Centralized Power Struggle

Class Length: 2-4 Class Meetings


Students will be able to:

1. Compare and contrast the governing systems of the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.

2. Critically analyze primary sources to identify historical perspectives.

3. Defend the intentions of the Founding Fathers.


- Excerpts of the Articles of Confederation (cited reference #6)

- Articles of Confederation Worksheet (cited reference #4)

- Excerpt from the United States Constitution (cited reference #1)

- Founding Father quotations (cited reference #2, 5, 8, 9)


Students will be use their textbooks to locate and define key concepts in early American government history:

- Anti-Federalist

- Confederation

- Democracy

- Federalist

- Liberty

- Revolution

- Representative

- Republic

Students will receive 4 equal sets of index cards with either the name James Madison, George Mason, Alexander Hamilton, or Patrick Henry written on them, and receive information on each (teacher can purchase index cards from any local office/school supplies store).

The teacher will give the class a journal writing prompt:

- I, Mr./Mrs. (teacher’s last name) is the king/queen of this class. You, the students, subordinates to the Monarch, revolt and free yourself from Mr./Mrs.(teacher’s last name) rule. You are left to manage the class and various academic requirements, including test preparation for an important upcoming high-stakes exam (state/district assessments, SATs, ACT, LSATs, etc). Questions/Ideas to consider:

1. How will the students organize themselves so that all learning objectives will be met?

2. You must create groups to manage (govern) different parts of the class. Think about all of the different aspects of education: from grades, to materials, to choosing subject matter/content, etc. Every student must be included, but not every student will have the same role or authority.

The class will share their responses and discuss interesting thoughts and constructively criticize ideas that need improvements. A list of ideas will be generated and written on the board, followed by a discussion that compares and contrast the gathered ideas. The teacher will transition student responses and generated lists into a focus around freedom and state/federal rule.

Teacher introduces the terms confederation, government, democracy, and republic, and distribute excerpts of the Articles of Confederation. Students will determine whether the states or the federal government had more authority and power.

Guided discussion ensues about the Articles of Confederation and review of Federal vs. State power struggles (Teacher can refer to the referenced cites 3 & 7 for related instructional information). Questions to consider:

1. What are some things the federal government does now which could not have been "expressly delegated to the United States" in the Articles of Confederation because they involve changes over time in society or technology that the framers could not have foreseen?

2. Would it be better for the individual states to have the power, or is it better for the federal government to have them? Why?

3. What is the relationship between state and federal governments in the U.S.? How are they similar? How are they different? Who has more power?

4. Why did the Founding Fathers decide on forming a federal government?

5. What kinds of similar and difference laws do states and federal government make? Why?

6. Describe a conflict that might arise from the divisions of power between state and federal governments.

Distribute and have students complete Articles of Confederation Worksheet

Divide the class into four groups, the George Masons, the James Madisons, the Alexander Hamiltons, and the Patrick Henrys, using the index cards. Students will sit divided in the groups: Federalists (Hamilton/Madison) and Anti-Federalists (Mason/Henry).

Distribute excerpt from the United States Constitution. Students will read the text and identifying the major points and arguments of the document, and compare and contrast with the Articles of Confederation, using a Venn diagram.

Students reenact the Constitution Ratifying Convention. Using various selected quotes, students will role-play the beliefs of the Founding Father they are assigned to and debate over the need to ratify or rewrite the U.S. Constitution. Quotation considerations:

- What audience were these quotes written for?

- List the main points to this quote.

- Rephrase this quote in your own words/in today’s words.

- Explain how the quote reflects your Founding Father’s position on American government.

Representative from each group to share information learned.

Each student will write a one-page summation stating their Founding Father’s belief about forming the new American government, the critical points in support of their argument, and an argument against the opposing Founding Father’s stance. The summation will be laid out in three parts:

1. Introduction: who is speaking and your stance on the U.S. Constitution (ratify or rewrite)

2. Your understanding and opinions of the Articles of Confederation vs. the U.S. Constitution, and why you have and believe in such ideas (consider power roles, authority, state vs.. federal control, etc)

3. Closing Statement: final persuasive reasoning for which document should be the foundational document for America’s new government.

Students will prepare to give an oral presentation regarding their summation for the reenactment of Constitution Ratifying Convention. Each student will be evaluated by the following rubric:

Grading Rubric

Grade 0 2 4 6
Articles of Confederation Worksheet Incomplete answers, off topic responses Complete but vague answers. Poor grammar and use of language Good answers, complete sentences. Answers could be more in-depth. Complete, accurate, and well-written answers that fully answer the question asked
Venn Diagram Little to no information provided for any section of the diagram Answer are filled in but are off-topic and do not relate to primary documents Good answers, all sections of diagram used. Some key aspects are missing. Complete diagram, all sections filled with pertinent and critical information on topic to specific document
Quotation Questions Worksheet Incomplete or unanswered questions Most answers completed, poor writing mechanics, and off-topic responses Answers to questions are satisfactory. Written responses could have been more pulled more direct materials from quotations. Well thought out answers with great use and analysis of quotations
Summation Write up Sloppy or incomplete writing. Student does not follow guidelines for assignment Writing off-topic and poor mechanics. Student follows most of the guidelines of the assignment. Satisfactory write up, good mechanics. Could be more detailed in argument as it relates to Founding Father Good write up, strong argument, support and conclusion in support of Founding Father.
Oral Presentation Did not participate Participated, but was distracting and off topic Satisfactory presentation. Delivery could be stronger. Strong presentation. Speaker made good eye contact and delivered argument in a powerful manner
Final Score 0-1 (F/D)

2-3 (C- - C+)

4-5 (B- - B+)

5-6 (A- - A+)


Archives.gov (2007). Constitution of the united states. The National Archives

Experiences: Charters of Freedom. Retrieved October 17th, 2007 from


Bigler, P. Dir. (2007). Famous and important madison quotes. The James Madison

Center: Madison Archives. Retrieved October 17th, 2007 from


Brandsberg-Engelmann, J. Ed et. al. (2007). McCulloch v. maryland (1819): Powers of

the federal government. Landmark Cases: Supreme Court. Retrieved November

10th, 2007 from

Information Institute of Syracuse (2007). A crossroads resources: Articles of

confederation worksheet. The Educator’s Reference Desk. Retrieved October 17th,

2007 from


Liberty-Tree.ca (2007). George mason quotes. Retrieved October 17th, 2007 from


Mount, S. Ed. (2007). The articles of confederation. The U.S. Constitution Online.

Retrieved October 17th, 2007 from http://www.usconstitution.net/articles.html

National Endowment for the Humanities (2007). The federalist debates: Balancing power

between state and federal governments. EdSITEment. Retrieved November 10th, 2007

from http://edsitement.neh.gov/view_lesson_plan.asp?id=425

Quoteworld.org (2007). Patrick henry. Retrieved October 17th, 2007 from


ThinkExist.com (2004) Alexander hamilton quotes. Retrieved October 17th, 2007 from


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