PRIMARY SOURCE ANALYSIS ASSIGNMENT INSTRUCTIONS
Every scholar must develop the skill of interpreting primary source documents fairly and
persuasively. Scholars working on constitutional issues must get to know primary sources that
help illuminate the origins of various constitutional clauses and provisions. This assignment will
require you to examine carefully one of the most important primary source documents in
American history, James Madison’s account of The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787.
Madison’s Debates play an important role in current debates about the intentions of the
Constitution’s framers. Recent scholarship on the intent of the framers has focused on their intent
regarding slavery, with many scholars claiming that the Constitution was intended to be
You will write an essay in which you explore the role of slavery in the Constitutional
Convention. You may consider one or more questions along the following lines: Was slavery the
central issue at the Convention? What evidence is there that the Constitution was “intended” to
be proslavery? Under what contexts did debate about slavery arise in the Convention? Were there antislavery arguments made during the Convention, or antislavery provisions established in
the Constitution? How should we evaluate the work of the Convention today?
However you approach this essay, you must clearly state your thesis, then support it through
careful analysis and citation of Madison’s Debates.
Every essay should begin with an introductory paragraph that clearly and concisely states the
purpose and significance of the paper, and that introductory paragraph should end with a clear thesis sentence that encapsulates the paper’s argument. The body of the essay should support the argument summarized in the thesis sentence with sound logic, clear argumentation, and credible
sources. The concluding paragraph should reiterate how the thesis has been argued and demonstrated.
• Assignment should be 6 pages in length, not counting Title Page or Works Cited.
• Assignment should be written in current Turabian format.
• Assignment should include 8 citations including the class reading, and video
• Cite the version of Madison’s Debates available online using Explore: Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 as found in the Learn items for Module 4: Week 4, an abbreviated citation consisting of the date from which the passage was taken (i.e. “June 6”) is adequate. In addition, cite at least four (4) other secondary sources, which could be academic, or could be arguments by historic actors (Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, etc).
Note: Your assignment will be checked for originality via the Turnitin plagiarism tool.
Investigate the debates that went into framing the U.S. Constitution. In addition to their areas of agreement, you will focus on critical disagreements. Upon successful completion of this module, you will be able to:
Identify the key features of the Articles of Confederation, and the shortcomings of that political system as described by James Madison.
Explain key features of the Virginia Plan and Connecticut Compromise.
Assess the importance of the Convention’s unique dynamics in influencing various outcomes.
To grasp these concepts, you will focus on several readings. Madison’s “Vices” serves as a good reminder of something we began studying last week (the defects of the Articles of Confederation).
McClellan’s analysis of the Constitutional Convention is astute and worthy of a careful read (and will indeed help with your essay).
The most important thing, however, is probably your review of the Federal Convention itself, pulled from Madison’s famous Notes of the proceedings, which serve as our main record of the event. The “Four Acts” summary will help you organize that large document and understand where to focus your time and energy: it would be a fool’s errand to attempt to read all of Madison’s Notes and complete an essay (and go to work and sleep) in one week. Time management is a very important part of graduate school, and you should indeed strategize that this week. Organize before you dive in.
Your essay this week will require you to analyze the Federal Convention and how they handled one of the elephants that was in that room: slavery. (Have the essay prompt in mind as you strategize your time-management: And perhaps a smart question to consider as you engage Madison’s Notes…can any outside sources help you identify the most important dates of the Convention to study carefully in preparation for your essay? …won’t know if you don’t look.)
Also, I want you to note certain academic traits that our essay assignments are intended to build in you:
1. One trait that you must develop as an academic is the skill of analysis. A significant part of the academic’s job is to be able to interpret data – including public documents (like the Declaration of Independence) and historical sources (like Madison’s notes from the Convention). If you are to be credible as an academic you must be able to state the meaning of that data accurately. If you are to be honest as an academic you must be able to evaluate that data fairly. If you are to be persuasive as an academic you must be able to assess the significance of that data to current questions. But always remember, you must get the facts right first, with a fair and reasonable interpretation, before giving your own assessment of their significance.
2. Another trait that you must develop as an academic is discipline-specific knowledge. As students of American public policy, your discipline-specific knowledge should include knowledge about American political culture and principles – like equality. It should also include knowledge about important American sources, like the record of the debates in the Federal Convention of 1787. As you research various areas of public policy, you may find it necessary to identify the constitutional origins of some provision or clause within these debates in order to understand what may have been intended by that provision or clause.
