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 5.0 History

Topic C. Conflict between Ideas and Institutions

Indicator 2. Analyze the emerging foreign policy of the United States

Objective a. Explain why the United States adopted a policy of neutrality prior to the War of 1812

It is often said that President George Washington’s Farewell Address set the United States on the path of isolationism. It is important to note, however, that Washington did not advocate complete isolation and the avoidance of all alliances. In fact, he supported commercial interaction with foreign powers. But Washington opposed political involvement and permanent alliances such as the agreement with France that had been forged during the American Revolution.

Have students read and analyze the portion of Washington’s Farewell Address that addresses with foreign policy, http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/washing.htm (have students begin reading at the section begins “Observe good faith and justice towards all nations. . .”).

Because the text is quite dense and difficult to read, you may choose to assign small portions to different students, to analyze the document as a class, or to provide a transcription that translates the most difficult areas. Ask students to consider the following questions: Based on the address, does Washington believe the United States should avoid ALL contact with foreign countries? Is there any type of contact that Washington advocates in his address? Does he believe it is ever advisable to enter into an alliance with a foreign nation? What reasons does Washington give for his warning against too much involvement in foreign affairs? After studying the United States’ involvement with various foreign powers throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, ask students to conduct a debate about the degree to which the young U.S. heeded Washington’s advice.

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