Ratification Debate

Our course included an extended debate set in the June 1788 Virginia Ratifying Convention. Each student was assigned a delegate identity, a team (pro-ratification or anti-ratification), and a topic.

Team readings: Each team received a set of readings:

  • Pro-ratification group:
    • Letter from “A Freeholder,” April 23, 1788.
    • Letters from “Cassius.”
  • Anti-ratification group:
    • George Mason, “Objections to the Constitution.”
    • Richard Henry Lee to Edmund Randolph, Oct. 16, 1787.

Individual readings: In addition, based on a student’s topic and team, he or she was assigned either a Federalist essay (for the pro-ratification team) or an anti-Federalist essay (for the anti-ratification team). Here are the assigned readings:

Power of central government

  • Federalist 9 / John DeWitt 1

Bill of Rights

  • Federalist 84 / Centinel 1

States’ powers

  • Federalist 45 / Brutus 1

The House of Representatives

  • Federalist 52 / Brutus 4

The Senate:

  • Federalist 62 / Brutus 16

Judiciary:

  • Federalist 78 / Brutus 11

The Executive

  • Federalist 67 / Cato 4

Taxation

  • Federalist 30 / Brutus 6

Standing armies

  • Federalist 24 / Brutus 10

Meetings: In the days leading up to the debate, students discussed their readings and planned a strategy with their teams. In addition, they met with their counterpart from the other team and discussed the differences between their points of view.