Debate and Ratification of the Constitution


Civics Foundations of American Government Debate and Ratification of the Constitution
Students learn about the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. They collaborate in small groups to explore the two main factions in this debate, the Federalists and the Antifederalists. Then they explain how the inclusion of the Bill of Rights cleared the way for ratification.

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Overview

In this experience, students learn about the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. They collaborate in small groups to explore the two main factions in this debate, the Federalists and the Antifederalists. Then they explain how the inclusion of the Bill of Rights cleared the way for ratification.

Students will collaborate in small groups for scene 2 to scene 4.

Objectives

  • Identify the key issues in the constitutional debate.
  • Analyze the arguments of the Federalists and the Antifederalists.
  • Explain how the Bill of Rights contributed to the ratification of the Constitution.


On September 17, 1787, after a long summer of strenuous debate and compromise, the delegates of the Constitutional Convention signed the U.S. Constitution. As president of the convention, George Washington was the first to sign the historic document that would form a new national government.
 
But before it became the “law of the land,” the U.S. Constitution had to be ratified—voted on and approved by the people. The delegates put a system in place for ratification: nine of the thirteen states had to approve it after holding special state conventions.
 
In this experience, you will learn about the ratification of the U.S. Constitution—when the people of each state voted whether or not to accept this new government for the nation. You’ll explore the two main factions in this debate, the Federalists and the Antifederalists, and understand how the document was finally ratified.
 
Objectives
  • Identify the key issues in the constitutional debate.
  • Analyze the arguments of the Federalists and the Antifederalists.
  • Explain how the Bill of Rights contributed to the ratification of the Constitution.
 
The process of ratification would take many months, as the American people debated the benefits and risks of this new system of government. Newspapers were important forums for people on both sides of the argument. The Massachusetts Centinel published a series of illustrations during this national debate. Look closely at the first illustration, which ran about a week before Massachusetts voted on the Constitution in their state convention. If the convention approved it, Massachusetts would become the sixth state to ratify the document.




First Illustration of The Federal Pillars, Massachusetts Centinel, January 16, 1788


Do you think this illustration showed approval or disapproval of the Constitution?

A) Approval
B) Disapproval

Why? Explain your response.

Post your answer

This illustration showed strong approval for the Constitution. By showing each state that ratified the Constitution as a “pillar,” it implies that each state’s support makes the government stronger. The line, “United They Stand—Divided Fall” also shows support for Constitution.


Divide students into their small groups for the next three scenes. When everyone is ready to continue, unlock the next scene.

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