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What are we supposed to do? This exercise is focused on the uncertainty of the role Congress would play in the ratification process.
- Divide the class into three groups.
- Each group should receive enough copies for each student one of the following documents.
- Article VII of the Constitution for group #1
- George Washington’s 17 September Letter to the President of Congress for group #2
- The 17 September Resolutions of the Convention’s Recommendation to the Congress for group #3
- As each group reads their specific document, they should think of themselves as being a member of Congress under the Article of Confederation. They have received their assigned document and now must consider what course of action to take based upon that document alone. In other words, what should they being doing with the Constitution of the Philadelphia Convention now that it has been given to them. Some possible option might be:
- Ignoring the Constitution altogether.
- Debating and amending the Constitution.
- Debating and suggesting modifications to the Constitution.
- Simply passing it along with an approval statement.
- Simply passing it along with a disapproval statement.
- After each group has had a chance to read and discuss their individual document, have each group report to the class their findings and the course of action they chose. Be sure they base their choices within the context of their document.
- You may want to discuss the uncertainty that surrounded the role that Congress should play in the Ratification process.
*An Extension Activity- You might consider as an extension of this lesson, having students look at the debates at the Constitutional Convention on August 30 and August 31. On these days, the delegates discussed ratification. You could ask students to consider whether their original answers would change after looking at what was discussed in Philadelphia in late August. Gordon Lloyd’s website would be a good resource for students to use.