Unit 1/ Introduction
The First Federal Congress
This unit establishes the responsibilities and expectations for the First
Federal Congress. It introduces the role of the FFC in developing our government
beyond the Constitution, the aspirations for the government, and the challenges
that face this government. This unit would be an opportune place to connect the
FFC to the present functioning of Congress through access to C-Span and e-mail
questions to local representatives.
Questions to consider:
- ? What different tasks did the FFC have compared to the fully functioning
government of today? What is the purpose of any government?
- ?How was the FFC a continuation of the work of the Constitutional Convention?
- ?Why was Congress created first and given the task of fleshing out the
executive and judiciary? What are the implications of legislative supremacy as a
- ?In what specific ways were the expectations of the populace demonstrated?
How did they voice their hopes and support?
- ?Look at Sen. Robert Morris's letter. What particular challenges does he see
that lie ahead? Who does he mean by the interested, ignorant and inconsiderate?
Do you think he was correct in his fears then? Today?
- Develop a list of the purposes of government you find in the readings.
- Develop another list of the challenges that faced this government. (see in
particular the Pillar document, the ceremonies, and Senator Morris's letter)
- How important was the FFC in establishing the functioning federal government?
New York City as the Seat of Government
This unit documents the use of New York City as the temporary seat of
government. This unit connects with Unit 12 Locating the United States Capital,
which takes the debate over location even further.
Suggestion: Have unit 1 and 12 work closely.
The documents explore the debate over location. Both promoters and critics of
New York City (New York City was never considered as the permanant capital, only
the temporary residence as opposed to Philidelphia) are cited. This would be a
good opportunity for students explore the role of lobbyists. The promise of
urban New York are lauded. Also evident in the documents is nostalgia for a more
rural life. An urban-rural tension is present. This presents an opportunity for
students to consider the role of geography in governmental function and lays the
groundwork for understanding sectionalism.
- ?What is the significance of a permanent location?
- ?What are the geographical advantages of Manhattan?
- ?What influence did the press have in forming attitudes?
- ?How did the City of New York promote itself?
- ?How was campaign rhetoric used around the issue of the NYC site to raise
campaign issues about candidates and parties?
- ?What did the critics have to say?
Develop a marketing campaign to promote New York City as the appropriate seat
of a permanent government.
- What importance does the location of the capital have to the functioning of
government? What did Americans/do Americans expect of a "national
These documents demonstrate the establishment of rules of order and access
for Congress. This is a good introduction to how Congress functions. Duties of
the Speaker of the House, decorum for debate and rules of order were
established. From the beginning, House proceedings were public record. The
difficulty of creating a public record only emphasizes the importance given to
- ?What are the responsibilities of the Speaker of the House? What qualities
did Rep. Frederick A. Muhlenberg (PA) possess?
- ?What rules of order for congressional business and debate apply?(compare
with Robert's Rules of Order)
- ?What were the methods used for recording House proceedings? The debate
accounts were not official. Why?The doors to House debates were open. Why? (Find
out what the Senate did differently. How did that affect how the two houses were
- ?What challenges arose with publishing the record? (consider time and
- ?Explore the Congressional Record and C-SPAN. How are issues of access
different and similar today?
Prepare a list of the different ways Americans then and now have access to
the records of the actions of their representatives. Develop an argument for or
against the use of public access to Congress and its affect on the nature of
How did the actions of the First Federal Congress help to secure orderly
functioning of government and the rights of citizens to access their government?
An Imperial Presidency?
This unit explores the tension over the style of the presidency. Issues of
respect, elitism, monarchy, and state and federal importance were part of the
debate. Fundamental principles of republicanism and equality are key to the
debate. This unit links well with Unit 9, The Senate and Foreign Affairs.
- ?What differences are apparent in Washington's elaborate welcome and the
simple ceremony for his inauguration?
- ?What were the arguments for and against fancy titles and "monarchist
trappings" for the president? Who voiced these arguments?
- ?How did the general populace express their attitude towards the president?
Why was this of concern to "republicans" like Rep. Thomas Tucker, SC?
- ?What was the point of tension that existed between the House of
Representatives and the Senate?
- ?What was the nature of the compromise by the Senate?
How did the First Federal Congress insure an egalitarian style for our
Creation of the Executive
This unit deals with the creation of the executive departments and the
controversy concerning the power of the executive in relation to Congress. This
unit connects with issues of style and power in Unit 4 on the Imperial
Presidency. Key to these documents is the relationship of the power of the
presidency to the liberties of the people. Removal powers were a most important
issue as part of the balance of power. Revolutionary era fears of tyranny by
both monarchy and ministers is evident in concerns about the powers of executive
departments, especially the treasury department. Also evident are fears of
legislative weakness and vulnerability to local special interests. The letter of
Rep. William L. Smith, SC is full of interesting issues, but could be a
challenge for some students.
- ?What concerns are voiced about the effectiveness and loyalties (state or
federal) of the Congress, both the Senate and House?
- Is Rep. James Jackson's position on removal extreme? What is your evidence?
- ?Why does Rep. William L. Smith fear both presidential power and legislative
- ?What are the pros and cons of a "vigorous" executive?
- ?What are the duties of the various departments? How do these duties further
define the role of the government in the lives of the people?
- (research what are the cabinet posts today and how do they differ from
- ?How do the executive and legislative branches differ?
Develop two positions, one for a "vigorous" executive and the other
for legislative construction. Have each side present their justifications for
supreme authority and what methods they will use to exercise it.
Topics to consider would be impeachment powers, the removal of executive
officials, and the role of department heads in the legislature.
- What role did the FFC play in constructing the executive branch?
Creation of the Judiciary
This unit demonstrates the role of Congress in defining the judiciary.
Issues raised reflect concern over federal jurisdiction versus state
authority and the attendant federalist and antifederalist differences.
Also present in this unit is an example of how a congressional subcommittee
helps to draft legislation. The Judiciary bill was widely discussed by
constituents. The different perspectives of individual states emerge. The
importance of the Rule of Law as the asylum of liberty is evident. The role of
uniform law in the growth and development of the nation is discussed.
- ?How were the federal courts structured?
- ?What were the questions raised about cost and jurisdiction between state and
- ?What decisions were made about crimes and punishment? What unusual measures
were included concerning executed murderers?
- ?What were the issues that were debated by constituents?
- ?Why did individuals from New Hampshire object to the Judiciary Bill?
- What were the views of the advocates for the bill?
Students present the structure of the judiciary. Then divide into two sides
which promote the federalist view and the states rights view. The two sides
could present their arguments as in a trial and have the class act as congress
How did the FFC continue to struggle with fundamental issues of jurisdiction
between federal and state powers in the Judiciary debates?
Amendments to the Constitution
This unit clearly shows the FFC negotiating over what would become the bill
of rights. The issues apparent are state versus federal authority, inherent and
enumerated rights, sectional and individual state differences, and the power of
the House of Representatives versus the Senate.
The resulting consensus over the principle of rights holds. This unit is a
good exercise in opposing viewpoints and managing political change. Rep. James
Madison demonstrates preemptive management of political change by taking control
of the agenda over this sensitive issue.
- ?How many proposed amendments were there for the FFC to consider? What role
does this process give Congress in developing the government?
- ?What issues were being discussed in relation to what became known as the
Bill of Rights?
- ?What were the merits in keeping Amendments separate from the main text of
the Constitution rather than interweaving into the original text?
- ?What did Jefferson mean by "the declaration of rights will be the text
whereby they will try all the acts of... government." Is this true today?
- ? What differences were identified about the economic issues in individual
states or regions?What role did sectionalism play in the debate?
- ?Why did Madison support the amendments if he was such a friend of strong
Students create a point-counterpoint list to present the issues debated
concerning the Bill of Rights. These two views could be presented as written or
verbal editorial comments.
What role did FFC's debate and passage of the Bill of Rights play in
solidifying the Early Republic?
Establishing a Revenue System
This unit addresses the economic issues facing the government. The use of
tariffs/taxes to regulate trade, to protect American manufactures, to put
policies in action and to fund the government is identified. Revenues were
highly contested on sectional and philosophical grounds as well as by special
interests. The complexities of imposts (tax on imports) are apparent. This unit
connects well with unit 13 on Funding the National Debt.
- ?What conclusions can be made about the purpose of the Impost Act by
analyzing what kinds of duties were put on what goods? Is there a policy at work
- ?What is the difference between imposts and excises?
- ? Analyze the Petition of Tradesmen and Manufacturers?What methods were used
to get their points heard?
- ?What do imposts have to do with Rep. Fisher Ames's (MA) fears about the
special interests versus the interest of many? Is a Representative only to
represent his own district or the nation as a whole?
