Students will study how James Buchanan’s decisions regarding the Lecompton Constitution impacted Kansas Territory and the United States.
Students will address a question that is seldom addressed in history – why was a leader ineffective? Hopefully, the discussion leads to a greater appreciation of the examples of quality leadership that American history provides.
- Students will understand that groups wrote four constitutions in Kansas Territory
- Students will explore sectionalism and the divisive politics of the 1850s
- Students will create theories as to why Buchanan is rated so low by Presidential historians.
Kansas State Social Studies Standard: A successful student will recognize and draw conclusions about significant historical, economic, and political choices and the resulting consequences.
- Student can demonstrate what they know by interpreting information in different ways to build meaning.
- Student can independently evaluate multiple pieces of evidence from different disciplines to build meaning.
- Student can pose and respond to questions about a topic and address them with accurate evidence based explanations of their thinking.
- Student can compare the short and long term impacts of different choices related to the same topic or event and explain their causes.
Ask students to create two lists:
- Who are the greatest Presidents in American history?
- Who are the worst Presidents in American history?
NOTE: You might want to qualify this in two ways:
- Exclude recent Presidents – from their lifetime or your lifetime - with the idea that enough time has not passed in order to fairly judge them.
- Qualify what is meant by “great” – in other words, they had a large positive impact upon the country.
Discuss the student lists, then look at the Wikipedia page that lists Presidential rankings:
Ask students: Do you see anything you find surprising?
Create a T-Chart with these two columns: What are characteristics of a great leader? What are characteristics of a poor leader? Have a discussion while filling out the T-Chart as a class.
Introduce the central question: Why do historians generally consider James Buchanan to be one of the worst Presidents of all time?