flagA More Perfect Union

A Letter to the States with Regard to the Constitution of the United States
 
Designed by Helen Gioia
Modified January 2014 
  
 
A Letter to the States
 

Introduction

 
In this assignment, you will play the role of one of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787.  As a delegate, you helped to write the document that established the system of government which has guided the development of the United States for over 220 years.

 

At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, the United States faced a number of challenges:

  • launching a new nation composed of 13 independent states;
  • establishing its place among the other nations of the world;
  • developing a strong economy while repaying the war debt;
  • governing according to the principles established in the Declaration of Independence.
 
George Mason  James Madison  Roger Sherman  Gouverneur Morris   William Paterson
       George Mason         James Madison         Roger Sherman       Gouverneur Morris     William Paterson 
 
You are to describe the arguments and discussions that led to your vote on the Constitution, to convey your feelings and emotions, your fears and your expectations for the United States in a Letter to the People of your state that will be published in the state's most important newspaper.
 
Task
 
You are to describe the arguments and discussions that led to your vote on the Constitution, to convey your feelings and emotions, your fears and your expectations for the United States in a Letter to the People of your state that will be published in the
This painting hangs in the House wing of the United States Capitol.  It depicts the signing of the
Constitution
by the delegates to the Constitutional
Convention. George Washington stands at the desk. 
Alexander Hamilton,
Benjamin Franklin and James Madison are seated in the center foreground.
 

Letter to the States~A More Perfect Union (75 points)

 
Before viewing A More Perfect Union, you will draw the name of the delegate from a teacher-provided list.  After viewing the film, your task will be to write a letter, as that delegate, to the people of your state.  The letter, which will be published in the state's most important newspaper, should describe what has happened at the Constitutional Convention.  The meetings of the Constitutional Convention have been relatively secret, therefore, you will need to explain what has happened in order to convince your fellow citizens  to support or reject the new constitution.  You will be researching to find information about your delegate and must include biographical information which reflects your delegate’s viewpoint and feelings concerning the ratification of the Constitution.  The conclusion of your letter must include your recommendation and your reasoning to persuade people of your state to support or to reject ratification of the new Constitution.  In order to present the most convincing viewpoint for your readers, remember to anticipate and address the arguments and the misconceptions which will be used to challenge your recommendation. Your letter is to be dated after  September 17, 1787 and before your state ratified the Constitution. It should be addressed to the people of your state and written in the style of your delegate’s personality and from his point of view.   
 
Process
gazzett
 
 
Length: The rough draft of your letter may be hand-written or type-written and must be submitted along with your research notes. The final draft of your letter must be at least 350 words in length (using the word count feature in Microsoft Word), typewritten in an appropriate font equivalent in size to 12-point Times New Roman, and double spaced with a format appropriate to the style of your letter.
 
Research Suggestions:    By following the steps outlined below, you will successfully complete this WebQuest.

·       Background information will be gathered while viewing A More Perfect Union during class
and by searching web sites and locating information from other sources.

·       Each student will work individually, taking into account the different aspects of his delegate's life and the world he lived in. 

·       You will meet with other delegates from your state or region to discuss the issues before you complete your Letter to the People.  Use these questions to guide that discussion:

o   What are the emotions of your delegate after the Constitutional Convention has completed and approved the Constitution?   Why is he feeling those emotions?

o      What issues raised in the debate over the Constitution will have an impact on his state or region?  

o      What are the most important and least important issues to your state/region?

o      Is your viewpoint shared by the other delegates from your state/region?

·       To help guide your thinking, use the following questions to explore your
delegate's mind and what he might have been thinking after this historic event:

o      What is the purpose of the Constitutional Convention?  

o      How has your delegate contributed to the Convention?

o      What can you use from A More Perfect Union and seeing the portrayal of your delegate to make your letter more authentic?

 

Research Links: Use the following links to help gather information:    
            
          Biographical Information: 
                   The Constitution Center

           Delegate Biographies

           Scene at the Signing of the Constitution                  

           Federalists and Anti-federalists

 
       Character Sketches(written by Georgia Delegate William Pierce)
 

   U.S. Constitution               

  Founding Documents

   You will also have the opportunity to do research in the Media Center and the Computer Labs.

   Students:  If you discover additional sites that have quality information, please share those sites with your teacher.

 
   You will present a draft of your letter to your delegation by reading an excerpt, sharing interesting information, and discussing the issues that are important to your state or region.
 
 
Document Format: We will be going to the computer lab at school and word processing the letters in Microsoft Word.  Since use of this program is a portion of the grade, you must word process the letter and should save it to your E-locker in the computer lab.  Students will be reminded how to use specific parts of this program during history class. In this part of the assignment, you will be evaluated for effective use of the program. Students must use style, size, and font to add character and emphasis to parts of their letter.  You must also demonstrate use of the spell check and word count features of this program.  The font size for the body of your document should be comparable to 12-point Times New Roman.
  •  
     
    Evaluation 
    Students will be evaluated based on the thoroughness of their research and attention to the film as relayed through their writing. The following rubric/checklist will be used to score the Letter to People:
     
    Evaluation Rubric
     

    Content (60 points)

    Explanation and discussion of the Constitution

    reflects a clear understanding of the essential

    ideas and concepts of the Constitution                              20 points

                                                                                                  

             Arguments for or against ratification are clear,

             relevant, and well-developed, and fully represent

             the views of the delegate                                                                       20 points

    Historical information is accurate and includes

    thorough explanations of the events surrounding

    the Convention                                                                   20 points

    Rough draft and bibliography clearly

    demonstrate thorough research, and are attached            10 points

     

