The Constitutional Convention: Lesson 2: The Question of Representation at the 1787 Convention

When the delegates to the Philadelphia Convention convened in May of 1787 to recommend amendments to the Articles of Confederation, one of the first issues they addressed was the plan for representation in Congress. This lesson will focus on the various plans for representation debated during the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Voting, Elections, Politics
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

James Madison and Proportional Representation

This short video highlights James Madison’s commitment to proportional representation in the newly-created Congress. However, he did not believe that the size of a state alone played an overly significant role in the decisions of either its citizens or its legislators. Professor Jack Rakove explains how Madison understood the various self-interests of all states and how he tried to account for this variation in crafting the new Constitution.

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

Slavery and the Three-Fifths Compromise

This short video explains the role played by slavery in counting population for taxation and representation. Drawing upon an unsuccessful 1783 amendment to the Articles, James Madison suggested that the slave population be counted at 60% for both representation and taxation. Professor John Kaminski explains how this “federal ratio” reconciled Southerners (who wanted slaves counted as people for representation) and Northerners (who wanted slaves counted as property in determining taxation.)

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

Act II: What Was the Connecticut Compromise at the Constitutional Convention?

This short video explores the Connecticut Compromise, in which the delegates rejected an “either/or” solution to the question of representation and instead “thought out of the box,” creating a government that was partly national and partly federal. Professor Gordon Lloyd points out that although the final vote (5/4/1) on the Compromise did not reflect a bi-partisan consensus, it nevertheless was a significant breakthrough for moving on to other issues.

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

Senate Immersion Module Curriculum

The materials in this curriculum are designed to enhance the Institute’s immersive SIM experience. The SIM is an educational, game-like experience, developed to engage new generations of Americans. This program is conducted in the Institute’s full- scale representation of the United States Senate Chamber. Running with up to 100 students at a time, participants take on the roles of senators to learn about representation, study issues, debate, negotiate, and vote on legislation.

  • Resource Type: Interactives
  • Subject: Legislative Branch/Congress
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Immigration Reform (SIM Lesson Plans)

The purpose of this learning module is to help students learn how a U.S. Senator might address an issue of public significance under consideration in the United States Congress. Learning about personal, state, party, and national interests will help students understand representation more fully. The pre-visit examines how elected representation works. The post-visit lesson supports critical analysis of each student’s strategic choices and votes, preparing them to defend their efforts.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Legislative Branch/Congress
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Constitutional Index – Amendment 14 Reduction of Representation Clause

The Constitutional Index breaks down the U.S. Constitution by Section, Amendment, and Clause and contains broader topics and themes. These are used to cross-reference Library resources in an effort to annotate constitutional history.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Voting, Elections, Politics
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Represent Me! (Game and Teacher’s Guide)

In Represent Me!, you work as a legislator trying to meet the needs of your constituents. The people who voted you into office have various backgrounds, diverse opinions, and they each want different things from you. As their representative, you must consider their backgrounds before deciding what bills to sponsor in Congress.

  • Resource Type: Games, Interactives, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Legislative Branch/Congress
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8