Exploring the Essential Question: How did the founding of the U. S. government reflect the founders’ beliefs about power and authority?



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James Madison, Federalist No. 51

Unit 1 Close Reading



Pre and Post Assessment
Exploring the Essential Question: How did the founding of the U.S. government reflect the founders’ beliefs about power and authority?
Background: According to Article VII of the Constitution, in order for the new Constitution to become the supreme law of the United States, it had to be ratified (approved) by nine of the original thirteen states. During the period of state debate and ratification, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay wrote essays known as The Federalist Papers to persuade the people of New York to ratify the Constitution. Below is an excerpt from Federalist No. 15.


  • Read silently to yourself.

  • Follow along as the passage is read aloud.

  • Answer, in complete sentences, the questions that accompany the reading.



  1. James Madison, The Federalist No. 51




  1. The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between the

  2. Different Departments




  1. February 8, 1788




  1. In order to lay a due foundation of the separate and distinct exercise of the different powers of

  2. government, which... [is] essential to the preservation of liberty, it is evident that each

  3. department should have a will of its own...




  1. It is equally evident, that the members of each department should be as little dependent as

  2. possible on those of the others...




  1. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected

  2. with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection of human nature, that such

  3. devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government

  4. itself, but the greatest of all reflections of human nature? If men were angels, no government

  5. would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on

  6. government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men

  7. over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the

  8. governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.




  1. Vocabulary: Furnish—provide. Structure (in this context)—organization of the parts

What must the structure of the government provide (lines 2-3)? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. Paraphrase Lines 5-7 “In order to lay a due foundation of the separate and distinct exercise of the different powers of government, which…[is] essential to the preservation of liberty, it is evident that each department should have a will of its own…” __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  2. According to Madison, what is necessary to “the preservation of liberty” (line 6)? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  3. Vocabulary: Ambition—noun, a desire for some type of achievement or distinction, such as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment. Counteract—verb, to neutralize or go against by means of an opposite force, action, or influence.

Paraphrase the following: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither internal nor external controls on government would be necessary.” ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. What two things must be provided for when framing a government of men? Answer in a complete sentence, citing evidence from the text.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. Which two Constitutional principles were the subjects of Federalist No. 51? And why, according to Madison, were these principles essential to preserving liberty? Cite evidence from the text to support your answer. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  2. Write a short constructed response, citing evidence from the class readings and assignments, and examples from the Constitution, explaining how “ambition is made to counteract ambition” in the Constitution. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


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