This week’s assignment is intended to help you do all of the above. Remember not to begin with your conclusions in mind. Instead, let the data speak first. Listen, interpret, then judge, in that order. This is especially important for Christians working in an intellectual environment that is intensely hostile toward people of religious faith. We must be prepared for attacks on our ideas and credibility, and we must never give ground to those attacks by being wrong on the facts.
In this week’s video, I’ll address the important question: how big should a nation be? (Enjoy the closed captioning, which is quite silly at times.) I realize that I am using the word “empire” in a fairly ambiguous way. Maybe it’d be productive to contemplate what I might mean by it in reference to contemporary America.
It has come to my attention that the host of the Explore links posted in Module 4 is updating its website. Here are alternative ways of accessing both links:
You can access the Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 link at https://old.teachingamericanhistory.org/resources/convention/debates (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.).
You can access the resource at the Constitutional Convention link at https://teachingamericanhistory.org/resource/convention/lloyd-detail/ (Links to an external site.). This link will help you approach and contextualize the Convention as a “Four Act Drama.”
Finally, you can access the whole debate in the attached PDF. Pay special attention to the treatment of the Convention as a Four Act Drama at p. 566 and forward.
Read: McClellan: Part 3External Url
DOCUMENT OUTLINE (McCLELLAN):
Liberty, Order, and Justice
About the Author
Table of Contents
Preface, p. xvii
Part 1: The Constitution’s Deep Roots, p. 1
Part 2: America’s First Constitutions and Declarations of Rights, p. 89
Part 3: The Achievement of the Philadelphia Convention, p. 241
Part 4: Basic Constitutional Concepts: Federalism, Separation olf Powers, and Rule of Law, p. 295
Part 5: Defending the Constitution: The Struggle over Ratification and the Bill of Rights, p. 381
Part 6: Interpreting and Preserving the Constitution, p. 463
Part 7: Changing the Constitution – Together with an Explanation of the Amendments Added Since 1791, p. 551
Conclusion, p. 594
Suggested Reading, p. 600
Index, p. 603
End of the Book, p. 634
FROM -PAGE 599 to 634 The Framers of the Constitution were no ideologues, but realistic men keenly aware of the lessons of the past and the limitations of human nature. The political structure they put together was quite free of ideological illusions. Have the Americans of our era enough sound sense to detect the fallacies in such an ideology as Marxism? Would they, like the Americans of 1776, venture their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor in defense of their inheritance of liberty, order, and justice? Hard choices lie ahead, even into the twenty-first century. (10) To sustain a good constitutional order, it is necessary for many people in a society to participate intelligently and voluntarily, with real energy, often at expense to themselves, in public affairs at every level. The Framers took for granted this price that must be paid for the preservation of the commonwealth. What proportion of the American population today takes any active part in practical politics—counting as political activity any action beyond the mere act of voting? Making a small contribution to a campaign fund, attending a local political meeting, giving a friend a ride to an election booth—all of these acts count toward being politically active. Well, what percentage of registered voters are politically active? In California, the state with the highest level of political activity, about five percent are politically active. Americans generally have not been political fanatics, and one hopes that they may never be. But to preserve and renew America’s constitutional order, more than five percent of the American people must take some interest in the Constitution of the United States, and make at least some gesture toward active participation in public responsibilities. The preceding ten problems of American society have been outlined succinctly not to dishearten young men and women, but to suggest the 600 Changing the Constitution ways in which all of us can help to keep American life worth living. The recognition of difficulties ought not to make us despair. For the American republic is only two centuries old—young for a nation. The old Roman civilization endured for a thousand years; the Byzantine civilization, centered at Constantinople, for another thousand. English civilization is nine centuries old, at least; Italian and French and Spanish and Germanic civilization, older still. So there is good reason to expect that the American Republic will endure for many more centuries—supposing enough of us are willing to confront our national difficulties and work intelligently at renewal of our civilization. In Shakespeare’s line, we must ‘‘take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.’’ How do we commence this work of renewal and reinvigoration? One of the better ways is to light what Patrick Henry called ‘‘the lamp of experience,’’ to peer into the future by the light of the past. America’s political past is best apprehended by tracing the development of the Constitution of the United States, from its roots in the ancient world and British institutions, all the way to the constitutional controversies that are so lively today. What we have offered you in this book is the basic structure of America’s constitutional order. It is up to you to preserve and improve that structure; and you have a lifetime in which to work at it. suggested reading American Bar Association, Amendment of the Constitution by the Convention Method Under Article V (Chicago: ABA, 1974).
Herman V. Ames, Proposed Amendments to the Constitution of the United States During the First Century of Its History (New York: Burt Franklin, 1970).
Richard Bernstein, with Jerome Agel, Amending America (New York: Random House, 1993).
Judith Best, The Case Against Direct Election of the President: A Defense of the Electoral College (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1971). Suggested Reading 601 Russell L.
Caplan, Constitutional Brinkmanship: Amending the Constitution by National Convention (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).
Edward S. Corwin, The Constitution and What It Means Today (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978).
Walter Fairleigh Dodd, The Revision and Amendment of State Constitutions (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1910).
Orrin G. Hatch, The Equal Rights Amendment: Myth and Reality (Provo, Utah: Savant Press, 1983).
Roger Sherman Hoar, Constitutional Conventions: Their Natural Powers and Limitations (Boston: Little, Brown, 1919).
John A. Jamerson, A Treatise on Constitutional Conventions: Their History, Powers and Modes of Proceeding (New York: Da Capo Press, 1972).
David E. Kyvig, Explicit and Authentic Acts: Amending the U.S. Constitution, 1776–1995 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1997).
Lester Bernhardt Orfield, The Amending of the Federal Constitution (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1942).
Paul J. Weber and Barbara A. Perry, Unfounded Fears: Myths and Realities of a Constitutional Convention (New York: Praeger, 1989)
Read: Vices of the Political System of the United StatesExternal Url
Watch: The Constitutional Convention: A Play in Four ActsPage
MAY YOU INCLUDE SOME OF THE VIDEO INFO
Constitutional conversations is a series of discussions by America’s leading scholars about the principles framing, ratification and implementation of constitutional government in the United States. This series is hosted by the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation of Alexandria, Virginia. First there was the Virginia Plan introduced by the Virginia delegation. And then having set the tone, they discuss that and a conflict arose over the representation of the states. And because a compromise could not be reached on June the 11th, Roger Sherman and others decided to introduce a contrary plan. So the first two weeks of progress came to a full stop and the New Jersey Plan was introduced. And the main difference between these two plans are, first of all, the states remain central and the New Jersey Plan. And we, the people, are left to do our political business at the state level. And secondly, the powers of Congress in New Jersey Plan are, they were in the Articles of Confederation, expressively stated, but with just two more powers over interstate commerce and taxation, which everybody felt were lacking under the Articles. And that plan was introduced because Madison was unwilling to compromise on his plan where Congress could do everything the states were in competent to do. And also that the people are not states who going to be represented in this new national government. And so a compromise was unable to be reached. And June the 11th. And so Sherman and others introduce this new Jersey Plan, which strip structural change that the Virginia Plan had introduced. And a deadlock occurred for another few days. And then Hamilton introduced a third plan, which seem to rock everybody was sort of out of the ballpark. And then he claimed that powers should be even more than what the Virginia Plan said and term limits should be completely removed. And he was accused of, of introducing a monarchist or an aristocratic plan. And it has often been a question. So what difference did the Hamilton’s plan make? And part of that understanding is that, well, somehow Hamilton’s plan made the Virginia Plan look more moderate, and therefore, he did his job. The problem with that wonderful interpretation is that no one changed their mind. And very soon after that, Hamilton said, Well, when you folks as stop playing in the sandbox, give me a call, I’m leaving to go to New York. So the Hamilton’s plan, I think, became important later on, once the New Jersey folks and the Virginia folks settle their differences, over-representation on power. Once they did that, then Hamilton later on could be influential. And so the fourth plan that came is whatever compromises were possible between the New Jersey Plan, the Virginia Plan became known as the amended Virginia Plan. And that’s what so that’s sort of act, one of this fob, act play of Rama. Madison’s initial push for some form of nationwide American government was still in place but badly bruised. And that accommodation still had to be made. So as the curtain falls on act one, we have an amended Virginia Plan with the expectation that we will now go into fill in the details of what happens, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens. Because that’s not what happens. The Connecticut Compromise is what happens. And in Act 2, instead of proceeding with the amended Virginia Plan, Sherman out, others dig in their heels and for two weeks refuse to compromise or refuse to budge. And this is the sort of the most difficult part of the convention to get through because readers get the feeling that nothing is happening. And in many, many aspects of life and negotiations day-to-day, nothing really is a breakthrough and then all of a sudden a breakthrough occurs. And you’re wondering, why did it take us so long to make this breakthrough? Well, at the end of June, a breakthrough occurred. People were arguing with each other. Look, we can’t continue like this. Neither side seems to be willing to bend. Sherman heights are sticking to their guns about state representation. Madison is sticking to his guns about popular representation. And so something has to happen and a new idea. It’s a very American sort of introduction. Instead of thinking bipolar, either this or that, why don’t we think outside the box? What could we be a bit of each? Could we be partly popular, partly national, for certain activities. I’m partly state-based, local based federal in the old-fashioned meaning of