    Appropriate use of Microsoft Word, spelling, grammar,

                      and length requirement met                                      5 points

     

    Total                                                                                           75 points
     
    Conclusion
    After you have completed this project, you will have a better understanding of what the Founding Fathers went through as individuals to create a brief, but resilient document which is the cornerstone of our republican form of government. How would you have reacted in that role? Would you have supported the compromises which were necessary to reach agreement? Why did the delegates feel so strongly about achieving agreement?  Do the questions they struggled with so long ago remain with us today?  Through this experience you have met the Founding Fathers as men--as human beings.  I hope that you will become better acquainted with them in the coming months! Stuart Leibiger's book, "Founding Friendship" describes the close collaboration between George Washington and James Madison in the critical period between 1785 and 1791, when "theirs was the most important friendship and public colleagueship in fashioning and bringing into existence the new government under the Constitution."
    Christopher Collier's and James Lincoln Collier's book "Decision in Philadelphia" tells the story of "how the American Constitution was written, and what the men who wrote it were thinking and feeling during what turned out to be a long, hot summer in Philadelphia."
    An excellent book about John Adams was written by David McCullough and is entitled "John Adams." You may also enjoy the Home Box Office six-part series based on his book.  McCullough's work gives great insight into the struggle for independence,the early challenges to our new nation, and the contributions of the Adams family.  It also chronicles Adams' relationship with the other founding fathers, most notably George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.  Authors Joseph J. Ellis and Richard Brookhiser each have written several books on our founding fathers, in particular George Washington, that you may find worthwhile. There are many interesting and informational sites on the web for you to explore!  Please share your discoveries with your teachers.

     

    Credits & References

          
    The backgrounds and graphics were used from Claris Home Page , WebQuest and rubric templates as well as design elements were found onThe Webquest Page. Additional graphics were used from The American President, from Social Studies for Kids.com, The Authentic History Center, Western Kentucky University Libraries & Museum, Independence Hall Association, the University of Montana's Scholarship of the Original Understanding of the Constitution and the Library of Congress.

    We all benefit by being generous with our work. Permission is hereby granted for other educators to copy this WebQuest, update or otherwise modify it, and post it elsewhere.  Please retain the original author's name along with a link back to the original URL of this WebQuest:  http://www.valpo.k12.in.us/site/Default.aspx?PageID=648  ~

     

    If you do modify it, please contact me providing the new URL. 

    Contact Mrs. Gioia at hgioia@valpo.k12.in.us.
     
    Teacher Section
    we the people

    This lesson was developed to reflect eighth grade social studies curriculum requirements.  Please see Indiana Standards listed below.

    Resources Needed:  Internet and computer lab access, along with a DVD copy of A More Perfect Union, available from the National Center for Constitutional Studies.
     Process: This project begins after an introduction to the events leading up to the Annapolis Convention and the call for a Constitutional Convention. Before viewing the film, the students draw names out of a box to determine which delegate they will be. I narrow the list of delegates to approximately fifteen, those who are most prominent in the film.  Although George Washington's support and participation at the Convention was indispensable, I do not include him among the delegates who write publicly about ratification of the Constitution because he purposely did not do so. Though they were not delegates, you may wish to include John Adams and Thomas Jefferson among the fifteen because of their essential roles in writing the Declaration of Independence and as mentors and colleagues to many of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, as seen in the film. After viewing the film and at least two days of supervised research and several days of instructor guided class discussion of the Constitutional Convention, students complete a rough draft, which is peer-assessed and then reviewed by the instructor before the finadraft is completed.
     

     Indiana Social Studies Standards (2007):

    8.1.4      Identify fundamental ideas in the Declaration of Independence (1776) and analyze the causes and effects of the Revolutionary War (1775–1783), including enactment of the Articles of Confederation and the Treaty of Paris.

    8.1.5     Identify and explain key events leading to the creation of a strong union among the 13 original states and in the establishment of the United States as a federal republic. Example: The enactment of state constitutions, the Constitutional Convention, ratifying conventions of the American states, and debate by Federalists versus Anti-Federalists about approval or disapproval of the 1787 Constitution (1787–1788).

    8.1.9      Describe the influence of individuals on social and political developments.  Example: James Otis, Mercy Otis Warren, Samuel Adams, Thomas Paine, George Washington, John Adams, Abigail Adams, Patrick Henry,Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Benjamin Banneker. 

    8.1.27  Recognize historical perspective by identifying the historical context in which events unfolded and by avoiding evaluation of the
    past solely in terms of present-day norms.

    8.1.28  Identify, evaluate, and distinguish fact from opinion in a variety of information resources, differentiate between historical facts and interpretations, recognizing that the facts the historian reports reflect his or her judgment of what is most significant about the past.

    8.1.29  Distinguish in historical narratives between unsupported expressions of opinion and informed hypotheses grounded in historical evidence.

    8.1.30    Form historical research questions and seek responses by analyzing primary resources —  such as autobiographies, diaries, maps, photographs, letters, and government documents — and secondary resources, such as biographies and other nonfiction books and articles on the history of the United States.

    8.1.31  Examine the causes of problems in the past and evaluate solutions chosen as well as possible alternative courses of actions. Consider the information available at the time, the interests of those affected by the decision, and the consequences of each course of action.

    8.2.1   Identify and explain essential ideas of constitutional government, which are expressed in the founding documents of the United States,including the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, the Northwest Ordinance, the 1787 U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist and Anti-Federalist PapersExample: The essential ideas include limited government, rule of law, due process of law, separated and shared powers, checks and balances, federalism, popular sovereignty, republicanism, representative government, and individual rights to life, liberty, property, freedom of conscience, and due process of law.