THE UNITED STATES UNDER THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION
—Map of United States, c. 1783; students should become familiar with: geographical data, size of states, land claims, etc.
—Unanimous consent: the Articles could undergo major changes only through the unanimity of the states. This was a serious deficiency in the manner of government. The concept to be conveyed here is the difficulty in making decisions when unanimous consent of the parties is required.
Divide the class into two groups (12-14 students)
Each group is to pick a discussion leader to organize the discussion and keep records.
Each group is given a movie guide from the newspaper.
Group X can only reach a decision unanimously, Group Y needs only a
The leader is to keep records on the vote count of each round.
Discuss the results.
Revise the rules. Try one group needing a 2/3 majority, change the nature of the topic to something of greater importance.
What gives currency its value?
What sort of problems were caused by the separate states having different means of exchange?
What sort of goods or services are traded today?
What sort of goods were traded c. 1783? Was there a difference of trading between the states?
commerce: Why would countries trade between themselves? The U.S. was in heated competition with the giants of the sea, Great Britain and Spain. Both countries would benefit by the ineffective government of the U.S. The states had plenty of natural resources, most of which was still frontier. Discuss this in terms of foreign trade.
commerce: Discuss the need for interstate cooperation. Why would there arise a need for regulation of trade? Discuss natural resources in terms of domestic trade.
THE STATES AGREE TO COMING TOGETHER
—The biggest obstacle that had to be overcome was for the states to become united. As fine a point as this concept is, the course of history would be significantly different, to say the least. To accomplish this, the state would necessarily have to relinquish a large portion of the rights reserved for themselves. . . “in order to form a more perfect Union.” This concept should be discussed at length.
THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION
The men who met at Philadelphia in 1787 in reality exceeded the mandate given to them. . . “to revise the Articles of Confederation.” They ultimately adopted an entirely new document.
What gave these men to power to raise this meeting to the status of “superlegislature?” (Baron De Montesquieu’s “The Spirit of the Law,” Book XI, certainly a book that is much too difficult for middle school students, has many short political essays which may be of interest to the teacher. The teacher may find something appropriate for his class, to be used as a stimulus for discussion.)
Secrecy-the convention delegates agreed to keep the official proceedings of the convention secret. This was done to encourage the delegates to let their ideas and philosophies flow freely, without their having to fear public disclosure. To what extent was that a good idea? Is there a place for such secrecy in governmental matters?
Members of the Virginia delegation. Student reports on delegates. Why did Virginia seem to have more than its share of outstanding, widely popular citizens? (see narrative)
The Virginia Plan (see narrative)
Major agreements and disagreements (see narrative)
Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists
-The Preamble (see narrative)
-CONGRESS Article I, Sections 106 Organization
Article I, Sec. 7 How Bills Become Laws
Article I, Sec. 8 This section grants the federal government the necessary powers to operate our country. Each clause should be discussed.
Article I, Sec. 9 Powers Denied the U.S.
clause 1, twenty years’ non-interference with slavery
clause 2, “writ of habeas corpus:” a citizen may not be held in prison without being formally charged with a crime.
clause 3, prohibits “ex post facto” laws
Article I, Sec. 10 Powers Denied the States
-THE PRESIDENCY Article II, Sections 1-4
-THE JUDICIARY Article III Sections 1-3
INTERSTATE RELATIONS Article IV, Sections 1-4
-Amending Process Article V
-FEDERAL CREDIT AND FEDERAL SUPREMACY Article VI
-RATIFICATION Article VII
-The main objection among people who opposed ratification of the document that was adopted on September 17, 1787 was the absence of a statement of individual liberties. While some proponents thought such language was not necessary, others were convinced of the inclusion of such a statement. Ratification of the Constitution may well have been jeopardized had it not been for assurances that the document would be so amended. Thus, in 1791 the Bill of Rights (Amendments I-X were adopted. Actually, the First through the Eighth Amendments are what is strictly referred to as the Bill of Rights.)
-FIRST AMENDMENT, FREEDOM OF OPINION
Are there limits to any of the freedoms mentioned in this section? May an individual yell “FIRE” in a crowded theater when no such emergency exists?
May a person speak falsehoods about a private citizen?
May a person speak falsehoods about a public official?
Is a newspaper publisher allowed to print anything he feels appropriate?
May an individual practice a religious ritual that violates the rights of others?
Where does one person’s rights begin and the other’s end?
Do people have the right to assemble to protest in a peaceful manner?
When may the right to assemble be suspended?
-SECOND AMENDMENT, RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS
-THIRD AMENDMENT, QUARTERING OF TROOPS
Before the Revolution British troops were quartered in private homes. This is probably the cause of the inclusion of such a statement.
-FOURTH AMENDMENT, SEARCHES AND SEIZURES
This, too, was probably in reaction to pre-Revolutionary War experiences.
-FIFTH AMENDMENT, RIGHTS OF ACCUSED PERSONS
-SIXTH AMENDMENT, RIGHTS OF ACCUSED PERSONS
-SEVENTH AMENDMENT, SUITS AT COMMON LAW
-EIGHTH AMENDMENT, BAILS, PUNISHMENTS