the word for other activities. And I started the move toward a compromise by saying, well, why can’t we be partly national and partly Federal? Which means, what if the first branch REP, is elected by the people and represents the people? And the second branch represent, is elected by the states and represent states. Isn’t that a reasonable compromise? And Madison, that’s known as the Connecticut Compromise, which is our originates from Sherman from Connecticut and Ellsworth from connecticut. And that is the Connecticut Compromise. And it’s very interesting because it passed by a vote of five for one, which doesn’t strike you at least it doesn’t strike me as something which is a compromise because I think of a compromise as a consensus is it will 504, one, that adds the 10. I thought the 13 states, Rhode Island never showed up for reasons that are are outside our discussion. At New Hampshire had not yet arrived for reasons of money. And which is a good American reason for it, for either delaying something or are not doing something. But now they arrived after the Connecticut Compromise that, that brings us down to 11. And New York had left. They selected three Delegates, Alexander Hamilton, and then to outvote him. And Alexander Hamilton who had left, as I mentioned. And he said there were no reason to watch him anymore. And so they left. So we’re down to 10. And one state was divide and then that state was Georgia. And so it was five, excuse me, Massachusetts. And so five yes. For no. And I think the only way we should we could genuinely look upon that as a compromise is not, is not a 900 vote consensus bipartisan, but rather we chose a third way. So we compromised on going either wholly national or wholly federal. What we became a mixture of both. So the Connecticut Compromise was the breakthrough Act 2, because now we could get on with the business of, well, what about the presidency? What about the powers of Congress? What about the judiciary? What does one state or another state? So the first two acts of, of this drama, dealing with representation of the states which they were used to under the Articles of Confederation, or this new plan which the world had never seen representation of America. So the compromises, we are neither America nor United States, but the United States of America. Act three of the drama turns to detailing the aspects of what they’ve just agree to. In principle. The principle is representation. We now turn to the matter of, of, of detailing, outlining the structure and the powers. And the main feature is the the listing of the powers of Congress. Under the Articles of Confederation and the New Jersey Plan, congress could only do those activities which were expressly specifically stated. Under the Virginia Plan and the Hamilton plan, Congress could do pretty much whatever it wanted, as long as it said the states were incompetent to do it. Well, you have to have a compromise if you’re having an ADA day discussion among 55 people from a different, from, from different parts of the country. And soak, the most important part of the committee and detail outlining this first draft is the listing of the powers of Congress, which is somehow in-between and it remained with us, is the list now, more like the articles, you could only do those 809 things which are there. Or is this list sort of like an example of what Congress can do? But the more that can be done through interpretation. Perhaps the most important items on that list are the power to tax, which everybody would agree to, even Sherman, because before that, the Union had to go and ask each state for money in and you never knew whether they would provide it. So there’s power to tax was granted and the power to regulate interstate commerce. Some scholars find it fairly easy to interpret. The constitution is an economic document by looking at the wealth holdings of the framers, I see the Constitution as promoting a certain kind of economy. And that is an interstate economy. And that means a free trade area, like what European Union did later on and an after breast, those kinds of things. So that if you’re engaged in business and commerce from Georgia to New Hampshire, you don’t have to go through 10 or 11 different currencies or 11 different weights and measures so that the main feature of the art of the committee, a detailed report is not only giving power to tax the Congress so that he can raise revenue to do the things that are itemize, but to generate an interstate commercial republic, which I think is extremely important. And also listed is that Congress has now the power to do all which is necessary and proper for putting into existence the aforementioned powers and all other powers in government. And that’s the origin of the Necessary and Proper Clause. So that I think is the most important part of the of the Committee of Detail. There are other aspects like talking about the presidency, talking about the trying to set up the judiciary. But in my mind, that is the most important part of the Committee of Detail Report. A number of scholars have said that it shows the, the fact that they were tired and they want to go home. And and somebody, will VLAN was long and hot and Philadelphia. There is no doubt that that is the case. But I think the dynamics that final day show the dynamics in a slightly different way. 39 people stuck it out all the way. Certain people left for family reasons and for business reasons. But it shows that at least 39 people thought that it was important and there were willing to go through the ebb and flow. What is important about final days in terms of the dynamic, is that this is the first time a constitution has been created by multiple founders. Although Madison is referred to as the father of the Constitution, he would be the first to indicate it was the job of many hands and many and many feet and and and and consistency and deliberation when all the way through and the willingness to stand on principle and yet a willingness to bend when you had to. And it shows how difficult it