Ratifications, Letters and Debates

Debating Ratification of the New Constitution
Ratifications, Letters and Deliberations
Mr. White
Once it sunk in that the Articles of Confederation were “broken beyond
repair” and had out-lived their usefulness, work on a new constitution
began in a frenzy of debate, compromise and heated argument, all
shrouded in a cloak of secrecy.
Two heavy weights were absent from the discussions serving
ambassadorships in Europe, John Adams to England and Thomas
Jefferson to France. But George Washington was present, presiding over
the Constitutional Convention lending it his prestige thereby providing
an air of legitimacy. James Madison as usual completed his homework
and framed the debate on most issues being the most prepared man in
the room. He also kept the best notes on the proceedings of the
Constitutional Convention. Rhode Island declined to participate as did
Patrick Henry who “smelled a rat” and would oppose ratification of this
historic blueprint for government.
Rather than sending the new Constitution to the state legislatures for
approval or rejection, these 55 “demi-gods” assembled in 1787
Philadelphia, as Jefferson tagged them, decided to send the final
Constitution to special called State Ratification Conventions. It is in
these special conventions that the people unmercifully dissected, hotly
debated and staunchly defended this remarkable document before giving
it thumbs up. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay
published a series supporting the Constitution known as The Federalists
Papers. To be sure the fate of the Constitution was not predetermined;
failure was a real possibility. But by 1789 the ninth state approved the
Constitution and it went into effect.
Over the next few days you are going to reenact the debate over
ratification and exchange letters with a friend across the aisle expressing
your views on this new Constitution and answering whatever concerns or
reservations they express in their letter to you. Of course we will research
the topic along the way before finally composing our letters and heating
up the deliberations.
Task One: Research
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we will research the issues
surrounding ratification of the new Constitution. Those supporting
adoption of the Constitution came to be known as Federalists, wanting a
stronger central government. Those opposing the new Constitution
became known as Anti-Federalist, opposing a stronger central
You do not yet know which side of the argument you represent so as you
research you must be able to articulate either positions, Federalist or
Anti-Federalist. In your research make a T Chart and outline specific
objections and arguments in support of both sides. The websites below
should be visited first.
1. http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/constitutionday/ratification.html
2. http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/ A wealth of
3. http://judiciallearningcenter.org/the-ratification-debate/
4. http://www.sparknotes.com/us-government-and-politics/americangovernment/the-founding-and-the-constitution/section4.rhtml Table
containing arguments
5. http://classroom.synonym.com/were-objections-antifederaliststoward-constitution-23011.html Objections to Constitution
6. Pay particular attention to objections of George Mason, Patrick Henry
and Eldridge Gerry.
Task Two: Compose Letters
Working with your talk partner you will compose two letters. The first
letter articulates the position you have been assigned concerning the new
The Anti-Federalists will write in a homey and warm, but serious style
expressing three or more specific concerns or objections they have
concerning the new form of government presented in the new
Constitution. Letter must be typed, in proper format, accurate and
articulate in detail three concerns.
The Federalists on the other hand are composing a homey and warm, but
serious letter delineating their specific support of the new Constitution
and stronger federal government. Letter must be typed, in proper format,
accurate and articulate in detail three supports.
Exchanging letters with your talk partner now address their concerns or
rebut their support for the new document. Turn in copies of both letters
and again write in that warm but serious format. Remember this is a
letter to a friend and you are discussing the future of our infant Nation.
Rubrics for the letters are to follow. Both letters are to be typed in class,
Thursday and Friday. Initial letter is due to your partner at start of
class Monday 24. You will respond to that letter in class on
Monday, November 24.
Task Three: in class Debate
The culminating event to our look at ratification is to re-enact a debate
over whether the new Constitution should be adopted and replace the
Articles of Confederation. An individual grade for participation will be
assigned and an exit slip given asking you to reflect upon who won the
class debate and why.
Debate is November 24.
 Wednesday through Friday research November 19, 20, 21
 Monday initial letter due to partner November 24
 Monday response letter due November 24
 Tuesday In Class Debate November 25
 December 1 Common Assessment Two.
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