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Political Parties

  • Constitution
  • separation of powers
  • George Washington
  • federalism
  • parliament
  • Founders
  • Electoral College

Political Parties Activity: Federalists v. Democratic Republicans

Students will analyze the development of the Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties in the Early Republic. First, they will read Handout A: James Madison – Excerpts from Federalist No. 10 (1787) to understand Madison’s explanation of factions. Discuss with students the definition of factions and whether or not political parties should be considered factions. Next, have students read excerpts from Jefferson’s and Hamilton’s arguments relating to a national bank in Handout B: Jefferson and Hamilton on the National Bank. Split students into three groups, one group as Jefferson, one group as Hamilton, and another group as reporters or citizens. The reporters/citizens group should develop questions to ask the other groups about their arguments regarding the constitutionality of the national bank. The Jefferson and Hamilton groups should research the arguments for their assigned roles. Hold a debate where the reports and citizens ask questions of the Hamiltons and Jeffersons. Finally, have students read Handout C: Tocqueville’s Observations about Political Parties in America, Democracy in America, Chapter 10 and assess Tocqueville’s observations in historical context and in our current context.


Political Parties Activity: Factions and Virtue

Read aloud the background section on Handout D: Founders, Factions, and Virtue to the class:

Background: In Federalist No. 10, Madison explained that factions are a natural result of human liberty and cannot be prevented from forming in a free society. Therefore, government should be organized to control the effects of factions. Madison went on to refer to principles such as limited government, republicanism, separation of powers, and checks and balances, in addition to the need for virtue in the citizens themselves. It was clear that the nation could not rely on virtue alone to control the effects of faction: “It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.” Federalist No. 10. However, it is also apparent that the founding generation understood the crucial role that virtue would play in preserving and extending liberty in America. The Founders knew that people cannot rely merely on government institutions and systems to protect our rights.

Split the class into 6 groups, and assign each group one of the excerpts on Handout D: Founders, Factions, and Virtue. Students should reach their assigned experts in a group, develop a summary, and explain what the author understood about factions and virtue. Each group should report their findings to the whole class. After each group has presented, discuss whether or not a virtuous citizenry is still necessary in the United States.

Student Handouts

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