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The Constitutional Convention and the Debate over Ratification

Theme: American Political Thought: The Constitution and American Democratic Institutions
The Constitutional Convention and the Debate over Ratification
Date: November 2005

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2003 Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework Connections (Learning Standards):

PreK-K.5: Retell stories that illustrate honesty, courage, friendship, respect, responsibility and the wise or judicious exercise of authority, and explain how the characters in the stories show these qualities.

1.2: Identify the current President of the United States, describe what presidents do, and explain that they get their authority from a vote by the people.

1.8: After reading or listening to stories about famous Americans of different ethnic groups, faiths and historical periods…describe their qualities or distinctive traits.

2.1: After reading or listening to a variety of true stories about individuals recognized for their achievements, describe and compare different ways people have achieved great distinction.

3.6: Identify the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights as key American documents.

3.9: Identify historic buildings, monuments or sites in the area and explain their purpose and significance.

3.12: Explain how objects of everyday life in the past tell us how ordinary people lived and how everyday life has changed. Draw on the services of the local historical society and local museums as needed.

4.13:  Identify major monuments and historical sites in and around Washington, D.C. (e.g., the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, the Smithsonian Museums, the Library of Congress, the White House, the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the National Archives, Arlington National Cemetery, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial, and Mount Vernon.)

5.18: Describe the life and achievements of important leaders during the Revolution and the early years of the United States.

A. John Adams                                                           
B. Benjamin Franklin                                                        
C. King George III                                                          
D. Alexander Hamilton
E. Thomas Jefferson
F. James Madison
G. George Washington

5.19: Identify the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, including its date, its primary author (John Adams), the basic rights it gives to citizens of the Commonwealth.

5.20: Explain the reasons for the adoption of the Articles of Confederation in 1781 and for its later failure.

5.21: Describe Shay’s Rebellion of 1786-1787 and explain why it was one of the crucial events leading to the Constitutional Convention.

5.22: Identify the various leaders of the Constitutional Convention and describe the major issues they debated.

A. distribution of political power   
B. rights of individuals         
C. rights of states                       
D. the Great Compromise
E. slavery

5.23: Describe the responsibilities at the federal, state, and local levels (e.g., protection of individual rights and the provision of services such as law enforcement and the building and funding of schools.)

5.24: Describe the basic political principles of American democracy and explain how the Constitution and the Bill of Rights reflect and preserve these principles.

A. individual rights and responsibilities
B. equality
C. the rule of law
D. limited government
E. representative democracy

5.25: Identify the three branches of the United States government as outlined by the Constitution, describe their functions and relationships, and identify what features of the Constitution were unique at the time (e.g., the presidency and the independent judiciary.)

5.26: Identify the rights in the Bill of Rights and explain the reasons for its inclusion in the Constitution in 1791.

5.27: Explain how American citizens were expected to participate in, monitor, and bring about changes in their government over time, and give examples of how they continue to do so today.

USI.6: Explain the reasons for the adoption of the Articles of Confederation in 1781, including why its drafters created a weak central government; analyze the shortcomings of the national government under the Articles; and describe the crucial events (e.g., Shay’s Rebellion) leading to the Constitutional Convention.

USI.7:  Explain the roles of various founders at the Constitutional Convention.  Describe the major debates that occurred at the Convention and the “Great Compromise” that was reached.

Major Debates

A. the distribution of political power
B. the rights of individuals
C. the rights of states
D. slavery


A. Benjamin Franklin
B. Alexander Hamilton
C. James Madison
D. George Washington

USI.8: Describe the debate over ratification of the Constitution between Federalists and Anti-Federalists and explain the key ideas contained in the Federalist Papers on federalism, factions, checks and balances, and the importance of an independent judiciary.

USI.9: Explain the reasons for the passage of the Bill of Rights.

A. the influence of the British concept of limited government

B. the particular ways in which the Bill of Rights protects basic freedoms, restricts government power, and ensures rights to persons accused of crimes.

USI.10: On a map of North America, identify the first 13 states to ratify the Constitution.

USI.11: Describe the purpose and functions of government.

USI.13: Explain why the United States government is classified as a democratic government.

USI.14: Explain the characteristics of American democracy, including the concepts of popular sovereignty and constitutional government, which includes representative institutions, federalism, separation of powers, shared powers, checks and balances, and individual rights.

USI.15: Explain the varying roles and responsibilities of federal, state, and local governments in the United States.

USI.16: Describe the evolution of the role of the federal government, including public services, taxation, economic policy, foreign policy, and common defense.

USI.19: Explain the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and describe how democracy provides opportunities for citizens to participate in the political process through elections, political parties, and interest groups.

USI.20: Explain the evolution and function of political parties, including their role in federal, state, and local elections.

USI.21: Describe how decisions are made in a democracy, including the role of legislatures, courts, executives, and the public.

USG.1.3: Describe the purposes and function of government.

USG.1.5: Explain how the rule of law, embodied in a constitution, limits government to protect the rule of law.

USG.1.6: Explain how a constitutional democracy provides majority rules with equal protection for the rights of individuals, including those in the minority, through limited government and the rule of law.

USG.1.9: Examine fundamental documents in the American political tradition to identify key ideas regarding limited government and individual rights.

USG.1.10: Explain the part of Article IV, Section 4, of the United States Constitution, which says, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in the Union a Republican form of Government…”

USG.2.1: Trace the colonial, revolutionary, and founding-era experiences and events that led to the writing, ratification, and implementation of the United States Constitution (1787) and Bill of Rights (1791).

USG.2.3: Identify and explain elements of the social contract and natural rights theories in United States founding-era documents.

USG.2.4: Define and provide examples of foundational ideas of American government, including popular sovereignty, constitutionalism, republicanism, federalism, and individual rights, which are embedded in the founding-era documents.

USG.2.9: Compare and contrast ideas on government of the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists during their debates on ratification of the U.S. Constitution (1787-1788).

USG.3.2: Identify and describe provisions of the United States Constitution and the Massachusetts Constitution that define and distribute powers and authority of the federal or state government.

USG.3.3: Explain the constitutional principles of federalism, separation of powers among three branches of government, the system of checks and balances, republican government or representative democracy, and popular sovereignty.  Provide examples of these principles in the governments of the United States and the state of Massachusetts.

USG.3.5: Distinguish among the enumerated and implied powers in the United States Constitution and the Massachusetts Constitution.

USG.3.9: Explain the formal process of how a bill becomes a law and define the terms initiative and referendum.

USG.3.11: Compare core documents associated with the protection of individual rights, including the Bill of Rights, the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Articles of the Massachusetts Constitution.

USG.4.3: Identify and explain powers that the United States Constitution gives to the President and Congress in the area of foreign affairs.