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Were the Democratic Republicans a Faction?

Written By: John P. Truesdell

Length of Lesson: 2 Days (Day 1: 20 minutes/Day 2: 70 minutes)

Context of Lesson:

This lesson seeks to have students apply the concepts of factions and legitimate opposition to
their understanding of the characteristics of the first two political parties. Students will use this collection
of content in order to discuss whether they believe it was just for the Federalist Party to label the
Democratic Republicans as a faction. The intention of this lesson is for students to investigate the
complexities, motivations, and legitimacy of early political group interaction in order to understand the
tense political climate in the late 18th century. This lesson would be used towards the end of a unit entitled
Legitimate Opposition: The First American Political Parties (1790-1803).
This lesson works towards many of the content standards that are found in the Michigan High
School Content Expectations for US Civics, US History, and Geography. As a result, it would most
likely be used in a high school US History or US Government class. Being located towards the latter half
of the unit, this lesson would be preceded by concept formation lessons about factions and legitimate
opposition. Additionally, students would have done primary analysis and participated in lectures that
would allow them to understand and identify the defining principles, beliefs, and characteristics of the
Democratic Republican Party and the Federalist Party. Accordingly, students should have a large amount
of content knowledge about the subject by this time in the unit. This lesson would probably be used to set
up a lesson about the election of 1800 and the first peaceful transition of political power in the United
States. However, the lesson would also help prepare students for the unit’s summative assessment exam
essay. Thus, this lesson would seek to have students consolidate and synthesize content knowledge in
order to practice building a historical argument that they could then explain and defend.


In preparation the teacher will have taught students how to form a supported argument, this will
assist students in building an opinion that they can defend in class. For this specific class discussion,
students will be required to do some preparatory homework. Students will read Federalist Paper No. 10
at home before this lesson. Accompanying the reading will be a handout that will require the students to
use the content of the reading to think about the definition of a faction as well as the connotations that are
associated with the label during this time period (1790-early 1800’s). The students will also be required
to use this reading in combination with the units’ prior knowledge to construct a supported “preliminary
argument” regarding the central questions of the lesson. Students will then need to bring this completed
sheet to class in order to take part in the discussion.
The class will then start with a journal that will ask students to explain the difference between a
faction and a legitimate opposition group. The teacher will then take a couple student volunteers to share
their responses and then quickly reemphasize the difference between the two concepts. The class will
then start a discussion activity that seeks to answer whether the Federalist labeling the Democratic
Republicans as a political faction was justified. To start, the teacher will perform a Think Pair Share.
Within small groups of two, the students will be required to share their “preliminary arguments” with
each other. The students will discuss whether they agree with each other using evidence to support their
opinion, and work together to form a paired argument regarding the labels justification. Finally, the class
will convene as a whole in order to present and debate their opinions. The teacher will facilitate the
conversation by calling on groups, forcing students to explain whether their opinion supports, extends, or
contests the response of prior groups. The teacher should also monitor for misconceptions or
misinterpretations of evidence (informal formative assessment).

Central Problem:

Was the Federalists decision to label the Democratic Republicans as a faction justified? What would be
their motives for labeling the opposition group as a faction? Was this label accurate?


Students will be able to:

 Students will distinguish and explain the difference between factions and legitimate political
opposition when discussing the development of American political parties. (USHG MCE K1.8 &
C MCE 3.5.2)
 Students will construct characteristics that define the concepts of “political parties” and be able to
clarify whether different groups are examples or non-examples of political parties. (USHG&C
MCE K1.7)
 Students will construct characteristics that define the concept of “legitimate opposition” and be
able to judge whether different actions and opinions are examples or non-examples of legitimate
opposition. (USHG&C MCE K1.6)

