He left no records of his political philosophy and there are few recorded instances of his oratory while on the floor of the United States Congress. Yet, Hubert D. Stephens represented Mississippians in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U. S. Senate for more than two decades. His terms of service coincided with some of the most tumultuous events in the history of the United States up to that time: World War I; the Flood of 1927; the Great Depression; as well as volatile social issues such as woman suffrage, prohibition, and child labor. His disparate votes on these issues and others characterize him as “a curious mixture of conservatism and liberalism.” In this lesson, students will examine his life and service.
CONNECTION TO THE CURRICULUM
Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1, 3, 4, and 5
Grades 4 (with modifications) through 12
- Mississippi History Now article on Hubert Stephens
- Blank 8 1/2” x 11” paper for timelines
- Colored pencils (optional)
- Indicate on a timeline the primary legislative issues during Mr. Stephens’s service as a congressman and as a senator;
- Categorize Mr. Stephens’s position on each issue;
- Identify factors that influence a person’s vote;
- Draw inferences regarding voting decisions.
OPENING THE LESSON
On the board, write these questions and encourage a brainstorming session.
- Does a person always have to vote a straight Republican or Democratic ticket?
- Why might a person vote for some Republican candidates and some Democratic candidates?
- Is it possible to be conservative on some issues and liberal on others?
At this point, it might be necessary to have students research the terms conservative and liberal in order to construct a classroom definition. (This exercise should be conducted in a manner that displays a respect for varying political viewpoints and results in a broad definition which is acceptable to all.)
DEVELOPING THE LESSON
- Ask students to draw on a blank sheet of paper a timeline representing the major events of Mr. Stephens’s life, including birth, education, service as district attorney, U.S. congressman, U.S. senator, board member of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, retirement, death. Ask them to leave enough room to add the main legislative issues Mr. Stephens had to deal with during his time in Washington, D.C.
- In small groups, students will identify the major legislative issues of Mr. Stephens’s tenure as a congressman and add the issues to the timeline. Repeat the process for his service in the U.S. Senate.
- On a separate sheet of paper, students will draw a chart to list each legislative issue, how Mr. Stephens voted, and whether the student thinks his vote was conservative or liberal, based on the prior discussion at the beginning of the lesson and on the reading of the article.
- Allow time for students to compare their answers.
- In small groups, have students list factors that might influence a legislator to vote a certain way. Teacher should ask questions that will lead students to think of a person’s home, the livelihood of his constituency, prevailing mores, as well as current political beliefs.
- Ask students to take a closer look at the Mississippi History Now article to identify a specific example that illustrates how Mr. Stephens’s background influenced his vote on an issue.
- Ask students to share what they have found with a partner.
CONCLUDING THE LESSON
- Lead a class discussion on what students discovered about how Mr. Stephens voted on issues. Encourage them to express how they feel about his voting record.
- Ask them individually to list several inferences they can make from studying Mr. Stephens’s voting record and to respond to this question: Are these inferences applicable to current issues, to today’s elected officials, to voters everywhere?
ASSESSING THE LESSON
- Participation in large-group discussions
- Completion of timeline and chart
- List of inferences and response to question
EXTENDING THE LESSON
In small groups, students may wish to speculate on why Mr. Stephens left neither written records of his political beliefs nor explanations for his votes on issues. Ask them to consider the value of historical documents.