Grades 5 to 12
Fillmore, Pierce & Buchanan
Our Presidents in America’s History Series
Subject Area: Social Studies, U.S. History
Synopsis: Chronicles the presidencies of Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan, with emphasis on the growing tensions in the nation over the slavery issue. Discusses the controversies surrounding the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act and looks at the nation’s growth, the rise of the anti-slavery Republican Party and the Dred Scott Decision.
Objective 1) Students will be able to recall the major events of the Presidencies of Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan.
Objective 2) Students will be able to explain the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
Objective 3) Students will be able to describe the growing tensions in the nation over the slavery issue.
Objective 4) Students will be able to discuss the stances of Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan on slavery.
1) On a map, point out the slave and free states already a part of the Union before Millard Fillmore’s election in 1848. Also point out the new states and territories added to the Union during the presidencies of Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan. Did these new states that joined the Union join as slave or free states? How was that decision made? Was the status of new states important to the existing states?
2) Vocabulary: fugitive slaves, minstrel shows, stereotypes, transcontinental railway, territories, doughface, westward expansion, abolitionist
Post-Viewing Discussion and Activities:
1) What agreement was made in the Missouri Compromise of 1820? Explain the Compromise of 1850. How did people on both sides of the slavery debate react to the Compromise? Which issues made each side unhappy?
2) What were Millard Fillmore’s views on slavery? How did his views affect his chances for re-election?
3) What was Popular Sovereignty? How would a territory determine the legality of slavery?
4) Explain the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Why did pro- and anti-slavery factions go to Kansas? Why was it important to both anti- and pro-slavery groups to gain control of Kansas? What were the effects of the Kansas-Nebraska Act?
5) What were Franklin Pierce’s views on slavery?
6) What were Buchanan’s views on slavery? Why did he say, “I am the last President of the United States.”
7) What decisions did the Supreme Court make in the Dred Scott Case? How did these decisions affect African Americans?
1) Present the class with more information about Dred Scott’s life and his trial. Divide the class into three groups: the Supreme Court Judges, council supporting Dred Scott, and council supporting John F. Sanford. Have both council groups brainstorm arguments to present to the judges concerning Dred Scott’s freedom, his legal status, and the Compromise of 1850.
2) Bring some political cartoons for students to look at and discuss. Explain how cartoonists use their drawings to make a statement about a current event. Have students draw cartoons that make statements about events mentioned in the program, such as the Kansas-Nebraska act or the California Gold Rush.
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