These lessons are designed to help students explore documents that serve as the foundation for American democracy. Each lesson in Foundations of Our Constitution consists of three components: (1) a reading with discussion questions, (2) an interactive activity, and (3) the complete text of the document that the lesson explores.
The Magna Carta (1215) Chafing under the despotic rule of King John, rebellious British noblemen forced their ruler to sign the Magna Carta. The 63 clauses of this document defined and limited the feudal rights of the monarch.
The Mayflower Compact (1620) Signed by 41 adult male passengers on the Mayflower while still at sea off the New England coast, the compact established a preliminary, majority-rule government for the Pilgrims.
The Declaration of Independence (1776) A statement of principles in which the 13 American colonies justified their separation from Great Britain. Famous for its combination of ideals and practical statements, the Declaration proclaims that government is responsible to its people and must be ruled by the consent of the governed.
The Federalist Papers (1787-88) A series of 85 articles written anonymously by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. Originally published in New York newspapers, the papers were designed to convince New Yorkers to ratify the Constitution. Today, the Federalist Papers help clarify what the Constitution’s authors intended.
The Constitution (1787) Over two hundred years ago delegates to the Philadelphia Convention signed the document that was to become our Constitution. Yet, the quest for a constitution did not begin or end in Philadelphia. Its origins go back 2000 years, to ancient Greece and Aristotle.
The Pledge of Allegiance (1892) According to its author, utopian novelist Francis Bellamy, this well-known oath "began as an intensive communing with...our national history, from the Declaration of Independence onwards..." It has been the subject of controversy for more than a century.