The Constitutional Convention of 1787

In this unit, students will examine the roles that key American founders played in creating the Constitution, and the challenges they faced in the process. They will learn why many Americans in the 1780s believed that reforms to the Articles of Confederation were necessary, and the steps taken to authorize the 1787 Convention in Philadelphia. They will become familiar with the main issues that divided delegates at the Convention, particularly the questions of representation in Congress and the office of the presidency. Finally, they will see how a spirit of compromise, in the end, was necessary for the Convention to fulfill its task of improving the American political system.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Forgotten Founders

This short video examines why some Founders have been “forgotten” by subsequent generations. Some individuals, like John Dickinson, found themselves “on the wrong side of history”. Others, like Samuel Adams, played no further role on the national stage. Professor Daniel Dreisbach explains how an early death (e.g. George Mason) or a minimal written record also contributed to some Founders being “forgotten.”

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades:

Founders Online

The website brings together the papers of six of the nation’s Founders (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, and Hamilton) into one searchable database. The site has taken the content produced by teams of historians and documentary editors who have worked for many years to transcribe and annotate thousands of primary source documents from hundreds of sources and publish them. The website combines all these document transcriptions and annotations into one free online resource.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades:

Defining Classroom Citizenship

The founders understood that, in order to preserve their liberty and happiness, and that of future generations, the foundation of successful self-government was citizens who understood and applied certain virtues. They constructed the U.S. Constitution according to their study of the principles and virtues that were most necessary to sustain a free, prosperous, and orderly society. This lesson is ideal for the first day of school.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Recreating the Constitutional Convention

Through this simulation, students will understand that the Founders knew and accepted their Constitution despite its flaws, and that they all understood that some issues (i.e. slavery) would need to be resolved in the future. In this way, they can analyze the Constitution not as a “perfect” document created by fifty-five friends, but a true reflection of the period, the people, and the issues dividing those who struggled within it.

  • Resource Type: Interactives, Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Celebrating the Founders

This short video explores why Americans celebrate the Founding generation. Americans point to a “founding moment” and, from the country’s earliest days, celebrated this “moment” on July 4. The first individuals to be honored were military leaders like George Washington; later, individuals who created the nation’s government were celebrated. Professor Daniel Dreisbach draws parallels between the commemoration of Washington as “Father” of the country and Moses as “Father” of the Hebrew nation.

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 10, 11, 12

Fame and the Founders

This short video explores the Founders’ understanding of fame. As understood by men like Alexander Hamilton, the pursuit of fame in the 18th century meant the desire to live an honorable life of public service. Professional Daniel Dreisbach presents a clear contrast between the 18th and 21st century’s notion of fame.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

How Did the Constitutional Convention Deal with Slavery?

This short video explains the differing perspectives that emerged about the Constitution and slavery. Some, like Frederick Douglass, believed that the Founders put slavery on the road to extinction while others, like Roger Taney, believed that the Constitution was a slaveholders’ document. Professor Gordon Lloyd contends that the slavery clauses in the Constitution both limited and expanded slavery’s impact, and that the Founders alone do not bear responsibility for slavery’s later expansion.

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Legislative Branch/Congress
  • Grades: 10, 11, 12