Development of American Democracy: An Analysis of the Evolution of American Political Parties to the Anacreon Tune
AP US History
Social Studies Grade Levels (9–12) by Vincent Stewart, Bowie High School
A student centered activity where students research the development of various American political parties and tell the stories of their origin through music and poetry, to the Anacreon Tune.
- Thematic Learning Objective(ID 5): Analyze the role of economic, political, social and ethnic factors on the formation of regional identities in what would become the United States from the colonial period through the 19th century
- Historical Thinking Skill: Comparison – Compare related historical developments and processes across place, time, and or different societies or with in one society.
- Key Concepts 4.1.I.A: The United States developed the world’s first modern mass democracy and celebrated a new national culture, while Americans sought to define the nations democratic ideals and to reform its institutions to match them.
Goals and Objectives:
- Students will identify social, economic, ethnic/racial and geographical factors contributing to the formation of regional identities between the colonial era and the end of the 19th century.
- Students will determine how regional identities contributed to the development of various American political parties utilizing at least one primary source document and one secondary source document.
- Students will utilize their background on the Anacreon Tune in order to compose lyrics to that tune, accounting for the social, economic, ethnic and regional values that contributed to the origins a variety of American political parties
- Explain how social, economic, racial and political factors led to the formation of various regional identities AND explain the impact of these various identities on the American Political Landscape between the colonial era and the end of the 19th century. Provide an example of at least one political party and their development to support your explanation.
- The Anacreon Tune was composed by John Stafford Smith and was used in various capacities beginning in 1778 when a British Musical Society known as the Anacreon Society put words to that tune and created “To Anacreon in Heaven”. Since then over 80 versions of lyrics have been voiced over that tune.
- Before the era of broadcast news and the internet, music and poetry played a crucial role in communicating news, political agendas and ideas. Thus there are a variety of songs composed to the Anacreon Tune encompassing a wide range of content. The most famous song however is our National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner.
- Despite the popularity of the Star Spangled Banner, many other lyrics were written to the Anacreon tune for a variety of reasons. Many of those lyrics were political parodies i.e. “Harrison and Liberty”. While others were created to spur social or political change i.e. “Oh Say Do You Hear”, “Who Has Not Seen”. Students will utilize these songs in order to contextualize the various usages of the Anacreon Tune and eventually create lyrics to their own song.
- The Purpose of this lesson is to get students to analyze the role economic, political, social and ethnic factors played in the formation of regional identities beginning during the colonial era and spanning the 19th century. During which, students will determining how those factors brought about the evolution of a variety of political parties in America. Meanwhile, students will also utilize a variety of songs to the Anacreon Tune in order to gain background on the usage of music as an important source for news and information in the past. When its all said and done, students will then demonstrate understanding of both the various factors that led to the formation of regional identities and the role they played in the development of political parties and how to utilize music as a source for communicating information.
- Lyrics and Musical Performances for the following songs sung to the Anacreon Tune.
- Anacreon in Heaven
- Star Spangled Banner
- To Genet in New York*
- Adams and Liberty
- Jefferson and Liberty*
- Harrison and Liberty*
- Who Has Not Seen
- Oh Say do you Hear
* No Musical Accompaniment
2. The Internet
- Introduce this activity at the beginning a Unit or at least 2-3 weeks prior to the day the in class activity will be presented by students.
- When introducing this activity, provide brief background on the Anacreon Tune and the role that ballads like those done to the Anacreon Tune played in communicating information in the 18th and 19th century. (See Description)
- For further background and context students should be assigned to listen to, and analyze the lyrical content of the provided songs done to the Anacreon Tune for the purpose of understanding the wide variety of usages that composers wrote lyrics for the Anacreon Tune. (see materials)
- Students will be tasked to research the development of one of the following political parties/affiliations utilizing at least one primary source document and one secondary source document.
- Students will identify the social, economic and ethnic/racial and geographical factors contributing to their chosen parties origins. (See Activity 1) In preparation students will have brought in at least one primary source and one secondary source for approval before research begins.
Patriots Loyalists Federalists Democratic
Republicans Jacksonian Democrats Whigs
Know Nothing PartyFree Soil Party Liberty Party
Provide Historic Context of the development of the political party you group has chosen by completing the following prompts. For each make sure to reference a specific piece of historical evidence to support your claim.
- Identify Political Party
- Identify Political Rivals
- Describe the Social Statuses of members of your party.
- Describe Economic background of members of your political party.
- Describe the Ethnic / Racial Background of members of your political party
- Describe how Geographic Factors and Sectionalism impacted the development of your political party.
Utilizing research from Activity 1, provide context to the development of your political party by briefly summarizing its rise. Students will submit this aspect of the project about half way between the date the assignment is given and when it will be completed.
Students Task: To use their background on the Anacreon Tune and their research in order to use as examples for your group to compose lyrics to the Anacreon Tune expressing your political parties social, economic, ethnic and regional values of each political party in their tune. Students will perform the song they have created and will supply teacher with the lyrics on the given due date.
Written Assessment: Explain how social, economic, racial and political factors led to the formation of various regional identities AND explain the impact of these various identities on the American Political Landscape between the colonial era and the end of the 19th century. Provide an example of at least one political party and their development to support your explanation.
Utilize the link below to access the lyrics to the songs listed under “Materials”.
Lyrics to Various Songs Composed to the Anacreon Tune
Utilize the link below to connect to the Poets and Patriots: A Tuneful History of the Star Spangled Banner for complete compilation of various songs composed to the Anacreon Tune
About the Author Vincent Stewart has been teaching High School students for nine years at Bowie High School in Prince George County Maryland. He Currently teaches AP US History, African/African American Studies and Modern World History. Feel free to contact Vincent by email at
About Banner Moments Made available as part of the 2014 Banner Moments K-12 Institute—a project of the American Music Institute of the University of Michigan and the Star Spangled Music Foundation, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities