American Ideals after the Revolutionary War

Emily Northcutt, Classical Center at Brandenburg Middle School, Garland, Texas

DESIGN LEVEL: Middle School


This lesson will explore the era of the Early Republic and reinforce understanding of how the Revolutionary War directly influenced the creation of the United States Constitution. The Revolution’s highest ideals heavily influenced political leaders, artists, and common people. Students will examine the ideals of liberty, equality, civic responsibility, and natural and civil rights, and connect them to the formation of the American Republic following the Revolutionary War, then complete an independent project connecting republican ideals to physical artifacts.



Students will . . .

  • Identify the highest ideals of the United States following the Revolutionary War.
  • Connect physical artifacts to political and social ideals by considering the following questions:
    • What is a republic? Why did America chose this model of government?
    • What does it mean to be a republic? Has America upheld that ambition?
    • Does our governmental system reflect the high ideals expressed during the American Revolution? What have been our shortcomings? Do we still hold these high ideals?
    • How were the objects created during America’s Early Republic significant at the time? Why do they matter now? Are there examples of twenty-fist century objects that convey those early republican ideals?




Recommended Time

One 50-minute class, with a homework assignment. 



Bell Ringer: Play the video excerpt of “He Comes the Hero Comes,” prompting students to listen closely and construct a word cloud with significant words or phrases they hear as well as significant ideas that come to mind. Discuss what this song reflects about George Washington’s reputation and the feeling of Americans following the Revolutionary War.

Introduction: The United States has won the Revolutionary War and is a free and independent country. Ask students to discuss the following questions:

  • As a new republic, what does our nation represent?
  • Who or what do we look to for inspiration?
  • What do the republic’s ideals of liberty, equality, civic responsibility and natural and civil rights mean to you?
  • Did these ideals mean different things to different people in the eighteenth century?

Exploration: Physical objects provide clues about the past. By examining items that reside in museum collections and elsewhere, we can learn about people’s lives and how they viewed the world in which they lived. These objects reflect the values held by the people who possessed them, from a society’s leaders to its common people as well. The song “He Comes the Hero Comes” demonstrates how music reflects the thoughts of those who created, listened to, and passed on lyrics and melodies of the past. Direct students explore the online collections of the American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati at and to think about what these objects reflect about the ideals of the Early Republic. Remind students that these collections contain examples from all walks of life, representing evidence about how different groups felt at the time. 

Assignment: Have students select an item from the gallery below and conduct a See, Think, Wonder object analysis to infer more about the item’s history and purpose, then ask students explain what the object suggests about how its creator and owner thought or felt about the highest ideals of the Early Republic.

Evidence of Learning: On-level students will create a one-page Google Slide, and honors students will complete a Google Doc quick-write answering the following questions: 

  1. What do you see? Are there any symbols or metaphors? Does the object relate to any other periods of history?
  2. What is the artifact, and how was it used?
  3. Do we have similar objects today? How are twenty-first century objects different?
  4. How can I connect the significance of this artifact to the present? For example: Broadsides could be used as propaganda: what kind of propaganda exists today? Maps and weapons have always been important for military strategy: what do military maps look like now? how have weapons changed over the centuries?
  5. What do these artifacts suggest about the political or social ideals of the time? Do they continue to suggest these ideals today? In your opinion, did these objects influence the building of the American Republic—explain how they reflect the republic ideals of liberty, equality, civic responsibility and natural and civil rights we discussed as a class.


Extension Activity: Ask students to find items created in the twentieth or twenty-first century that reflect the American Revolution’s highest ideals.


Standards Addressed

Subchapter B. Middle School, 113.20. Social Studies, Grade 8, Adopted 2018

1.A-B, History. The student understands traditional historical points of reference in U.S. history through 1877. 

4.A-D, History. The student understands significant political and economic issues of the revolutionary and Constitutional eras. 

5.A, 5.C, 5. E, History. The student understands the challenges confronted by the government and its leaders in the early years of the republic and the Age of Jackson. 

15.C, Government. The student understands the American beliefs and principles reflected in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and other important historic documents.

19.A, 19.C, Citizenship. The student understands the rights and responsibilities of citizens of the United States. 

20.A, Citizenship. The student understands the importance of voluntary individual participation in the democratic process.

22.A, Citizenship. The student understands the importance of effective leadership in a constitutional republic.

23.C-D, Culture. The student understands the relationships between and among people from various groups, including racial, ethnic, and religious groups, during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. 

 26.A-B, Culture. The student understands the relationship between the arts and the times during which they were created. 

29.A-E, Social studies skills. The student applies critical-thinking skills to organize and use information acquired through established research methodologies from a variety of valid sources, including technology.

30.B-C, Social studies skills. The student communicates in written, oral, and visual forms.