gary are joined by Nick Capodice, co-host and Education Outreach Producer for Civics 101, the podcast refresher course on the basics of how democracy works. What do the decisions of cases like Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. teach us about the relationship between students’ rights and schools’ ability to enforce protocol? And what exactly is the difference between on-campus and off-campus speech? Listening Guide: https://bit.ly/CDLpodcast