The Theory of the American Founding, Part Two: Why Government by Consent?
This lesson discusses the idea of government by the consent of the governed, and why such government is the only legitimate kind of government from the point of view of the American Founders. Discussion questions follow the reading.
Students will analyze historical evidence including primary sources to understand what it means for a government to operate with the consent of the governed, and why that is important.
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).
Declaration of Independence, 1776.
Massachusetts Constitution of 1780.
- Write the word “consent” on the board. Ask students why they should be allowed to give their consent to the government.
- Write the word “king” on the board. Ask students to describe how a king rules. Does a king need the consent of the governed? Why or why not?
- Distribute copies of the reading, "The Theory of the American Founding, Part Two: Why Government by Consent?"
- 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.