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Civic Literacy Curriculum

Question 58: Under the United States Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. Which of the following is one of those powers?

Question

Q58: Under the United States Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. Which of the following is one of those powers?

A. Print money 
B. Declare war 
C. Make treaties 
D. All of the above

Question Background Information

Background

The Constitution’s federalist system of enumerated powers limits the federal government to powers specified in the Constitution, especially (but not exclusively) Article I, Section 8. Like the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution grants Congress a list of specific powers, not a general grant of power like the states have. Unlike the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution also grants Congress power ‘to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution’ the specific powers that they are granted. In other words, unlike in the Articles of Confederation, Congress can provide for federal enforcement of Congress’s laws. (The actual enforcement, of course, lies with the executive branch.) By ensuring the federal government can enforce its own laws, the Founders created a federal government that could achieve their goals for it, such as a successful foreign policy, national defense, and an interstate commercial market.

Among the list of federal, congressional powers to achieve these goals is the authority to coin (or print) money, to make treaties and declare war, and to raise and support armies.

Additional Content

Offline Activity

Introduction

The Founding Fathers, in their quest to create a republic and deter a monarchy, made it a point to differentiate between what the federal government can and cannot do. In this activity, students will read the Constitution and relevant excerpts from the Federalist, looking for those powers granted to the federal government and all the remaining powers left with the states. Then, they will create a Venn Diagram to show the difference in power as well as where the powers intersect.

Preparation

  • Provide each group with a copy of the Constitution and amendments.  
  • Provide each group with a copy of “The Federalist on Federalism” (excerpts from 32, 39, 45, 51, and 62).   
  • Print a copy of the answer key for yourself.  
  • A rubric is provided if this is a graded activity.

Required files


The Teaching Materials for this exercise includes an answer key and a rubric (Venn Diagram Rubric).

Teaching Materials.

Instructions

  1. Students can work alone or in groups of 2-3 for this activity.
    • If using pairs, group by ability. Group A is the group that needs some extra support. Group B is the core group that has the core knowledge to complete the activity. Group C is the enrichment group that has mastered the material. Group C students are prepared to extend their knowledge. Pair those who need support (Group A) with those who have core knowledge and/or have mastered the material (Groups B and C).
  2. Provide each group with the appropriate handout and worksheet. 
  3. Provide the students with approximately 20-25 minutes to read and complete the activity.
  4. Encourage students to make notes on the handout as they read.
  5. When complete, review as a class and list the similarities and differences on the board, which will help reinforce the concepts for all of the students.
    • Note that the answer key is not exhaustive and is meant only to act as a general guide.

Discussion Prompts

Below are two discussion prompts that can be used by teachers in a classroom setting. 

  • The first discussion prompt will be one that is designed to support students that are not really understanding the content in a way that would help them to answer the test question.
  • The second discussion prompt will be one that is designed to further student understanding of the content by making real-world connections, including connections to current events and historical events. 

Background

Generally speaking, in terms of power, too much can be a bad thing. Having learned from history the havoc that too much -- and too little -- power can wreak, the Founding Fathers sought to strike a balance between what the federal government could do and what the states could do. 

Prompt 1

The Founding Fathers did not want an all-powerful government and weak states. However, they knew that there were certain cases where the federal government had to be responsible, and thus gave the federal government a list of powers that it, not the states, would have. What is one power of the federal government? Why do you think that the Founding Fathers thought that the federal government should have this power?

Prompt 2

The Founders recognized that changes to the Constitution would need to happen, and thus they wrote in a process of amending it through Article V. For example, the federal government has the authority to impose an income tax, thanks to the 16th Amendment, and it briefly held the power to ban even local alcohol trafficking, thanks to the 18th before that power was repealed and restored to the states with the 21st Amendment. Consider the powers granted to the federal government by the Constitution. Are there any powers it should have but does not, and you would like to see added by an Article V amendment? Are there some powers that it has, but that should be returned to the states by an amendment? Use current and past events to support your answer.

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