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State and Local Government

90 min

Guiding Questions

  • What is a federal republic and what are the advantages of this form of government?
  • Why is a pure democracy potentially dangerous to the rights of the minority?
  • What is nullification, what were its results, and what are its implications for modern times?


  • Students will explain why the Founders selected a federal republic as the best form of government.
  • Students will analyze causes and effects of the Nullification Crisis.

  • Federalism
  • Articles of Confederation
  • Electoral College
  • Framers
  • James Madison
  • tyranny
  • Constitution
  • Fourteenth Amendment
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Founders
  • Continental Congress
  • Alexander Hamilton
  • Tenth Amendment
  • democracy

Have students read the State and Local Government Essay, highlighting or otherwise annotating the main ideas.

Have students use a Think-Pair-Share process to respond to this question: Should states be able to declare federal laws unconstitutional?

Activity 1: What is a Federal Republic? [25 minutes]

Have students read Handout A: What Is a Federal Republic? Instruct students to answer the questions at the end of the essay.

Hand each student a copy of the Patrick Henry quotation on Handout B: Patrick Henry at the Virginia Ratifying Convention. Ask one student to stand up and read the quotation aloud. Ask students to put Henry’s concerns in their own words.

Activity 2: Federalist No. 39 [15 minutes]

Divide students into small groups and distribute Handout C: James Madison and Federalism – Excerpts from Federalist No. 39. Have students follow the directions on the handout regarding Madison’s explanations of the national and federal nature of the Constitution. After students have completed it, lead the class in a discussion of the questions.

Activity 3: Nullification [40 minutes]

Give a mini-lecture on the background of the Nullification Crisis relating to the Tariff of 1828, South Carolina’s nullification of the law, Jackson’s response, and how it affected the United States leading up to the Civil War.

Have students work in small groups using information from Handout E: Federalist No. 26, Handout F: South Carolina Ordinance, and Handout G: President Jackson’s Proclamation to study the Nullification Crisis and answer the following questions:

  • What is nullification?
  • What was the Tariff of 1828?
  • Why did South Carolina disagree with the Tariff of 1828?
  • What was President Jackson’s response to South Carolina?
  • What would the Founders have thought about the Nullification Crisis? Would Federalists and Anti-Federalists have differing opinions on the topic? Explain.
  • What were the long-term effects of the Nullification Crisis?
  • What, if any, modern day implications does nullification have?

Ask work groups to share their responses to the final question: What, if any, modern day implications does nullification have?

Have students search current events articles (see ) to find examples of controversies between the levels of government in our federal system: local/state, state/national, local/national

Have students report in the next class, explaining who, what, when, where, where, why, how, results.

Student Handouts

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