- ?What considerations are part of regulating trade? Consider goods, ship
nationality, origin, and destination.
- ?What role did foreign relations, treatment of allies and America's place in
the world order of the time affect the system?
- ?How did the government keep track of its expenses?
Students prepare a hypothetical budget for 1789 that includes expenses and
how many imports would be needed to generate funds to pay those expenses.
Students should be prepared to justify the expenses and the imposts in a report
to the House.
What role does Congress have in generating funds for the government?
The Senate and Foreign Affairs
This unit demonstrates the different ways the Senate functions through advice
and consent, establishing consulates, addressing hostage petitions, and
ratifying treaties. The different nature of the executive and the legislature is
evidenced by the tension between President Washington and the Senate over
"advice and consent". The methods used by the executive and the
Congress are in stark contrast and the topic is fruitful for a discussion of how
the branches of government check and balance each other not only in powers but
in the very methods used for decision making.
- ?What is Advice and Consent?
- ?What causes tension between the President and the Senate?
- ?What does Richard O'Bryen want from Congress?
- ?What are the key points being negotiated with the Creek nation?
Students role play Washington, a Creek Chief, O'Bryen's wife, A British
Merchant, and Thomas Jefferson who each present issues for the Senate to
How does Congress's responsibilities in Foreign Affairs broaden the scope of
Expansion of the Empire
In this unit the FFC deals with the future of the nation by establishing and
implementing policies relating to expansion. Congress affirms the policy of the
Northwest Ordinance as the blueprint for orderly growth. Positions both for and
against western expansion are documented. Secretary of War Knox promotes a
humane Indian policy and the establishment of the militia. The practicalities of
national growth are addressed by Congress.
- ?What concerns and advantages do Rep. George Clymer (PA) and Rep. Thomas
Scott (PA) give for or against western expansion?
- ?What is the plan for expansion found in the Northwest Territory bill and the
map of Ohio? Consider religion, education, the government safety net, and
- ?How does Knox try to protect the Indians in his Policy? What problems does
- ?Why do some people argue that the militia versus a standing army a good idea
for a republic? What is civilian control of the military?
- ?What is the reality of western expansion, Indian nations and the militia?
Students create a map to explain the "hot spots" and issues facing
the nation. Use the map to illustrate a presentation on the problems of an
What role did the FFC play in charting the future geopolitical and commercial
development of America?
Petitioning the Federal Government
Petitioning the federal government was an important right by and for the
people. In this unit a wide variety of topics are presented to Congress through
petitions from both individuals and groups. Some were resolved but others, such
as the petition against the slave trade, were an indication that the government
could not settle contentious issues through the procedure.
- ?List the topics for the petitions presented to Congress. Do they have
anything in common? What role do special interests play in our government?
- ?How did Mary Katherine Goddard's government job reflect both personal and
- ?How did Stephen Moore's compensation reflect national expansion and defense
- ?What issues about slavery did the abolitionists raise? What process and
constitutional principles did some members of Congress wish to use to try to
silence the abolitionists through parliamentary procedure? Why was this issue
unlikely to go away?
- ?Were the petitioners' expectations for the government reasonable or not?
Students role play the petitioners before the class. Using the petitions as
models, they decide on an issue and present a petition of their own for class
discussion. Consider what method could be used to get results, whether their
request affects school policy, and generate an opposing viewpoint.
How did the FFC demonstrate the constitutional charge of promoting the
general welfare while also securing the blessings of liberty?
Locating the Nations Capital
This unit uncovers the tensions over locating the nation's capital which had
not been resolved since the Revolutionary War. Sectional favoritism is the crux
of the issue. New York City , a site on the Susquehanna near Harrisburg were
promoted, Delaware river sites near Trenton and Philadelphia, Baltimore, and
along the Potomac as temporary or permanent sites. Pennsylvania and the South
maneuvered for the Potomac site. The location issue was too heavy with sectional
interests and could not be resolved on its own. As a good example of legislative
compromise, the Residence Act located the capital on the Potomac in exchange for
needed votes to pass the assumption of the stste debts. This unit should be
considered with unit 14, the Compromise of 1790.
- ?Why is the geographical location of the capital important?
- ?What evidence is there of political animosities?
- ? What ways did the public make their opinions known?
- ?What role did George Washington play in the outcome?
- ?When was the Residence Bill passed? Who won?
