Liberation and deliberation: The North Carolina ratification debates of 1788
This lesson focuses on the deliberations over ratification of the US Constitution by the North Carolina legislators. In particular it traces the arguments of the Federalists and Anti-federalists found in the primary sources digitized in the Documenting the American South collection.
A lesson plan for grades 8–12 Social Studies
- learn about the major issues dividing the Federalists and Anti-federalists prior to ratification of the US Constitution.
- gain a better understanding of the issues and personalities that characterized the NC constitutional convention.
Time required for lesson
- Computer lab or individual student computers
- Access to the Proceedings and Debates of the Convention of North Carolina
- copies of the handout — one per student
Prior to this lesson, students should have learned about the provisions of the proposed federal Constitution and how it sought to confront the shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation.
- Students will be divided into four groups. Two groups will represent the Federalist side and two groups will represent the Anti-federalist side. Provide students with access to the proceedings of the convention on-line or in text form. Allow the students time to peruse the document, discuss major topics involved in the debates with their group members, and prepare for the simulation activity by completing the handout.
- Allow all of the students representing the Federalists to meet together and all of the Anti-federalists to meet together. They should be given enough time to combine and compare lists of characters, major arguments, and quotes. After students have assigned speaking parts and planned for opening statements, questions and answers, and listing of arguments, the session can begin.
- The debate can be moderated by the teacher and culminate in a final vote.
Class discussion or writing assignment in which students address the following:
- What are some of the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation government?
- What were the major issues confronting North Carolinians in 1787?
- To what extent did the proposed Constitution change the structure of government nationally?
- To what extent might ratification affect the lives of North Carolinians? Would there be differences between rich and poor, slave and free?
- What were the major philosophical and practical objections to the proposed Constitution? How did North Carolinian Federalists respond to those objections? Did their responses differ from Hamilton, Madison, and Jay in the Federalist Papers?
- Having read the document, would you consider this to be civilized debate?
- If this debate were happening today, how would you vote?
- North Carolina Essential Standards
- Social Studies (2010)
Civics and Economics
- CE.C&G.1 Analyze the foundations and development of American government in terms of principles and values. CE.C&G.1.1 Explain how the tensions over power and authority led America's founding fathers to develop a constitutional democracy (e.g., mercantilism,...
- CE.C&G.2 Analyze government systems within the United States in terms of their structure, function and relationships. CE.C&G.2.1 Analyze the structures of national, state and local governments in terms of ways they are organized to maintain order,...
- 8.C&G.1 Analyze how democratic ideals shaped government in North Carolina and the United States. 8.C&G.1.1 Summarize democratic ideals expressed in local, state, and national government (e.g. limited government, popular sovereignty, separation of powers,...
- 8.H.1 Apply historical thinking to understand the creation and development of North Carolina and the United States. 8.H.1.1 Construct charts, graphs, and historical narratives to explain particular events or issues. 8.H.1.2 Summarize the literal meaning of...
United States History I
- USH.H.1 Apply the four interconnected dimensions of historical thinking to the United States History Essential Standards in order to understand the creation and development of the United States over time. USH.H.1.1 Use Chronological thinking to: Identify the...
- Social Studies (2010)
North Carolina curriculum alignment
Social Studies (2003)
Grade 11–12 — United States History
- Goal 1: The New Nation (1789-1820) - The learner will identify, investigate, and assess the effectiveness of the institutions of the emerging republic.
- Objective 1.01: Identify the major domestic issues and conflicts experienced by the nation during the Federalist Period.
- Goal 2: The learner will trace the causes and effects of the Revolutionary War, and assess the impact of major events, problems, and personalities during the Constitutional Period in North Carolina and the new nation.
- Objective 2.05: Describe the impact of documents such as the Mecklenburg Resolves, the Halifax Resolves, the Albany Plan of Union, the Declaration of Independence, the State Constitution of 1776, the Articles of Confederation, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights on the formation of the state and national governments.