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  • Great Depression
  • Articles of Confederation
  • federalism
  • Sixteenth Amendment
  • separation of powers
  • due process
  • Framers
  • democracy
  • republic
  • James Madison
  • Founders
  • Alexis de Tocqueville
  • Electoral College
  • Constitution

Federalism Activity: Federalism Analysis

To begin, activate students’ prior knowledge by having them complete Handout A: Federalism Venn Diagram in order to differentiate which functions of government are best delegated to which level, state or federal. Discuss students’ answers as a whole group.

Next, have students use Handout B: Article I Sections 8, 9, 10 of the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment to review passages from the U.S. Constitution in order to understand how it distributes government powers. Students will write a title for each section or amendment, compare the ways in which power was divided between the states and federal government, explain the Founders reasoning for dividing power, and identifying the ways in which rights are protected in these articles and amendments. Have students discuss how their answers on Handout A might change based on their understanding from Handout B.

Then students will consider how the legacy of slavery is related to the principle of federalism by reading a Handout C: State Power – Criticisms and Responses. Discuss with students how federalism was related to slavery and segregation in American history.

Have students read Handout D: Excerpts from Roger Sherman, June 6, 1787 (From Madison’s Notes on the Philadelphia Convention), Handout E: Excerpts from Federalist No. 39, James Madison (1788), and Handout F: Excerpts from Democracy in America, Advantages of the Federal System, Alexis de Tocqueville (1835) to establish an understanding of how thinkers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries expected the principle of federalism to be applied. Have students work in groups to complete Handout G: An Overview of Federalism at the Founding and Early Republic to analyze the roles of the national and federal government according to each author.


Federalism Activity: Federalism in the Twentieth Century

Have students trace how interpretations of the Commerce Clause have changed the nature of federalism in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries by reading Handout H: How Has the Supreme Court Interpreted the Commerce Clause? and completing Handout I: Commerce Clause Timeline.

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