“Corrupt Bargain” Investigation – Primary Source Activities



This is an excellent primary source activity for American history teachers that want students to better understand about the Election of 1824 which Andrew Jackson called the “Corrupt Bargain.” It includes ten short secondary and primary source excerpts that help students better understand why Jackson accused Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams of corruption. Since it is an investigation, it is fun as the students need to decide whether corruption actually took place or whether history has misrepresented what actually happened.

Zero prep! The Google Docs version is editable, if you desire to make some changes.

Materials include

  1. Background information on the Election of 1824 and the “Corrupt Bargain”
  2. Two secondary source excerpts and eight primary source excerpts
  3. Primary source questions – four short answers

How to use this activity

Start the class with a discussion about famous elections in American history. Also talk about John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and Henry Clay.

Then, read the primary sources as a class (or put the students into groups). Go over some of the major points and ideas in the text. For example, go over the electoral vote map and the House of Representatives vote map.

Once the reading is done, start the activity. Students need to use the secondary and primary sources to answer the questions and decide if it was indeed a “corrupt bargain.” After everybody is finished, go over the answers as a class. Turn it into a class discussion. The goal here is to help students think like a historian.

Or, simply give this assignment as homework.

Alternative activity ideas:

  • If distance learning: students read primary source and complete the activities at home (could discuss on Zoom, if possible)
  • Read the primary source as a class and then conduct a Socratic Seminar (use the activities as homework)
  • Read the primary source in pairs, then have a round table discussion (student led, but teacher prompts historical thinking questions); do activities in class or as homework
  • Read the primary source for homework, discuss in class; do questions in pairs
  • Students identify the H.I.P.P.O.S. (historical background, intended audience, point of view, purpose, other information, and so what?) then prepare group presentations
  • Students search for the diaries of John Quincy Adams
  • After completing the primary source and questions, create a simulation of the “Corrupt Bargain”

Students will be able to…

  • Understand more about the electoral process
  • Understand what happened in the Election of 1824
  • Understand the “Corrupt Bargain”
  • Think like a historian
  • Read, comprehend, and analyze secondary and primary sources
  • Improve their ability to read and analyze primary sources
  • Also useful for English students

Additional information

Grade Level

9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Resource Types

Primary Source Activities, DBQs, Printables


There are no reviews yet.

Only logged in customers who have purchased this product may leave a review.