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U.S. Era 3

Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)

Primary Sources

  • Documents from the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789
  • The Federalist Papers: all 85 essays are also available at the Library of Congress’ “THOMAS” website.
  • The Revolutionary War: Gallery of Images
  • National Historical Parks: Valley Forge National Historical Park, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, Independence National Historical Park, and Morristown National Historical Park.
  • Library of Congress: sets of selected primary sources on specific topics, available as easy-to-print PDFs, as well as tools to guide student analysis and background material about each topic.
    • The Constitution
  • Avalon Project: Official Documents by the Founding Fathers - full text of the articles along with the drafts of Benjamin Franklin and John Dickinson as well as comments by Thomas Jefferson in his autobiography.
  • Shays’ Rebellion & The Making of a Nation: catalogs the Massachusetts uprising against the Articles of Confederation. It includes primary sources, images, songs, biographies, and interactive maps about the event.
  • Thomas Paine National Historical Association: digital versions of Common Sense and its original drafts as pamphlets of The American Crisis.
  • Spy Letters of the American Revolution: digital archive of Revolutionary spy letters gives context with a timeline, maps of routes, and descriptions of 18th-century intelligence methods. A “Teacher’s Lounge” link provides seven classroom activities, curricular themes, and discussion questions about these primary sources.
  • Archiving Early America: This website has digital images from colonial newspapers of maps, writings, and portraits of the leading men and women of the Revolutionary era
  • The Founders’ Constitution: This online anthology presents the full Constitution as searchable text. It also includes “fundamental documents” like Articles of Confederation, Northwest Ordinance, and primary source letters that reveal the development of ideas that influenced the Constitution’s authors.
  • George Washington’s Papers: This online collection of the first president’s papers is organized chronologically in five series, from 1774 to 1799. Featured collections include documents about Washington and slavery, Washington and the Barbary Coast pirates, and his 1796 farewell address.
  • Mount Vernon: This website has pictures and documents about George Washington’s estates along with age-appropriate lesson plans.
  • The First Federal Congress: This online exhibit provides an overview of the work and the issues faced by the First Congress from 1789 to 1791.
  • Thomas Jefferson Digital Archive: This website is a searchable collection of Jefferson’s papers at the University of Virginia.
  • The Library of Congress’ digital exhibition of Jefferson

Lesson Plans

  • EDSITEment: the humanities website of the National Endowment for the Humanities in partnership with the National Trust for the Humanities, and the Verizon foundation.
    • Boycotting Baubles of Britain: the changes in British policies and the colonists’ resistance through the topic of tea, clothing, and other British goods. Students analyze and interpret key historical artifacts as well as visual and textual sources that shed light on how commodities such as tea became important symbols of personal and political identity during the years leading up to the formal Declaration of Independence in 1776. The lesson asks teachers and their students to consider whether there can be a symbolic “language” of artifacts in the same way that a new language of politics developed in the revolutionary era. (Grades 9-12)
    • Common Sense: The Rhetoric of Popular Democracy: Thomas Paine and some of the ideas presented in Common Sense, such as national unity, natural rights, the illegitimacy of the monarchy and of hereditary aristocracy, and the necessity for independence and the revolutionary struggle. (Grades 9-12)
    • The Declaration of Independence: ‘An Expression of the American Mind’: the major ideas in the Declaration of Independence, their origins, the Americans' key grievances against the King and Parliament, their assertion of sovereignty, and the Declaration's process of revision. (Grades 9-12)
    • The American War for Independence (three lessons): students will learn about the diplomatic and military aspects of the American War for Independence. They will learn about the strategies employed by both sides, and how those strategies played out in reality. They will study the most important military engagements, both in the North and the South. Students will also become familiar with the critical assistance provided by France, as well as the ongoing negotiations between the Americans and Great Britain. (Grades 9-12)
    • The Native Americans’ Role in the American Revolution: Choosing Sides: students will analyze maps, treaties, congressional records, first-hand accounts, and correspondence to determine the different roles assumed by Native Americans in the American Revolution and understand why the various groups formed the alliances they did. (Grades 9-12)
    • Taking Up Arms and the Challenge of Slavery in the Revolutionary Era: designed to help students understand the transition to armed resistance and the contradiction in the Americans' rhetoric about slavery through the examination of a series of documents. (Grades 9-12)
    • The Constitutional Convention of 1787 (three lessons): students will examine the roles that key American founders played in creating the Constitution, and the challenges they faced in the process. They will learn why many Americans in the 1780s believed that reforms to the Articles of Confederation were necessary, and the steps taken to authorize the 1787 Convention in Philadelphia. They will become familiar with the main issues that divided delegates at the Convention, particularly the questions of representation in Congress and the office of the presidency. Finally, they will see how a spirit of compromise, in the end, was necessary for the Convention to fulfill its task of improving the American political system. (Grades 9-12)
    • John Marshall, Marbury v. Madison and Judicial Review—How the Court Became Supreme: designed to help students understand Marshall's strategy in issuing his decision, the significance of the concept of judicial review, and the language of this watershed case. (Grades 9-12)
  • The National Archives: Seven separate lessons including "Images of the American Revolution “United States v. Thomas Cooper: A Violation of the Sedition Law,” and “Eli Whitney’s Patent for the Cotton Gin.”
  • National Park Service: Teaching with Historic Places:
    • The Battle of Bunker Hill: Now We Are at War
    • The Great Chief Justice’ at Home
    • The Battle of Horseshoe Bend: Collision of Cultures
    • The Lewis and Clark Expedition: Documenting the Uncharted Northwest
    • The Building of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal
  • Independence Hall National Historical Park: full text of founding documents along with lesson plans, photo galleries, and audio tours of Independence Hall.  check for more precise links
  • Monticello: Thomas Jefferson’s home provides age-appropriate lesson plans, Jefferson’s papers, digital image galleries and a virtual house tour.
  • American Memory Fellows additional lesson plans using Library of Congress documents, which are organized by era. (Grades 6-12)
    • The Declaration of Independence: From Rough Draft to Proclamation
  • Revolutionary War Lesson Plans on the Battle of Bunker Hill