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Educating Young People about the Constitution

Presidents and the Constitution, Vol. 2 Presidents and the Transfer of Power: The Election of 1800

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Presidents and the Constitution Resources


The Founders knew that the most challenging time in any government is when power is transferred from one person/group to the next. Will the people that have power try to hold on to it by corruption or military force; or will they give power peacefully to the successors? Our Constitution and subsequent Amendments have procedures and rules in place to make the transition of power as orderly and peaceful as possible. The question for you is, do you think its effective and why? Directions: Read Robert M.S. McDonalds essay Transfer of Presidential Power Underline or highlight the facts you think are important.

Impeachment and the Constitution


Constitutional Connection Activity

The Election of 1800


Critical Engagement Question What is gained and what is lost by giving political parties a role in electing our President?

The Electoral College map for the Election of 1800

The Election of 1800


Objectives Understand the process originally established in the Constitution for electing a President.
Recognize ways in which the original electoral process failed when political parties took a role in selecting candidates. Evaluate the role of political parties in sorting presidential candidates?

Thomas Jefferson Aaron Burr These were both candidates on the Republican Party Ticket. The Electoral College intention was that they would vote Thomas Jefferson as President and Aaron Burr Vice-President but the vote ended in a tie. This forced the election into the House of Representatives where partisan politics confused the situation even more.

The Election of 1800


Background/Homework Read Handout A: The Election of 1800 and answer the questions. 1) What was the Electoral College designed to do? 2) What was the potential problem with the outcome of the election of 1976? What steps did the emerging political parties take to avoid it in the future?

Georgia State Capitol. The Electors from each state meet in their state capitols to record their vote for President.

The Election of 1800


Background/Homework continued 3) Were the Founders wrong to want to keep the Presidency free of partisan differences? Explain. 4) Though it took a long time to settle the election of 1800, the electoral process did ultimately produce a winner. Do you think it was really necessary to pass the Twelfth Amendment? Why or why not?

Picture of the 12th Amendment as it was in 1803.

The Election of 1800


Background/Homework continued Interview a parent or other adult. Ask them about: the purpose of political parties, how successful they are at selecting better candidates, and what specific successes or weaknesses they have.

How will you conduct the interview?

The Election of 1800


Warm-Up Write the names of two Americans alive today whom you would like to see as President or Vice-President. Post the results for the top 5 candidates. This election had no pre-sorting process. Discuss the following questions: Was it democratic? Was the outcome desirable? Is it a good idea to have a sorting process? Why or why not?
Seals of the President and Vice-President of the United States

The Election of 1800


Activity Review Handout B: Sorting the Candidates Add or subtract any desired outcomes to the list on Handout B. Rank the desired outcomes from most desired to least desired. Review your interviews and your knowledge of political parties and then decide how well our current two-party political system achieves all the desired outcomes.
Ronald and Nancy Reagan at the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans, LA. Regan had served 2 terms and could not run again. Regans VicePresident, Bush #1, ran as the Republican candidate.

The Election of 1800


Political Cartoon illustrating the frustration with political parties. The elephant is the symbol of the Republican Party while the donkey is the symbol of the Democratic Party.

Wrap-Up Recalling your interviews and your own personal knowledge on political parties, discuss your understanding of the current political party system. Once finished, discuss the following questions: 1) Is the two-party system the best way to identify/sort candidates? 2) What are advantages of a two-party system? Disadvantages? 3) Is it a strength or a weakness of our constitutional system that such an important task is performed by political partiesinstitutions that are not mentioned in the Constitution?

The Election of 1800


Homework Follow up with the person you interviewed for homework. Talk about what you learned in the lesson and ask the interviewee some of the class discussion questions.

Discuss these topics over dinner?

The Election of 1800


Extensions Research the election of 1824the first election after the ratification of the Twelfth Amendment to be settled by the House of Representatives. Write a brief explanation of the reasons that election had to be settled by the House of Representatives.

House vote on December 7, 2011. It was a 15 minute vote now edited down to 1.5 minutes.