Lesson 17: Free the Enslaved and Avoid the War

This lesson calls upon students to role-play people who were sympathetic to slaveholding. Be certain to remind the students not to confuse statements made during the role playing with the actual beliefs of the students assuming the roles. The intent of the activity is to analyze actions taken by people in 1799 as they attempted to end slavery. Government action and the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States were required in order to deal with the legal status of slavery in the United States. Yet, a government does not make decisions; only people, acting as government representatives, make decisions. Economic theory suggests that decisions made by political leaders and government officials can be described as responses to incentives. Political leaders respond to incentives in attempts to solve political conflicts in manners that promise to produce the highest expected benefits at the lowest possible costs.


Benefits, Costs, Incentives, Opportunity costs
National Content Standards in Economics:
  • Standard #4: Incentives
  • Standard #16: Role of Government and Market Failure