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The Commercial Republic Before the Civil War, 1815-1860

property,James Madison,Articles of Confederation,Bill of Rights,Alexander Hamilton,Justice,Constitution

The Commercial Republic Before the Civil War Activity: James Madison and the Bonus Bill

Have students read Handout A: James Madison and the Bonus Bill and answer the questions.

Choose five students and assign them the roles of James Madison, James Wilson, Ben Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Rufus King. Let them know that next class you will invite them to improvise a scene that might have taken place at the Constitutional Convention during debate on Madison’s proposal that Congress be given power to grant charters of incorporation for the construction of canals. In their role play, they should include: Madison, Wilson, and Franklin’s reasons for suggesting and supporting the proposal and Sherman and King’s reasons for objecting to the proposal.

Arrange desks in a circle. Using a hat, nametag, or other object, designate one student to play the role of “President Madison.” Give the other students, who will serve as “Congress,” one slip each from Handout B: Article I, Section 8 Slips.

Display Handout C: To Veto, or Not to Veto. Reveal the first proposed federal law, taking care not to reveal the outcome. Members of “Congress” should examine their slip from Handout B and decide if it gives them the power to pass this bill. If they believe it does, they should raise their hand and explain their reasoning to the group.

“President Madison” should now decide whether to sign or veto it. Remind the student playing Madison that s/he should assess the constitutionality of the proposal as President Madison would have. Reveal the outcome using Handout C. Have students pass their slip or President Madison object to the person to their left. Repeat the activity for the rest of the proposed laws.

Ask students to recall Sherman and King’s objections to the proposed power of Congress to grant charters of incorporation for the construction of canals. Have any of those objections become relevant today?

Have students complete Handout D: Madison, Federal Law, and You individually in class or for homework.

The Commercial Republic Before the Civil War Activity: McCulloch v. Maryland

To prepare students for his lesson, have them read Handout E: Case Background and Handout F: Background Information on McCulloch v. Maryland. Lead students though a careful whole-class study of Documents F, G, and H on Handout G: Documents. These reports prepared by President Washington’s cabinet members on the National Bank establish the primary lines of reasoning for differing methods of interpreting the Necessary and Proper Clause.

Assign appropriate documents for student analysis. Documents A – I address the historical background and Constitutional significance of the issues in McCulloch v. Maryland. Documents J – M prompt students to consider the continuing significance of these constitutional issues.

Use key question, “Does the Necessary and Proper clause grant a new power or does it serve to limit the ones that come before it? What does “Proper” mean?” for class discussion or writing assignment, focusing on the constitutional principles involved in the case.

Have students use Handout H: Graphing Federal Power to show the change in the level of federal power over time, using the Supreme Court cases, McCulloch v. Maryland and U.S. v. Comstock