The Founders believed citizens could best pursue happiness if government was limited to protecting the life, liberty, and property of individuals. They believed that people were naturally flawed, and government should be structured so that people's natural self-interest would lead officials to check one another's attempts to exercise more power than the Constitution allows. Unlike the Framers of the Constitution, Progressives believed that man's nature can and should be bettered by enlightened rulers. Therefore, they believed, government should provide citizens with the environment and the means to improve themselves through government-sponsored programs and policies and economic redistribution. Concepts such as natural rights did not matter as much as improving social order. Therefore, the question for those in favor of Prohibition was not whether limiting the right to manufacture and sell alcohol infringed on anyone’s personal liberty, but whether a ban on alcohol would serve to improve the progress of mankind.
In this lesson, students will learn about the differences between the Founders’ and Progressives’ beliefs about government by sorting quotes from each group.
This lesson plan was developed in partnership with The Bill of Rights Institute.