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The National Bank Debate

  • Students will be able to explain the economic problems affecting the United States in the early years of the republic.
  • Students will be able to analyze the financial and constitutional justifications for the Bank of the United States.
  • Students will be able to express their support or rejection of the bank bill by reenacting the bank debate as it took shape between the Jeffersonian-Republicans and the Federalists.

This activity is adapted from the Federalism unit in the Bill of Rights Institute’s Supreme Court Document Based Questions, Vol. 2. You may want to have students make their own name tags when they get to the Application activities, or provide students in each of the groups of four with laminated name tags for Student 1: Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson; Student 2: Attorney General Edmund Randolph; Student 3: Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton; Student 4: President George Washington. However, do not hand out the name tags until the Application activity, just before students present their constitutional arguments.

1. Students will read

1. Distribute Handout A: Refining the Bill of Rights: Madison’s Proposals, and have students move into thirteen small groups.

2. Students will discuss each of Madison’s proposals listed in Column A and write each in their own words in Column B.

3. After discussion, each student may decide to write their individual paraphrase or write a group paraphrase.

III. Application (30–40 min)

1. At this point, designate each of the groups to be the delegation from a specific state: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia. Point out that the sixty-five representatives were not equally apportioned among the states, but that more populous states like Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts had larger delegations, and Delaware and Rhode Island each had only one representative.

2. Once students have been assigned their delegation, have them brainstorm what would be important to their state to consider in the amendment process. Ask students to consider the knowledge of the different economies and patterns of settlement in the colonies from previous chapters.

3. Students will discuss the merits of each excerpt in Column A of their chart, in light of their responsibility to faithfully represent their constituents from their assigned delegation.

4. Students will then record a check in Column C for each amendment they would support, assuming the identity of a member of their assigned delegation. Students within a state delegation may or may not come to a unanimous decision, but they should come to a majority decision. Have each group select one person in the delegation to act as a spokesperson for the vote.

Handout A: Background of the National Bank Debate, describing the historical context of the bank debate. Then, students should answer the warm-up question, “If you were President Washington, what kinds of evidence would you be looking for in the reports to be provided by your cabinet officers?”

2. Allow a few moments for discussion. Then, use the Review Questions on Handout A: Background of the National Bank Debate to check for understanding of the background and context of the national bank controversy.

1. Distribute Handout A: Refining the Bill of Rights: Madison’s Proposals, and have students move into thirteen small groups.

2. Students will discuss each of Madison’s proposals listed in Column A and write each in their own words in Column B.

3. After discussion, each student may decide to write their individual paraphrase or write a group paraphrase.

4. At this point, designate each of the groups to be the delegation from a specific state: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia. Point out that the sixty-five representatives were not equally apportioned among the states, but that more populous states like Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts had larger delegations, and Delaware and Rhode Island each had only one representative.

5. Once students have been assigned their delegation, have them brainstorm what would be important to their state to consider in the amendment process. Ask students to consider the knowledge of the different economies and patterns of settlement in the colonies from previous chapters.

6. Students will discuss the merits of each excerpt in Column A of their chart, in light of their responsibility to faithfully represent their constituents from their assigned delegation.

7. Students will then record a check in Column C for each amendment they would support, assuming the identity of a member of their assigned delegation. Students within a state delegation may or may not come to a unanimous decision, but they should come to a majority decision. Have each group select one person in the delegation to act as a spokesperson for the vote.

81. Have students work with their small groups and pocket Constitutions to complete Column D and answer the analysis questions that follow. Lead a discussion on the analysis questions or collect them, as best suits your classroom.

1. Have students work with their small groups and pocket Constitutions to complete Column D and answer the analysis questions that follow. Lead a discussion on the analysis questions or collect them, as best suits your classroom.