Anticipated Student Conceptions or Challenges to Understanding

One of the greatest challenges to encouraging productive investigation and discussion about these
questions is dealing with the force of over 200 years of history. This is because, from today’s
perspective, textbooks and historians have labeled the Democratic Republicans as a legitimate political
party. As a result, students will have a tendency to just say, “No, the label of faction wasn’t justified.”
However, I don’t want students to just memorize this label. I want students to be able to place themselves
within this historical time period and be able to understand the Federalist’s motives for labeling the group
as a faction, and then be able to judge whether this label was correct. This requires deeper, critical
thinking, and I want students to then be able to form an argument that lets them use evidence to support
their conclusion. Thinking from this angle and in this manner is challenging, but valuable.
To encourage students to think from this prospective, I would have them read Federalist Paper
#10 by James Madison. This piece of literature focuses heavily on the concept of factions, and especially
why factions were so feared and considered dangerous to early American politicians. This will combat
students’ preconceived notions on two levels. First, Madison’s take on factions (which might be
introduced in less detail early in the concept formation lesson) offers an interesting portrayal of what a
faction was. This would allow students to use the framework description as tool to determine if the
Democratic Republicans were actually a faction (This will also be useful if students have a hard time
remembering the definition of the concept from the formation lesson that would have probably occurred a
week earlier at least). Additionally, the piece can also be used to help students understand the
motivations behind why the Federalist might have attempted to tag the opposition group as a faction.
Madison’s work describes in depth how dangerous factions are to democratic systems, thus with
scaffolding, students would be able to conclude that this labeling was an early political tool to try to
discredit and delegitimize the opposition power.
The other challenge is that student’s might be hesitant to discuss such ambiguous, open ended
questions in front of an entire group. I don’t want the class discussion to become a conversation or debate
between the three most confident students in the class. Additionally, I don’t want all the students in the
class agreeing on every point after ten minutes. As a result, I want to encourage the process of building a
legitimate evidence supported argument into this discussion. By teaching students that they’re opinion
can be right either way, as long as they find evidence that supports their opinion and correctly link their
opinion and evidence together, I think we can generate deeper student conversations. This is because then
students will have tangible, visible arguments that they can compare against each others to identify
differences. Speaking from the time period, students could make a legitimate argument either way that
labeling the Democratic Republicans as a faction, I just need to highlight this and show them how to
make sure a non-traditional argument. The use of these handouts will be helpful in this effort also because
it will let the students visually organize their opinion in a way that makes it easy for them to see
similarities and differences in other students’ work.
Finally, as mentioned previously, students might struggle to have a conversation about this
because they might forget the definitions of faction and legitimate opposition. To help them remember
this, I would have this integrated into the set up activity to this discussion, as well as include the topic in
their journal before the discussion. This way the topic would be fresh in their mind.


 The Federalist Papers No. 10

 “Factions Discussion Entry Ticket” Handout
 “Were the Democratic Republicans a Faction?” Handout
 Student Journal

Instructional Sequence

Day 1

1. The teacher should take about 20 minutes the day before this lesson in order to introduce the
entry ticket assignment for the following day’s discussion. The teacher should describe the
context of the Federalist Papers describing that the papers were written during the creation of the
Constitution. The teacher should emphasize that it serves as an important primary source that
offers a valuable perspective on the nature and view of political factions during the time period.

2. The teacher should then pass out the entry ticket handout. They should briefly go over the front
half, explaining that the purpose of the assignment is the refresh their understanding of the
concept of faction and to help students to gain a better perspective on how people viewed political
opposition and factions during the time period. The teacher should emphasize the need to
consider how people during the time period viewed the Democratic Republican group, and
emphasize the need to not just assume everyone believe they were a legitimate opposition party
within the system.

3. The teacher should then introduce the central question for the discussion. Explain how this
question builds on many of the concepts they have talked about (factions and legitimate
opposition) as well as the characteristics of the two political groups. The teacher should also
instruct students to build their argument to the question by using the graphic organizer, require
them to find three pieces of evidence to support their view. The teacher should inform students
that they will not be allowed to participate in the discussion tomorrow (and thus lose points) if
they do not have this sheet completely done.

4. The teacher should dismiss class when appropriate.

5. Before leaving for the day, the teacher should move the desks or tables so that desks are facing
each other; this will facilitate group discussion the next day.

Day 2

1. The teacher should start the class by instruction students to take their journals and answer the
question, “What is the difference between a faction and legitimate opposition?” The teacher
should give students about five minutes to write. As students are writing go around the room and
check if students have completed their entry ticket handout assignment. If they do not have it
complete, instruct them to finish it during class. The teacher should tell them they cannot join the
activity until they finish this sheet (Thus losing participation points).

2. The teacher should then take a few student volunteers. Call on students to share their responses
out loud. Monitor the responses for misconceptions, and correct confusion if it exists.

3. The teacher should then use this idea of differentiating between a faction and a legitimate
opposition group to move into the discussion. The teacher should point back to primary
documents that have previously been read that displayed the Federalists labeling the Democratic
Republicans as a faction. The teacher should then reintroduce the central question of the lesson:
Was the Federalists decision to label the Democratic Republicans as a faction justified? The
teacher should point out that there is no correct answer per se. Instead, the teacher should
emphasize the need to form an argument that is based on evidence from what they have previous
learned, and based off of the additional perspective that was offered from The Federalist Paper.

