The Constitution in Action - Political Parties and Presidential Electors: The Election of 1800

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History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. This simulation places students in the Early Republic and asks them to engage in the politics of those times. Acting as either Federalists or Republicans, they will be asked to develop strategies for electing their party’s standard bearer as president, using the Constitution’s complex system of presidential electors to their advantage at three distinct stages. (a) As state legislators, they determine how electors are to be chosen, a power granted to those bodies by the Constitution. (b) As electors, they decide whether to vote for both of their party’s nominees or whether to “throw one away” so their vice-presidential candidate does not “overrun” their choice for president. (c) As Federalist members of the House of Representatives, they will decide whether to vote for Aaron Burr, a Republican of dubious reputation, in order to prevent Thomas Jefferson, a hardened opponent of Federalist policies, from becoming president. By participating in these critical decisions, they will see how the system of presidential electors, which the framers had designed in order to minimize partisanship, was played to partisan advantage by both sides. 

Lesson tags: 
Advanced Placement (AP)
Creative Commons License: 
Attribution Non-commercial ShareAlike CC (BY-NC-SA)