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Unit 6 Civics Connection: The Constitution and Foreign Policy, 1898-1945

70 min
  • Students will review major events in U.S. foreign policy during the period 1898-1945 by summarizing their context.
  • Students will understand constitutional principles and evaluate their influence on U.S. foreign policy during the period 1898-1945.
  • Students will explain how the Constitution’s distribution of powers contributed to constitutional controversies regarding the proper role of the United States in the world with respect to the major events in U.S. foreign policy during the period 1898-1945.

If this is the first time your students have considered constitutional principles, have them begin by focusing specifically on limited government, separation of powers, and consent. Use the Handout C: Principles and Virtues Glossary included with this lesson as a point of departure. Students should have copies of the U.S. Constitution to reference for this activity as needed.

Project and have students examine the Cartoon Analysis: A Lesson for Anti-Expansionists, Victor Gillam, 1899 Primary Source. Discuss what this reveals about U.S. foreign policy over time, up until 1899. Ask students to consider who Uncle Sam represents in this cartoon: the government as a whole? The president? Congress? The nation’s citizens as a whole? Who is responsible for foreign policy? Who does the Constitution say is responsible for foreign policy?

Distribute Handout A: Separation of Powers and International Involvement. Students will analyze constitutional provisions related to international affairs by classifying them as creating presidential power, congressional power, or shared power. Students should have copies of the U.S. Constitution to reference for this activity as needed.

Distribute Handout B: Constitutional Arguments and Foreign Policy. Students will practice generating constitutional arguments for and against the foreign policy action taken by the U.S. government for important events from 1898 to 1945. The first action has been done as an example. Note that some events may be more challenging to create arguments for than others. The point of the exercise is for students to see that different individuals will have different interpretations of the Constitution’s language regarding foreign policy. Have students complete the analysis questions when they have completed the graphic organizer.

Lead a brief discussion on the analysis questions on the Constitutional Arguments and Foreign Policy handout or collect students’ responses, as best fits your classroom.