is to found. And this idea that we can just create nations or create countries out of, out of nothing on all you have to do is put a constitution down there and it’s done. It’s not true. So the dynamics of the final days shows that the arguments were still going on at the end. That it was not we’re not just tired. You are willing to keep pushing. The Committee on Style was created, which put together pretty much the final Constitution. The preamble shows is the work of the Committee on Style. And it’s very important because it doesn’t list the states. It says We, the people of the United States, which means you don’t have to revise the Constitution every single time a new state comes in. And that I think shows a dynamic or an emergence of an understanding of what it means to create a constitution that is supposed to last for remote futurity, rather than simply a document that is, that can be changed whenever you want to. So it’s not ordinary politicians at work and it’s not Demi Gods at work, but smart people who’ve learn from 88 days together what, what it takes. It also indicates that there was the opportunity to dissent. That three members who had been there all the time, Randolph and Mason from Virginia, Gerry for Massachusetts, listed there reasons why they could not sign. Randolph wanted a second convention. Let us go and find out what people think and then come back. And you can just see Madison saying one miracle at Philadelphia is enough. And to try to avoid, tried to avoid the, and the. So I think it’s important to realize that while I was at a group and there was a consensus at the end that three people dissented. They gave their reasons for the descent. And we created a group dynamic without groupthink. And I think Franklin’s last day comment was extremely important. Ordinary human beings getting together cannot create a perfect union. I might add for my Was it that would be something like Plato’s Republic. And he said an imaginary Republic. What we have created says Franklin is a more perfect union. And human beings cannot expect to create a perfect union, but they can expect out of themselves to create something which is more perfect that we can, a sufficient number of us can agree on and provide the opportunity for people to dissent and amend. This question of settling or not settling slavery has been a central issue in American politics and history for the 200 years plus. And I think there are two basic views on this. One is the slate. Their founders put slavery in the course of ultimate extinction, which is Lincoln’s position. And Frederick Douglass disposition. The other position taken up by Lloyd Garrison on the abolitionist 1830s and endorsed by many historians and politicians today. And also, by Judge Tawney in the Dred Scott decision, is that the founders create a slave holders document. And that very delicate issue has to be taken seriously. And, and, and I’m on red and thought through very carefully. I think that there are three slavery clauses in the constitution. And one is the three-fifths clause, which seems to get an incredible amount of attention these days. The second is the importation clause, which you will find in Article 1, section 9. And the third is the fugitive slave clause. And I think it’s very important to figure out why they’re, these three clauses occur where they occur in the Constitution. The three-fifths clause occurs in Article 1, section 2 because it deals with representation. And that takes us back to act one where, where the issue was representation of people are representation of states. And the Southern delegates from South Carolina through a curve and said, well how about wealth? And so, the Three-Fifths enters as a way of compromising the issue of rep, of representation. The company and detail report came out with an order having granted Congress the power to regulate interstate and international commerce. That permitted Congress by any reasonable reading, to regulate the slave trade, which is international commerce. So, there’s a specific provision put in by the South Carolina delegate that Congress will be prohibited forever from dealing with the slave trade. That’s the slave holder’s document. The Committee of Detail had a preferred position because he got five people on it who have spent a whole couple of weeks. But the one area, I think while the listing the power of Congress is the most important feature of the committee in detail. The question dealing with slavery shows the one area where the committee on detail was challenged. So, another committee was created to challenge this prohibition for life on Congress regulating the international slave trade. And Madison was on that committee, and they came up with the solution that Congress could regulate the international slave trade in those states. In those states which wanted to continue existing states. By the way, not any state, those existing states that that felt at all okay to do until 18 8800. And South Carolina delegation came back with 1808 and Madison was furious. So that it depends on how we look at 1808. Is it, is that putting slave trade during ultimate extinction? Yes, when you compared to, to never know, 3 fifth, the fugitive slave clause came in right at the end. And I think the language of the Fugitive Slave Clause is very different than the extradition clause from which it is, which it is separated, but only good intention reading can decide whether Lincoln is correct, or Tony is correct on this issue. And I don’t think it is fair to blame the founders for everything. Some, the next generation is not necessarily better than the previous generation. Constitutional conversations are made possible by a generous grant from the fairly us Dickinson Junior Foundation. Constitutional conversations are made possible by the James Madison education fund.
Explore: Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787External Url
Explore: The Constitutional Convention External Url
Primary Source Analysis Paper Assignment
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