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The Theory of the American Founding, Part One: Why Government?


This lesson discusses the idea of government – what government is, and why, from the point of view of the American Founders, government is not only necessary, but good, for human beings. Discussion questions follow the reading.


Students will analyze historical evidence including primary sources to understand why human nature indicates that government is necessary and good for citizens.


National Council for the Social Studies: Thematic Strands I, II, V, VI, X
Arizona Academic Standards, Social Studies: 1SS-E17, E18; 2SS-E3, E7, P1, P5, P10
California History-Social Science Content Standards: 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.4; 11.1; 12.1, 12.2
Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills: Social Studies 8.1, 8.3, 8.4, 8.5, 8.16, 8.21, 8.23; U.S. Government 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16


Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay, The Federalist Papers, ed. Clinton Rossiter, with Introduction and notes by Charles Kesler (New York: Mentor Books, 1999).

Suggested Procedure:
  1. Write the word “government” on the board. Ask students what government is, and what government is supposed to do, and write some of their answers next to the word “government.” Then ask students whether they believe government is necessary, and, if so, why.
  2. After suggesting to students that maybe people can live together as neighbors and friends without government, distribute copies of the reading, "The Theory of the American Founding, Part One: Why Government?"
  3. Have students work individually or in groups to read the essay and complete the study questions. With the entire class, discuss the reading and the student responses to the questions.
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