School Improvement in Maryland

Lesson Seeds: The lesson seeds are ideas for the indicator/objective that can be used to build a lesson. Lesson seeds are not meant to be all-inclusive, nor are they substitutes for instruction.

Standard 1.0 Political Science

Topic A. The Foundations and Function of Government

Indicator 2. Analyze the impact of historic documents and practices that became the foundations of the American political system during the early national period

Objective f. Describe the development of political parties and their effects on elections and political life

Discuss with students quotes from Richard Hofstader’s The Idea of a Party System, in which this prominent historian describes elements of an effective and legitimate democratic opposition. (These quotes can be found in bold font at As needed, have students set up graphic organizers explaining what Hofstader meant when using the terms responsible, effective, and constitutional.

Next, have students analyze primary or secondary accounts of the early days of the Federalist and Republican parties (primary sources may also be found at the link above), including coverage of prominent political events and controversies such as the Alien and Sedition Acts and the presidential election of 1800. Have the students debate the extent to which early political parties exercised “legitimate” opposition to the other by considering how the documents provide evidence or fail to provide evidence of Hofstader’s three criteria. In addition, have the students compile a list of ways in which the parties assisted everyday voters in the political process. As an extension, provide students with evidence of modern political party actions and have them assess the legitimacy of today’s parties as well.

Resources for Objective 1.A.2.f:
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