The Philadelphia Convention

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Too often we brush over the Constitution and how much went into the writing and ratification of it when we are studying U.S. History or U.S. Government. And yet the document itself, and the history of that document, are critical parts of both U.S. History and Government.

My desire here is to make the people and the debates involved in the Constitutional Convention come alive for students. The following play can be read aloud in a class of any size, or read silently by one or more students. If you have fewer students than the “characters” shown here – simply combine parts as needed.

This play is divided into acts and scenes since it is so long. You may want to read aloud only selected scenes, depending on your schedule. You could still assign your students the remaining portions for independent reading, since it is written as a very accurate look at the important work of the Constitutional Convention.

The first scene is an introduction to what took place between the American Revolution and the Philadelphia Convention. If you have already covered those details in-depth (as we had the first time I did this reading with my highschoolers), you may want to start with the second scene. In our readings, I have found that we cover anywhere from ten to eighteen pages in an hour, depending on how many questions arise during the reading. We made the readings part of numerous classes.

Most of the lines from the play come from James Madison’s massive Notes of the Debates at the Constitutional Convention. I have modernized much of his spelling, but I have retained most of the vocabulary of the day and much of his punctuation.

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