Demonstration: See unit 14
How was the FFC embroiled in sectional distrust?
Funding the National Debt
The issue of funding the national debt was complicated by sectionalism,
Revolutionary War era sacrifices, certificate speculation, violation of
contracts, and national development. Arguments for and against are found in the
documents. Concern over the assumption of state debts and possible unequal
treatment of its states is apparent. Particularly notable are the linking of the
future strength of the nation with economic stability as advanced by the funding
of the national debt.
- ? List the arguments made by the Public Creditors of Pennsylvania. and
compare them to the six reasons the Senate committee gave in favor of
assumption. What vision of America's future is projected in both?
- ?What role does En. William Maclay, PA see special interests playing in the
funding of the debt?
- ?What role did speculation have a part of American capitalism? Was
speculation applauded or feared?
- ?What problem for the states does Rep. Theodorick Bland, VA see in funding
- ?What does Rep. Benjamin Goodhue, MA believe about sectionalism, sanctity of
contracts, and individual or state debts in relation to national responsibility?
Students identify the two opposing arguments over assumption. Each side
presents its view for vote by the class.
How did the FFC's approach to national fiscal responsibility establish a tie
between the nation's economy and national legitimacy and stability?
The Compromise of 1790
This unit concludes the bargain made by the Federalist New Yorker, Alexander
Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison from Virginia. At stake were two
different issues impacting the future of the nation. Both the location of the
capital and the assumption of the state's Revolutionary War debts had
implications for future cooperation among the different sections (North, South
and Middle). Very apparent is the concern the Southern states have over what
they perceived as a Northern majority in the national government. These concerns
remain vital in 1860 when Lincoln was elected president without a southern
electoral vote. For the FFC, it was the ability to negotiate a compromise among
the tangle of interests that sets the tone and succeeds in tying the various
interests to the preservation of the Union.
- ?What fears of disunion are documented in Henry Lee's, John Adams's and
Thomas Cushing's letters?
- ?What deal was struck? What did Hamilton and Madison contribute to the
- ?Do you think the Carrolls were acting out of national or special interest?
- ?How was the compromise an example of executive (Treasury Department) and
- ?How was the excise tax involved in the funding issue?
- ?How did the economic issues of the National Bank and the excise upset
southern and western interests?
Students take the roles of Henry Lee, Thomas Cushing, John Adams, Thomas
Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Daniel and Charles Carroll, John
Steele and George Thatcher. Have each argue their point about locating the
capital and funding the national debt while trying to satisfy the other
How was the FFC part of giving voice to contentious differences while serving
as a vehicle for maintaining the Union through compromise?
TO INSTRUCTOR: (What are the similarities and differences between this
compromise and future sectional compromises over slavery and expansion?)
Use the summary questions from each unit to drive a full class discussion on
the importance of the FFC. Since each group addressed their own summary
question, each group should be able to participate in the class discussion.
Summary Questions for each unit:
- Introduction/unit 1 How important was the FFC in establishing the functioning
- What importance does the location of the capital have to the functioning
of government? What did Americans/do Americans expect of a "national
- How did the actions of the FFC help to secure orderly functioning of
government and the rights of citizens to access their government?
- How did the FFC insure an egalitarian style for our presidency?
- What role did the FFC play in constructing the executive branch?
- How did the FFC continue to struggle with fundamental issues of
jurisdiction between federal and state powers in the Judiciary debates?
- What role did FFC's debate and passage of the Bill of Rights play in
solidifying the Early Republic?
- What role does Congress have in generating funds for the government?
- How does Congress' responsibilities in Foreign Affairs broaden the scope
of their authority?
- What role did the FFC play in charting the future geopolitical and
commercial development of America?
- How did the FFC demonstrate the constitutional charge of promoting the
general welfare while also securing the blessings of liberty?
- How was the FFC embroiled in sectional distrust?
- How did the FFC's approach to national fiscal responsibility establish a
tie between the nation's economy and national legitimacy and stability?
- How was the FFC part of giving voice to contentious differences while
serving as a vehicle for maintaining the Union through compromise?
Final class discussion questions:
- What do you think a "mission statement" (the goals and beliefs)
for Revolutionary America would have looked like?
- Did the actions of the First Federal Congress continue to reflect the
goals of Revolutionary era Americans? Give your evidence.
- How did the actions of the FFC move America further in fulfillment of
- What role did the FFC play in proving the viability of our form of