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POLSC301: American Political Thought

Unit 3: Building a New Government   As the new nation was forming, questions of governmental supremacy had not yet been fully answered.  As you will read, the first president under the Constitution, George Washington, left the country with important parting words in his farewell address on the issue of internal factions.  He warned that splits within the government would not be good for the country as a whole.  However, before, during, and after Washington’s presidency, leaders continued to be concerned with the distribution of power between the national government and its states.  Some argued that the states should retain significant power in order to control the power of the national government.  Others argued that the national government required strength in order to remain a formidable power at home and abroad.  As with the ratification debate, the nation was split in its approach and against Washington’s advice, these differences of opinion led to the creation of the first political parties in America.  In this unit, you will study how the balance of power began to evolve and how the issue of state verses federal supremacy divided the nation.

Unit 3 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 7.5 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 3.1:  1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 3.1.1: .5 hours

☐    Subunit 3.1.2: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 3.2: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 3.3: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 3.4: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 3.4.1: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 3.4.2: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 3.4.3: 1 hour

Unit3 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Analyze the governing and political philosophy of George Washington.
  • Compare and contrast the political ideologies of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton.
  • Describe how the Marshall Court laid the foundation for American constitutional law. 

3.1 The Early Republic: The Presidency of George Washington   3.1.1 Washington’s Precedents for the Presidency   - Reading: University of Virginia: The Miller Center’s “American President—An Online Reference Resource: George Washington” Link: University of Virginia: The Miller Center’s “American President—An Online Reference Resource: George Washington” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please go to above webpage and read the sections entitled “Impact and Legacy” and “Creating the Presidency.”
 
Terms of use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

3.1.2 Washington’s Farewell Address & Advice for the Country   - Reading: George Washington's “Farewell Address (1796)” Link: George Washington's  “Farewell Address (1796)” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the text of Washington’s Farewell Address.
 
Note on the Reading: Besides setting various precedents during his presidency, Washington’s tenure in office was underscored by the advice he gave to the country on foreign and domestic (political) affairs in his farewell address.  Subsequent presidents tried to heed Washington’s advice; however, because of the political climate in the country and around the world, many were not successful.
 
Terms of use: The material above is available for viewing in the Public Domain.

3.2 Jeffersonian Republicans   - Reading: Thomas Jefferson's "Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank: 1791” and “First Inaugural Address (1801)” Link: Thomas Jefferson's “Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank: 1791” (PDF) and “First Inaugural Address (1801)” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the text of both of Jefferson’s speeches.  Note that these readings will cover the material you need to know for subunits 3.2.1–3.2.2.
 
Note on the Texts: Both of these texts should provide you with a great deal of insight into Jefferson’s opinions on a strong central government and the need to protect states’ and individual rights. 
 
Terms of use: The material above is available for viewing in the Public Domain.

3.2.1 Importance of States’ Rights   Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath subunit 3.2. Focus specifically on the last three paragraphs of Jefferson’s opinion on the National Bank, where he asserts the importance of state sovereignty.

3.2.2 Protection of Individual Freedoms   Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath subunit 3.2. As you read Jefferson’s inaugural address, think about in what way the speech reflects his political ideology.

3.3 Hamiltonian Federalists   - Reading: Alexander Hamilton's “Opinion as to the Constitutionality of the Bank of the United States: 1791” Link: Alexander Hamilton's “Opinion as to the Constitutionality of the Bank of the United States: 1791” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the text of Alexander Hamilton defense for the creation of the First National Bank.  Note that these readings will cover the material you need to know for subunits 3.3.1–3.3.2.
 
Note on the Reading: The creation of the Bank of the United States was a major point of contention between many leaders within the early republic.  Hamilton and his supporters of the bank believed it was necessary to create a centralized national bank to pay off debts and ensure national economic stability.  On the other hand, many others (including Thomas Jefferson and James Madison) believed that the creation of a strong centralized bank infringed upon state sovereignty.  Eventually, Washington sided with Hamilton and the bank was created.  However, the debate between Jefferson and Hamilton would prove to be divisive and would foster the creation of the first political parties, the Federalists and the Democrat-Republicans.
 
Terms of use: The material above is available for viewing in the Public Domain.

  • Web Media: PBS’ American Experience: “Alexander Hamilton” Link: PBS’ American Experience: “Alexander Hamilton” (QuickTime and Windows Media)
     
    Instructions: Watch the first five video clips from the documentary, after reading the film synopsis.  All provide valuable insight into Hamilton’s life, career, and political beliefs.  He was, according to the filmmakers, “arguably the most significant person in American history who never served as president.”  Note that this video will cover the material you need to know for subunit 3.3.1.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

3.3.1 A Strong Central Government   Note: This subunit is covered by the reading and video assigned beneath subunit 3.3. For each, consider Hamilton’s central rationale for the need for a strong central government.   

3.3.2 Need for Implied Powers and Judicial Review   Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath subunit 3.3. Focus on the first section of Hamilton’s bank opinion where he articulates his views on implied powers. 

3.4 The Marshall Court   3.4.1 John Marshall   - Reading: Sage American History: Henry J. Sage’s “John Marshall: The ‘Man Who Made the Court Supreme’” Link: Sage American History: Henry J. Sage’s “John Marshall: The ‘Man Who Made the Court Supreme’” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the above article about U.S. Chief Justice John Marshall, whose court opinions helped lay the basis for American constitutional law and made the Supreme Court a coequal branch of government along with the legislative and executive branches.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.      

3.4.2 Marbury v. Madison (1803) and Judicial Review   - Reading: The Our Documents Initiative’s version of John Marshall’s “Opinion of the Court, Marbury v. Madison (1803)” Link: The Our Documents Initiative’s version of John Marshall’s “Opinion of the Court, Marbury v. Madison (1803)” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Begin by reading the “Document Info” about this landmark Supreme Court Case.  Then, under the “current document” drop-down menu, click on “document transcript” and read the actual text of John Marshall’s decision.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is available in the public domain.

3.4.3 McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) and Federal Power   - Reading: The Our Documents Initiative’s version of John Marshall’s “Opinion of the Court, McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)” Link:The Our Documents Initiative’s version of John Marshall’s “Opinion of the Court, McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Begin by reading the “Document Info” about this landmark Supreme Court Case.  Then, under the “current document” drop-down menu, click on “document transcript” and read the actual text of John Marshall’s decision.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is available in the public domain.