4. The teacher should then hand out the “Were the Democratic Republicans a Faction?” handout.
The teacher should go over the directions on the front of the sheet, explaining that students will
pair off and follow the instructions on the sheet. The teacher should model some of the things the
students should share and discuss using the focus questions as a guide from the handout.

5. The teacher should then have students line up in the front of the room in a spectrum, organizing
students preliminary arguments based on whether they thought the label was justified or not. The
teacher should use this method to gauge which students will have similar arguments, and
accordingly pair these students together. The teacher should then instruct them to return to the
circle of desks and sit next to their partner and start working on the handout. While the students
are discussing their preliminary arguments the teacher should go around the room and monitor
student discussion. The teacher should monitor for misconceptions or troubles with the structure
of students’ arguments.

6. The teacher should monitor student progress to gauge when students have fully discussed the
discussion questions given, and when they have finished combining their arguments into one
paired argument.

7. The teacher should then have all the students come back together as a large group. The teacher
should then explain how group discussion will occur. Emphasize the need for students to raise
their hand if they have something they want to share. The teacher will then call on students to
talk. The teacher should emphasize when responding to other people’s argument, the students
need to state whether they are supporting, extending, or contesting the thoughts of another
student’s response. They then need to clearly and articulately state their opinion, a piece of
evidence (not all the evidence at once) that supports their opinion, and connect the two as
previously emphasized.

8. The teacher should pick one pair of students to start off the conversation. The teacher should pick
a group that they believe will have a good model response based off of what the observed during
the Think Pair Share preparation. Then the teacher should make sure to try to get all groups
involved by controlling who speaks and encouraging groups to speak that are hesitant to
volunteer. Emphasize that not everyone from the group has to speak, but the argument should
reflect their combined argument.

9. The teacher should try to limit interrupting students while they are speaking. The teacher should
informally monitor for misconceptions students have made and also observe problems students
have in building arguments. They should use these notes to tweak their further instruction.

10. The teacher should wrap up discussion towards the end of the hour, emphasizing again that there
is really no right answer to this question. Emphasize this subjective, debatable nature to the issue
is important because it highlights why the two groups experience so much tension between them.

11. The teacher should dismiss the class when appropriate.

Day 2
Factions Discussion Entry Ticket

Directions: Read The Federalist Paper No. 10. While reading this document, try to picture how
politicians during this period defined factions. In addition, identify potential threatening characteristics
of factions that they describe. After reading, complete the Response Questions below. Use these
thoughts in combination with your previous notes in order to construct a preliminary argument around
the focus question on the back of this sheet.

The Federalist Papers No. 10 Response Questions:

1. Throughout Federalist Paper No. 10, Madison describes the characteristics of a faction. Identify
three characteristics of a faction. Briefly describe each characteristic in terms of how Madison
explains it.

2. In the reading, identify two potential reasons that a faction could be dangerous to a democratic
system of government.

3. How might these potential dangers influence the way people perceive factions? What would be
the negative effects of being labeled as a faction?
Focus Question: Was the Federalists decision to label the
Democratic Republicans as a faction justified?
(Preliminary Argument)


Evidence: Evidence: Evidence:

Connection to Argument Connection to Argument Connection to Argument


Day 2
Where the Democratic Republications a Faction?

Directions: Discuss your preliminary arguments to the Focus Question “Was the Federalists decision to
label the Democratic Republicans as a faction justified?” While sharing your opinions consider the
following Discussion Questions in order to compare how your arguments are similar or different. After
you have finished, work with your partner in order to create a new, combined argument that builds off
of both your findings.

Partner Discussion Questions:

 Do you and your partner share a similar opinion? If not, who seems to offer stronger evidence
to support their view?
 Is there information that you didn’t consider in your partners argument that changes your
 What is the strongest piece of evidence that supports each of your arguments?
 What is the weakest piece of evidence in your argument?
 What additional information could be used to strengthen your argument?
 Does your evidence have clear, supporting connections to your opinion?
 What could be a piece of evidence that could contest your opinion? How can you refute this?

Group Argument: Remember: Be prepared to explain your opinion, identify evidence that supports it,
and be able to explain how this evidence supports your claim. Construct your argument on the chart on
the back of this sheet.
Was the Federalists decision to label the Democratic
Republicans as a faction justified?


Evidence: Evidence: Evidence:

Connection to Argument Connection to Argument Connection to Argument

Refutations for Contesting Opinions: