How did early political debates shape the United States?
First edition. September 2016.

In A More Perfect Union: The Constitutional Convention and the Ratification Debate, students revisit the events and controversies of 1787-88 to gain a deeper understanding of the political climate of the era and the values that contributed to the political foundation of the United States. Through exploring the parallels between the debates of 1788 and our country’s current political discourse, students gain an insight into many of the issues that define our own age.


The readings place students in the context of the late 1700s as they prepare to consider the policy debate surrounding the Constitution. The text considers the economic divisions emerging in the young American republic, probes the most controversial sections of the Constitution proposed in 1787, and reviews the evolution of the U.S. Constitution’s scope and meaning over the past two centuries.

This curriculum replaces A More Perfect Union: American Independence and the Constitution. It contains a significant number of important corrections to historical sources that had been inaccurately quoted. Primary sources in the lesson on the debates of the Constitutional Convention have replaced text that had paraphrased the historical record.


The Constitutional Convention

As delegates, students grapple with the critical issues raised in Philadelphia and use historical evidence and primary sources to develop coherent arguments.

February 1788: The Options Role Play

As a range of fictional characters at an inn, students debate the competing options for the Constitution.

Judging the Past

By developing criteria for portraying the past, students begin to assess the perspectives and standards that shape historiography.

Synthesis: Reassessing the Constitution

Students brainstorm modern challenges facing the United States, articulate their own views on individual rights and the purpose of government, and explore the durability and room for improvement in the U.S. Constitution.
Whose interests did the U.S. Constitution reflect?
Were all early Americans familiar with the ideas of democracy and republican government?
What was the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution?
What is the basic principle of American democracy?

Supplemental Resources

Additional reference material for added context and support in teaching the teaching the curriculum.


Bowen, Catherine Drinker. Miracle at Philadelphia (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1986). 346 pages.

Farrand, Max. ed. The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (New York: Yale University Press, 1966). 1,900 pages.

Holton, Woody. Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution. New York: Hill and Wang, 2007.

Kammen, Michael, ed. The Origins of the American Constitution: A Documentary History (New York: Penguin Books, 1986). 407 pages.

Maier, Pauline. Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788. 1st Simon & Schuster hardcover ed. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.

Veit, Helen E. ed. Creating the Bill of Rights (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991). 320 pages.

Wood, Gordon S. The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787 (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1969). 615 pages.

Wood, Gordon S. The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York: Random House, 1993). 369 pages.

Primary Sources on the Constitution
A web site of The Constitution Center
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