- To what extent did the Constitutional Convention correct the problems with the Articles of Confederation?
- Who were the delegates to the Constitutional Convention?
- How did the similarities and differences of the Framers affect the drafting of the Constitution?
- Did the Framers make the right compromises at the Constitutional Convention?
- Why is the Executive branch an essential part of government?
- How did the Founders view slavery?
- To what extent did the Framers agree that the Constitution should be ratified? Why?
- Evaluate the similarities and differences of the Framers.
- Speculate how the similarities and differences of the Framers affected the drafting of the Constitution.
- Analyze the compromises made at the Constitutional Convention.
- Compare the Executive power of the Articles of Confederation and the US Constitution.
- Evaluate Madison’s definition of federalism.
- Summarize the arguments for and against slavery.
- Analyze George Mason’s objections to the Constitution.
- Predict how Mason might evaluate the Constitution if he could do so today.
- Handout B: Bundle of Compromises Answer Key
- The Constitution and Executive Power Activity Handouts D-E Answer Keys
- Handout F: James Madison and Federalism Answer Key
- Slavery and the Founders Activity Handouts H-K Answer Keys
- The Constitutional Convention Essay
- Handout A: Meeting the Framers—A Pre-Convention Social
- Handout B: Bundle of Compromises
- Handout C: The U.S. Constitution of 1787
- Handout D: Executive Comparison
- Handout E: Committee of Detail – Executive Power
- Handout F: James Madison and Federalism – Excerpts from Federalist No. 39
- Handout G: Slavery and the Founders
- Handout H: Map — Emancipation in the Early Republic
- Handout I: Founders’ Quotes on Slavery
- Handout J: Readers’ Theater – Convention Debate on Slave Trade
- Handout K: Mason’s Objections to the Constitution
- Articles of Confederation
- Rule of law
- Second Amendment
- Alexis de Tocqueville
- James Madison
- Electoral College
- Inalienable rights
- Alexander Hamilton
- George Washington
- Seventeenth Amendment
- Checks and balances
- Thomas Jefferson
- Benjamin Franklin
- John Adams
Have students read The Constitutional Convention Essay.
Have the students individually prepare a list of failures of the Articles of Confederation.
Have students share their list with a partner and add ideas to their own list.
Have students share with the whole group and continue to add ideas to their list.
Provide the students with a copy of the excerpt from Article XIII of the Articles of Confederation:
XIII.: Every State shall abide by the determination of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions which by this confederation are submitted to them. And the Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State.
Have the students read Article XIII and participate in a whole group discussion using the following questions:
- What are the most important changes that need to be made to the Articles of Confederation?
- How realistic was the process to amend the Articles?
- Without realistic amendment process, how can the government be fixed?
Inform the students that they will need their lists of problems with the Articles of Confederation after they have completed their activities on the Constitutional Convention.
Explain that during the “critical period” after the American Revolution, many of the Founders recognized the same problems with the Articles of Confederation that the students identified. Thus, a convention was called to “revise the Articles of Confederation.”
Activity 1: Meeting the Framers [60 minutes]
Provide students with Handout A: Meeting the Framers-a Pre-Convention Social
Assign each student a Framer and have them develop a business card to illustrate his life’s contributions up until the Constitutional Convention.
Have students conduct a simulated pre-convention social getting to know the delegates to the Convention.
Have students participate in a whole group discussion. Create a T-chart to discuss how the Framers were similar and different from each other. Then discuss how their similarities and differences may have affected the drafting of the Constitution.
Activity 2: Bundle of Compromises [40 minutes]
Provide student with Handout B: Bundle of Compromises
Have students research and summarize the compromises using http://teachingamericanhistory.org/convention/themes
- The Great Compromise
- Three-Fifths Compromise
- Commerce Compromise
- Slave Trade Compromise
- The election of the president.
Discuss the main compromises reached in the Constitutional Convention.
Divide the class into groups of 3-4 and have the students further the discussion with the following questions:
- What do the compromises reveal about the differences in the states?
- Is it more important to represent the states or the people?
- What are the consequences of compromising over slavery?
- Why did the Framers decide to give the national government power over commerce? Do you agree with their decision?
