Begin by asking the class how old the United States is. (Prompt students to be sure to get as much as they know out on the board. For example, ask: Is it older than your parents or grand parents?) Next, ask the class about America before it became the United States. As colonies of Great Britain, what war did Americans fight to become a separate nation? What did Americans gain by fighting the American Revolution or War of Independence?
Write the word freedom on the board, and ask students if they are free. What does the word mean to them? Can they do anything they want? Work with the class to identify some of the challenges of being free, such as needing to take care of yourself.
For America, freedom meant no more English protection. National Security, or maintaining our safety, was particularly challenging because Americans had embraced trading on the sea. Our merchant fleet was already very large. How could we protect our far-flung citizens? And, time would prove they would need protection. After the Revolution, our safety was our problem.
Since we opposed British rule, separation from England also meant that we had to create new laws, or rules, to live by. At first, the thirteen states operated like separate countries. They printed their own money and had their own laws and armed forces. Five years after the treaty with England was signed at Versailles in 1783, the federal government adopted the Constitution of the United States, the document that describes how we govern ourselves.
The Constitution of the United States established the Congress to make laws; the Presidency, to carry out those laws and lead the country; and the Supreme Court and lower courts to interpret those laws. The Constitution helped us to make decisions as a country by dividing the power, or authority, for decision making among federal, state and local governments and citizens.
Ask the class what else the new nation needed in order to be successful, besides a government and laws? Money! In 1791, the United States Bank was created. The Bank raised money by borrowing from people who were willing make loans to our new nation. The money would be repaid through taxes. With this brief background, students should be ready to find out more about USS Constitution.