Analyzing the Great Compromise, 1787

by Wendy Thowdis

Essential Question

How could our Founding Fathers balance the needs of the states as we created a national government?

Materials

  • The Virginia Plan, 1787 (PDF). Source: Virginia (Randolph) Plan as Amended (National Archives Microfilm Publication M866, 1 roll); The Official Records of the Constitutional Convention; Records of the Continental and Confederation Congresses and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789, Record Group 360; National Archives. Online at 100 Milestone Documents, http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?doc=7
  • Variant Texts of the Plan Presented by William Patterson (New Jersey Plan, 1787), Text A (PDF). Source: Documents Illustrative of the Formation of the Union of the American States, ed. Charles Tansill (Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1927. Transcript available online at The Avalon Law Project, Yale University School of Law, avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/patexta.asp
  • Articles of Confederation (PDF). Source: Engrossed and corrected copy of the Articles of Confederation, showing amendments adopted, November 15, 1777, Papers of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789; Records of the Continental and Confederation Congresses and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789, Record Group 360; National Archives. Online at 100 Milestone Documents, http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?doc=3.
  • Fact Chart (PDF)

Lesson Activities

Select excerpts from each of the three documents that are appropriate for the level of your students and have them complete the questions below. Note that the questions follow Bloom’s Taxonomy as they flow from the most literal to the most analytic.

Remember/Knowledge

Complete the Fact Chart for each plan (attached above).

Understand/Comprehend

Read the first “Resolve” in each document and then “Resolved 18” in the Virginia Plan. What is the difference in focus between the two documents?

Apply

What type of states would support each plan and why is this significant?

Analyze

What evidence can you list from the New Jersey Plan to show that Patterson’s plan intended to give Congress a little more power than it was given in the Articles of Confederation?

Evaluate

  1. How could you justify that the northern states wanted slaves to count as three-fifths for the purpose of representation in Congress?
  2. How could you justify that the southern states wanted slaves to count as three-fifths for the purpose of representation in Congress?

Create/Synthesize

Choose one or more of the following:

  1. Design a compromise plan for the creation of our Congress that would please supporters of both the New Jersey and Virginia Plans. Create a Venn Diagram where you show the areas of agreement and disagreement.
  2. Design two advertisement posters that show the desired plans for our national legislature in 1787 for the small states and the large states, or the North and the South.
  3. Create two political cartoons that show the desired plans for our national legislature in 1787 for the small states and large states, or the North and the South.

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