Writing the U.S. Constitution was the easy part; the hard part was convincing the states to subordinate their freshly won sovereignty from England to the new national government to be created under the Constitution. The battle over ratification of the Constitution by the states was fought not only in the State Ratification Conventions but also in the country’s newspapers by a furious letter writing campaign waged by leading opponents and supporters. These letters – which have come to be known as the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers – provide historians with key insights into the anxieties and dreams of the founding fathers over what kind of nation that the new Constitution would create.
This activity engages students in deciphering and analyzing four of these letters; two provide arguments (one pro and one con) concerning the absence of a Bill of Rights in the Constitution, and two (one pro and one con) concern the size of the new Republic. Students will translate the arguments, answer questions which focus their attention on the main points made by the authors, and provide the basis for a discussion and debate over which argument[s] are more compelling.
*excerpts from Federalist Papers 14 and 84, and Anti-Federalist Papers 1 and 2, including guided questions;
*answer guide with suggested answers to the guided questions.
Materials are provided in one zip file.
This activity is part of a complete and comprehensive unit
on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
I’ve used this activity with my 8th grade class for years, and it never fails to engage and interest students.
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