Thursday, May 28, 2015

First Cabinet and First Political Parties

published on: 2/28/2003

Contributing Teacher(s): Margo Dill

Subject Area: Social Studies/U.S. History

Grade Range: Upper Elementary (4-5)

Materials Needed:

  • Hamilton/Jefferson fact sheet
  • Paper for Venn Diagram
  • Internet access
  • Pencils or pens


  1. The students will construct a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast Alexander Hamilton to Thomas Jefferson.
  2. The students will compare and contrast George Washington''s cabinet to the current president''s cabinet, and list reasons for the similarities and differences.
  3. The students will use an Internet search engine to find information about the current president''s cabinet.

Process Standards:

  • Goal 1.2 conduct research to answer questions and evaluate information and ideas
  • Goal 1.4 use technological tools and other resources to locate, select and organize information

Content Standards:

  • Social Studies 3. Principles and processes of governance systems

    Time Allowance: 1st day--45 minutes to 1 hour (depending on students'''' familiarity with search engines and availability of computers), 2nd day--30 to 45 minutes

    Description: This is Lesson 7 of an eight-lesson unit. This lesson focuses on the first cabinet of George Washington and how the first political parties came to be.

    Classroom Component:

    NOTE: This is Lesson 7 of an eight-lesson unit titled “Writing the Constitution.” These eight lessons focus on how the Constitution became the law of the land, starting with the Articles of Confederation and ending with our first two presidents under the new government. (This unit does not focus on the Bill of Rights or the organization of our government. I taught that separately as a government unit around election time.)

    The other lessons are:

    Lesson 1--“Problems with the Articles of Confederation

    Lesson 2--“How to Solve the Problem of the Articles of Confederation

    Lesson 3--“Compromising”

    Lesson 4--“Slavery and the Constitution

    Lesson 5--“ 1787 ”

    Lesson 6--“Anti-Federalists and Federalists”

    Lesson 8--“A Peaceful Transition Between Leaders”

    This lesson focuses on the first cabinet of George Washington and how the first political parties came to be.

    At-Risk/IEP students:

    The teacher can pair an IEP or at-risk student with a high-achieving student while searching the Internet for the current president''s cabinet. For IEP students, with the Venn Diagram, the teacher can modify the required amount of differences and similarities between Jefferson and Hamilton to achieve the highest score of 4 points. For example, maybe the IEP student needs to find 3 differences and 2 similarities to receive a score of 4 points.

    Enrichment/Gifted learner:

    Gifted students can research further into the lives of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton to find more similarities and differences between the two men.

    Technology integrated:

    This lesson uses computers to research the current president''s cabinet.

    Step-by-Step Implementation:

    1. The teacher writes on the board the first president and his cabinet:
    2. George Washington—First President
    3. John Adams—First Vice President (He received the second most votes in the election).
    4. Thomas Jefferson—Secretary of State (appointed)
    5. Alexander Hamilton—Secretary of Treasury (appointed)
    6. Henry Knox—Secretary of War (appointed)
    7. Edmund Randolph—Attorney General (appointed)
    8. The teacher and students discuss each job. (see background information)The students use the Internet to find how many cabinet members the current president has. The students can use a search engine such as,, or
    9. The students and teacher make a list of reasons why the current cabinet is larger than Washington''s cabinet. The students and teacher also discuss why some of the positions are the same. (EXAMPLES of reasons for differences: current population is larger in the country and world, more states, more world problems, more technology, better transportation, space exploration. EXAMPLES of reasons for similarities: The country still needs someone to work with foreign countries, manage money, and interpret the Constitution for the President.)


    1. The teacher reviews the first presidential cabinet and the members in it.
    2. The teacher explains Thomas Jefferson (Secretary of State) and Alexander Hamilton (Secretary of Treasury) had opposing viewpoints on almost all issues, and they did not get along. They actually started the first political parties—T.J. and his followers (such as Patrick Henry) were called Democratic-Republicans, and A.H. and his followers (such as John Adams) were called Federalists. The teacher should make sure students know what political parties are and can name some from present day.
    3. The teacher gives students the fact sheet on Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.
    4. Each student constructs a Venn Diagram, comparing and contrasting the two men.

    Background Information:


    Secretary of State:

    • Thomas Jefferson helped the President deal with other countries. He worked with Spain, France, and Britain, the world powers of that day.

    Secretary of Treasury:

    • Alexander Hamilton kept track of the national government''s money. He worked to set up banks and taxes. He also ordered when to print new money.

    Secretary of War:

    • Henry Knox began building a national army of 1,000 soldiers to protect the United States western border.

    Attorney General:

    • Edmund Randolph was called the President''s legal advisor. He was responsible for telling the President what the Constitution would or would not let him do.

    Constructed Response Question:

    George Washington''s cabinet was smaller than the President''s cabinet today. Discuss three reasons why the President needs a larger cabinet today.


    Examples of Correct Responses:

    Today, the world population is larger and therefore the Secretary of State has more countries to deal with than just Spain, France, and Britain. Ambassadors can help with all this work. The United States has a larger population and therefore has more issues to deal with which affect many more people, such as an energy crisis, or a flood that would destroy thousands of homes or entire towns. There is electricity and technology now, and the President has to have cabinet members to deal with these new inventions.


    Facts on Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton
    (during the period of time they were part of George Washington''s cabinet):

    Thomas Jefferson

    Alexander Hamilton

    Thomas Jefferson was secretary of state. Alexander Hamilton was secretary of treasury.
    Worked for the rights of the states. Wanted the power to lie in a strong national government.
    Disagreed with others on the meaning of parts of the Constitution. Disagreed with others on the meaning of parts of the Constitution.
    Said the only powers the national government had were stated exactly in the Constitution, and all other powers belonged to the states. Said the national government had powers far greater than what was stated in the Constitution, and the national government should be a part of all American life.
    Thought people in America should spread out and live on farms. Thought the United States should be full of pe

    For additional information contact :
    Margo Dill
    Fairmount Elem.
    Francis Howell R-III
    (636) 851-4500

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