- Why do you think the Framers provided for an electoral college instead of election by popular vote? Do you agree with their decision?
Have the students participate in a whole group discussion reporting their ideas from the small group discussion.
Activity 3: The Constitution and Executive Power [40 minutes]
Have students compare the U.S. Constitution to the Articles of Confederation with respect to the presidency and the executive power.
Provide students with Handout E: Committee of Detail – Executive Power.
Have students compare the August 6 draft of the constitution to the Constitution in its final form at the end of the convention, with respect to the executive branch to the Committee on Detail.
Activity 4: James Madison and Federalism [40 minutes]
Provide students with Handout F: James Madison and Federalism – Excerpts from Federalist No. 39
Have students analyze the “partly national, partly federal” nature of the Union.
Discuss Madison’s understanding of federalism as a large group.
Activity 5: Slavery and the Founders [60 minutes]
Provide students with Handout G: Slavery and the Founders, Handout H: Map — Emancipation in the Early Republic, and Handout I: Founders’ Quotes on Slavery.
Have students review the table, found in Handout G: Slavery and the Founders, with the names and states of some leading Framers and Founders who held slaves at some point in their lives.
Have students review the information in the table, on pages 2 and 3 of Document H: Map – Emancipation in the Early Republic, that shows the state-by-state limitations of slavery. Have student then complete the map to identify those states that:
- abolished slavery outright
- implemented gradual emancipation laws
- abolished slavery through the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
Have students analyze and summarize the arguments for and against slavery using Handout I: Founders’ Quotes on Slavery.
Provide students with Handout J: Readers’ Theater – Convention Debate on Slave Trade
Have students adapt the script found in Handout J: Readers’ Theater – Convention Debate on Slave Trade, from third to first person.
Have students participate in a readers’ theater, using their adapted scripts, to help them understand the discussions about slavery and the slave trade during the Constitutional Convention.
Have students participate in a discussion on whether the Framers created a pro-slavery Constitution or created a constitution that put slavery on the path to extinction.
Activity 6: Objections to the Constitution [40 minutes]
Provide students with Handout K: Mason’s Objections to the Constitution
Have students analyze Virginian George Mason’s problems with the Constitution found in Handout K: Mason’s Objections to the Constitution.
Have students complete a graphic organizer to analyze the constitutional principles represented in Mason’s objections to the Constitution
Have students participate in a discussion predicting how Mason might evaluate the Constitution if he could do so today.
Have students review their list of weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation.
Have students participate in a think-pair share- whole group discussion: To what extent did the Constitution solve the problems of the Articles of Confederation?
- Think: students individually brainstorm an answer to the question.
- Pair share: students share their ideas with a partner
Whole group: students discuss with the whole class
Provide students with a copy Article V of the Constitution, the amendments to the Constitution, and a copy of the following excerpt from James Wilson’s State House Speech October 6, 1787
“I will confess indeed, that I am not a blind admirer of this plan of government, and that there are some parts of it, which if my wish had prevailed, would certainly have been altered. But, when I reflect how widely men differ in their opinions, and that every man (and the observation applies likewise to every state) has an equal pretension to assert his own, I am satisfied that anything nearer to perfection could not have been accomplished. If there are errors, it should be remembered, that the seeds of reformation are sown in the work itself, and the concurrence of two thirds of the congress may at any time introduce alterations and amendments. Regarding it then, in every point of view, with a candid and disinterested mind, I am bold to assert, that it is the best form of government which has ever been offered to the world.”
Have students read the State House excerpt and Article V and answer the question: Why was Article V included in the Constitution?
Divide students into groups of 3-4 and have them review the amendments to the Constitution. Students should consider the following questions and be prepared to discuss with the whole class.
- To what extent have amendments to the Constitution affected the structure of the government?
- To what extent have amendments to the Constitution affected the rights of the people?
Have the students participate in a whole group discussion based the following questions:
- Do you think the process outlined in Article V is too difficult? Explain.
- How has Article V affected the government?
The Ratification Debate
The Constitutional Convention (LLPH)
What compromises were made at the Constitutional Convention?
Use this lesson with The Constitutional Convention Narrative and after students have done The Articles of Confederation, 1781 Primary Source activity.