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Legacy of Republicanism

60 min
  • Students will trace the major debates regarding representation as they occurred at the Constitutional Convention and during the ratification process for the U.S. Constitution.
  • Students will participate in role play performances based on primary sources including Madison’s Notes from the Constitutional Convention and the Federalist/Anti-Federalist papers.
  • Students will evaluate arguments for and against the U.S. Constitution with respect to republicanism.
  • Students will apply arguments about the proper role of representation to evaluate republicanism today.
  • Students will analyze constitutional principles including limited government, republicanism, consent, and inalienable rights.

  • Students will trace the major debates regarding representation as they occurred at the Constitutional Convention and during the ratification process for the U.S. Constitution.
  • Students will participate in role play performances based on primary sources including Madison’s Notes from the Constitutional Convention and the Federalist/Anti-Federalist papers.
  • Students will evaluate arguments for and against the U.S. Constitution with respect to republicanism.
  • Students will apply arguments about the proper role of representation to evaluate republicanism today.
  • Students will analyze constitutional principles including limited government, republicanism, consent, and inalienable rights.

  • Excess of democracy
  • Virtue
  • Dupe
  • Federal pyramid
  • Republic
  • Consent
  • Virginia House of Burgesses
  • Autonomy
  • Parliament
  • Stamp Act
  • Repealed
  • Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union
  • Unicameral
  • Confederation
  • Virginia Plan
  • Sovereign
  • Bicameral
  • New Jersey Plan
  • Impasse
  • Three-Fifths Clause
  • Proportional representation
  • Ratify
  • Federalist
  • Anti-Federalist
  • Brutus
  • Federal Farmer
  • Cato
  • Constituents

  1. Display the following questions regarding representation that will be covered in Act 2. Designate a student to write on the board or display the answer to each question as it is addressed in the performance.
    1. Unicameral or bicameral legislature?
    2. Representatives elected by state legislatures or by the people?
    3. Equal or proportional representation for the states?
    4. Whether and how to count enslaved individuals?
  2. In the same manner as Act 1, continue to perform Act 2: Independence, Confederation, and Constitutional Convention from Handout D: Role Play—The Significance of Representation
  3. Allow the audience members to ask the actors questions at the end of Act 2 and take a few moments to discuss any questions/comments that students raise.
  4. Review the four representation questions and have students from the audience summarize the main arguments on each side of each question, as well as stating whether they agree with the way the Convention answered the question.
  5. Have a volunteer from the audience (or James Madison) explain the following statement:

    “There [are] five States on the Southern, eight on the Northern side of this line. Should a proportional representation take place, it [is] true, the Northern would still outnumber the other; but not in the same degree, at this time; and every day would tend towards an equilibrium.” (Madison points out that, using proportional representation, the northern states will have more power than the south. However, he believes that, over time, the two sections will move toward equal population and influence.)

     

    • Refer again to constitutional principles: how are they illustrated in the primary sources excerpted for Act 2?

  1. Distribute Handout E: Anti-Federalist Objections to the Constitution, and instruct students to listen closely to identify the Federalist response to each Anti-Federalist objection. They should take some brief notes in the appropriate portions of the handout during the performance, but stress that they are not expected to catch everything the first time through.
  2. Perform Act 3: Ratification from Handout D: Role Play—The Significance of Representation.
  3. Debrief in a whole-class discussion by guiding students through the responses for Handout E.
    • What is the continuing relevance of the Federalist and Anti-Federalist positions with respect to the principle of representation and other constitutional principles?
  4. Have students analyze and paraphrase the following statements.

    “It is essential to such a government [a republic] that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion or a favored class of it,” and that “the persons administering it be appointed, either directly or indirectly, by the people [for a limited time and based on good behavior. Madison, Federalist No. 39

     

    “The federal government will be [limited] by the authority of a paramount Constitution” Madison, Federalist No. 53

     

    “The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust. The elective mode of obtaining rulers is the characteristic policy of republican government. The means relied on in this form of government for preventing their degeneracy are numerous and various. The most effectual one, is such a limitation of the term of appointments as will maintain a proper responsibility to the people.” Madison, Federalist No. 57

     

    • To what extent do students agree with the principles that Madison expressed in each of the three passages quoted above?
    • To what extent has our republic lived up to Madison’s confidence expressed in The Federalist?
    • In a republic that functions as Madison believed it should, what is the main responsibility of the elected representatives? (Students might suggest that elected officials are responsible for being wise, virtuous, and liberty-loving as they faithfully carry out the will of the people and protect the common good.)What is the responsibility of the electorate? (Students might suggest that Madison believed the best protection of the liberty of the people is for them to pay attention to the representatives and hold them accountable for being wise and virtuous.)

  1. Have students collect current events articles related to the principle of representation and analyze those articles in light of Federalist and Anti-Federalist arguments. Have students respond to the following two questions based on the articles they select.
    1. To what extent was Madison correct in his faith that the people would elect only the wisest and most virtuous representatives who would correctly understand and interpret their constitutional limits?
    2. What can the people do to better fulfill the aims of republican government as Madison saw them?