Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress 1789-1791


Back to teacher's guide table of contents  || Back to the Exhibit

Lesson Plans

Approach IV. Concept based student applications

The FFC exhibit contains documents which can be looked at multiple ways.

Primary sources give surprising insights into history. This aspect of the study of documents is best illustrated to students by starting with a concept and asking students to apply that concept to a variety of sources. Following is a series of concepts which may be used individually or collectively for deeper study of the issues the documents raise. This approach is more appropriate for upper level classes which analyze evidence to create conceptual understanding. This requires students to identify from a variety of documents the inherent theme. The theme emerges from some surprising avenues. Students analyze how the themes affect government thinking from different angles, both official and personal. An appropriate assessment for this approach would be a thesis paper assignment.

Legislative construction:

In what ways did the FFC flesh out the Constitution? What was and is the role of Congress? How did Congress affect the lives of Americans then and now?


Ordinance of Sep. 13, 1788

House Rules

Joint Committee report on the Inauguration Ceremony

Senate Resolution on a Title for the President

Foreign Affairs Bill

House debate on Creation of Treasury Department

Treasury Act

Senate draft of the Judiciary Bill

Punishment and Crimes Act

Impost Act

Coasting Act

Appropriations Act

Treaty of Fort Harmar

Military Establishment Bill

Draft of the Residence Act

Senate Committee report on the Funding Bill

The Excise or Duties on Distilled Spirits Act

See also:

Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress 1789-1791, Bickford and Bowlings Documentary History of the First Federal Congress


Divisiveness as a function of democracy:

The FFC exhibit presents a variety of divisive issues that define the national agenda then and now. One approach to explore this concept would be to focus on different interest groups and their role in the functioning of government. An alternative approach would be to focus on the issue of sectionalism. Demonstration of learning: thesis paper or create a role play based on different interest groups ( that teacher and students identify)


Representative Elias Boudinot's (NJ) letter

Representative William L. Smith's (SC) letter on Impeachment

Memorial of the Public Creditors of Pennsylvania

Antifederalists on Hamilton's Proposals

Abolitionists' Petition

Petition of Tradesmen and Manufactures

Senator William Grayson's (VA) letter


Compromise as a function of democracy:

Did compromises made in this Congress establish the pattern for evolution in our democratic system? How did the debates over "monarchical trappings", allowing abolitionist memorials to go to committee, locating the capital and funding the national debt reinforce the use of compromise as a means of easing tensions while keeping open the discussions which move our government to realize the principles on which it is founded?


The Compromise of 1790

Amendments to the Constitution

An Imperial Presidency?



Slavery was an issue that permeated many aspects of government and still resonates today. The issue of slavery was not resolved by the Constitution. Explore the ways the tensions over slavery affected the functioning of the FFC. Explore the tension between a government based on liberty and equality and an economic and social system based on the concept of labor as property.


Petitioning the Federal Government

Creation of the Presidency: Representative William Smith's (SC) Letter (near end)


Power Politics:

How did government develop its system of checks and balances? How did that system function? Political power was and is a delicate balance of forces. Have the students identify those forces which include: juggling the powers of the branches, the struggle over states and federal jurisdictions and inherent in that struggle, the power of the federal government and the balance between the constitutions goal of general welfare and the blessings of individual liberty.


Setting Precedent (rules and access to Congress)

Petitioning the Federal Government

Imperial Presidency

Creating the Executive

Creation of the Judiciary

Amendments to the Constitution

Senate and Foreign Affairs

Back to teacher's guide table of contents

Other Lesson Plans:
Introductory Lesson
Four Approaches with Lessons:
  1. Issue-based Single Lessons
  2. Topic Lessons Based on Selected Documents
  3. Whole Site by Unit
  4. Concept-based Student Application

Vocabulary list

Back to the Exhibit

First Federal Congress Project


Copyright © 2000 First Federal Congress Project. All rights reserved.