The principles of the Declaration of Independence and the design of the Constitution are rooted in a study of political theory and human nature. Examine the philosophical ideals that informed the design of the American government.
Establishing a Government of Laws, Not Men: George Washington’s Retirement and Responsibility
In this lesson, students will review George Washington’s actions in completing his service as Commander-in-Chief following the Revolutionary War, including his return of his military commission to the president of Congress.
Principles and Virtues
This list of principles and virtues is not meant to be comprehensive but instead to be a starting place for the Investigation of the American experiment in self government.
The Tradition of Rights
Rights claims have always been central to American political discourse. In the Founders' view, no human being is so decisively superior to other adult human beings that he is entitled to direct their actions without their express consent. By Nature all adult human beings, regardless of their race, sex or class, are free to rule themselves or, what is the same, to exercise the same "inalienable rights," including the right to life, physical liberty, acquire and use property, marry and raise children, communicate one's opinions, and worship God according to the dictates of one's conscience.
Ancient Republics and European Charters
In this lesson, students will compare and contrast excerpts from The Republic of Plato and selected Federalist Papers by James Madison to determine in what ways Madison agreed and disagreed with Plato, regarding human nature the proper role of government in a society. What influence did Plato have on James Madison and the writers of the Constitution? In what ways did they agree? In what ways did they disagree?
Handout G: Comparing the Second Treatise of Civil Government to the Declaration of Independence
The Pilgrims’ Courageous Journey
In this lesson, students will learn about the journey the Pilgrims took before landing at Plymouth Rock and settling in the New World. They will learn about the numerous setbacks they had to overcome in their journey and come to understand the courage often required to accomplish one’s purpose.
With Charity for All: Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address and Respect
In this lesson, students will review Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, delivered as Union troops were within sight of ultimate victory in the Civil War. They will analyze how he demonstrated respect in his approach to his second term of office and plans for restoring the Union. They will achieve the following objectives.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Stronghold of the Fortress | BRI’s Homework Help Series
In this Homework Help Narrative, learn about the courage and determination of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the origins of the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848.
A Movement Arises (1800-1860)
In this lesson, students will trace the growing public voice of women in American society through various reform movements as well as organized women’s rights movements in antebellum America. Students will analyze the writings of men and women central to the rise of the women’s rights movement and analyze the contributions of several leading figures in the movement.
The Practical Experience of the Colonies
The colonies studied political theory but joined this knowledge with lessons learned through practical experience of self-government. These lessons explore these experiences and how they shaped the design of government in the future United States.
Colonial Experience with Government and Economics
When European colonists came to North America, they faced the challenge of establishing societies that reflected their identity and mission for God. Experiments with economic and civil liberty followed in the name of the common good. Colonists and, later, the Founding generation became convinced that legally requiring individuals to commit their labor or their money towards a communal farm or church, with no regard for individual contribution or conscience, violated principles of justice. The link between economic liberty and the liberty of conscience became clear to many, and is responsible for liberating “a field without an horizon ... to the exploring and ardent curiosity of man.”
Popular Sovereignty and the Consent of the Governed
The Founders believed that the government’s authority needed to come from the people. Under the reign of King George III, the colonists believed that they were deprived of their opportunity to consent to be governed by Parliament through representatives, and, therefore, the British could not force their laws upon the colonies. The Founders made sure to uphold this right in the American Constitution. The people, through their representatives at state ratification conventions, had to ratify the document in order for it to become law.
Champion of Liberty: James Madison and Diligence
In this lesson, students will analyze James Madison’s contributions through diligence to the establishment of the United States Constitution and early republic, exploring events that earned him the title, “Father of the Constitution.”
The Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence announced a new nation and outlined the principles upon which that nation would be rooted. These lessons explore the Declaration and the aspirational principles it declared.
Rights and the Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence, based in part on the philosophy of John Locke, was an “expression of the American mind”. Going back to Magna Carta, British nobles had petitioned the monarch demanding limits to his power. But Locke argues and the Declaration of Independence asserts that legitimate government is based on the consent of the governed. Locke’s ideas were too democratic, too revolutionary for his time in England, but a century later they had a firm hold in the American colonies, and in 1776 they were the basis of the original and most fundamental American statement of rights, the Declaration of Independence.