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The Election of Lincoln and the Secession of Southern States DBQ

90 min
  • Students will be able to identify how the U.S. political system developed a regional schism leading up to the Civil War.
  • Students will analyze primary source documents by answering comprehension questions to guide them to identify the philosophical and political causes of the secession of the southern states.

Students should work in pairs throughout this lesson. They will collaborate in decoding the various documents and coming to conclusions from them.

Students will examine Handout A where they will identify the regional schism that defined the 1860 presidential election. The first document will define the scope of the division, and the second document will give them insight as to how the North and South viewed Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration. The teacher should move about the room to confirm that students are carefully examining the evidence and coming to the correct conclusions. When they are having difficulty, the teacher should coach them, pointing out key elements of the documents that need to be interpreted.

Students will examine Handout B to see the nature of the political divide between the southern slaveholding states and the incoming Republican administration of Abraham Lincoln. They will need to read the documents and answer the questions to interpret their main ideas. Student pairs should discuss each document and collaborate on answers to the questions that they are both comfortable supporting. In all cases, text from the documents should be cited as evidence of their conclusions.

Each student will write an individual reflection essay responding to the prompt: In what ways did the slaveholding South perceive a threat from Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans, and how did they feel the step of secession was not only justified, but that they were compelled to do so? The essay must make specific citations to the texts to support each claim that is made in the essay.

Each student will conduct a peer review of the reflection essay written by the partner they worked with on this assignment.

  1. Has the writer made a clear statement that addresses the issues in the prompt?
  2. Has the writer cited evidence from the documents to support their conclusions?
  3. Whether you agree with them or not, does the evidence cited provide a basis for each claim?