Great Compromise
7th Grade Great Compromise Inquiry

Is Compromise Always Fair?

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Staging the Compelling Question
In staging the compelling question, “Is compromise always fair?” teachers may ask students to think of times when they made a compromise in order to get something done. Students may need to be told that compromise is when people come to agreement about something that is in dispute when each side agrees to give something up.
 

Supporting Question 1-How was representation determined under the Articles of Confederation?

The first supporting question—“How was representation determined under the Articles of Confederation?”—helps students begin to understand the competing views of large and small states regarding representation in Congress by asking them to consider the original arrangement for representation in the unicameral (one-house) legislature under the Articles of Confederation. The formative performance task calls on students to write a description of how states were represented in the Congress under the Articles of Confederation. The featured source for this question is an excerpt from the Articles of Confederation.

  • Source A: Second Continental Congress, Article V of the Articles of Confederation dealing with representation in Congress, Articles of Confederation (excerpt), 1777 Public domain. Available from the Our Documents initiative: http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?doc=3&page=transcript.  
     

Supporting Question 2- What was the Virginia Plan?
The second supporting question—“What was the Virginia Plan?”—highlights an essential component in understanding the eventual Great Compromise. The Virginia Plan put forward a scheme for a new government that proposed a bicameral (two-house) Congress with representation in each house determined by population. Thus, larger states would have more members in each of the two houses of Congress. The formative performance task asks students to write a summary of the Virginia Plan with consideration for how large-state and small-state constituents might view this plan. The featured sources for this task are James Madison’s description of the Virginia Plan from his Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, a diagram of the Virginia Plan, and a chart of the United States population in 1790.
  • <span style="mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;" times="" major-latin;="" "times="" new="" roman";="" 10.0pt;="" en-us;="" ar-sa;"="">Source A: James Madison, journal notes describing what became the Virginia Plan, Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 (excerpts with description of the historical context), May 29, 1787 This annotated version of James Madison's convention notes was created for the New York State K–12 Social Studies Toolkit by Binghamton University, 2015. The text is excerpted from the original, and spelling has been modernized. Public domain. Available from the Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy, Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library:  http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_529.asp. See also a crowd-sourced annotated version of the document at ConText: http://context.montpelier.org/document/178.
  • Source B: Diagram of the plan for representation put forward by Edmund Randolph at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, “The Virginia Plan,” 2015
  • Source C: Chart showing total and slave populations of the United States by state, “1790 Census Records: Chart of Slave Populations,” 2015

Supporting Question 3- What was the New Jersey Plan?
The third supporting question—“What was the New Jersey Plan?”—also underscores an essential component in understanding the Great Compromise. The New Jersey Plan, a response to the Virginia Plan from small-state representatives, put forward a plan for a unicameral (one-house) Congress with equal representation of states and no regard for population. The plan kept in place the arrangement for Congress in effect under the Articles of Confederation but expanded the authority of Congress. The formative performance task asks students to write a summary of the New Jersey Plan with consideration for how large-state and small-state constituents might view it. The featured sources for this task are James Madison’s description of the New Jersey Plan from his Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 and a diagram of the New Jersey Plan.
  • Source A: James Madison, journal notes describing what became the New Jersey Plan, Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 (excerpts with description of the historical context), June 15, 1787 This annotated version of James Madison's convention notes was created for the New York State K–12 Social Studies Toolkit by Binghamton University, 2015. The text is excerpted from the original, and spelling has been modernized. Public domain. Available from the Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy, Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_615.asp. See also a crowd-sourced annotated version of the document at ConText: http://context.montpelier.org/document/178.
  • Source B: Diagram of the plan for representation put forward by William Paterson at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, “The New Jersey Plan,” 2015
     

Supporting Question 4- How did the Connecticut Plan break the impasse?
The fourth supporting question—“How did the Connecticut Plan break the impasse?”—allows students to extend their knowledge about the debate over the design of federal government in the United States. The question focuses on the compromise effort evident in the Connecticut Plan, which was intended to break the impasse between large states, whose representatives favored the Virginia Plan, and small states, whose representatives favored the New Jersey Plan. The formative performance task asks students to use their knowledge from the previous tasks, along with new information about the Connecticut Plan, to write a claim supported by evidence about how the Connecticut Plan broke the impasse at the Constitutional Convention. The featured sources for this formative performance task are James Madison’s description of the Connecticut plan from his Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787; his summary of the differences between the Virginia and New Jersey plans as proposed by James Wilson, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention from Pennsylvania; and his description of the approval of the Connecticut Plan.
  • Source A: James Madison, journal notes describing what became the Connecticut Plan, Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 (excerpts with description of the historical context), July 5, 1787 NOTE: The Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 was James Madison’s daily record of the debates during the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. This excerpt was recorded on July 5, 1787, the day Elbridge Gerry of Connecticut reported on a plan for settling the differences among delegates regarding representation as put forward in the Virginia and New Jersey plans. This annotated version of James Madison's convention notes was created for the New York State K–12 Social Studies Toolkit by Binghamton University, 2015. The text is excerpted from the original, and spelling has been modernized. Public domain. Available from the Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy, Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Library: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_705.asp. See also a crowd-sourced annotated version of the document at ConText:  http://context.montpelier.org/document/178
  • Source B: James Madison, journal notes comparing the Virginia and New Jersey plans, Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 (excerpt with description of the historical context), June 16, 1787 This annotated version of James Madison's convention notes was created for the New York State K–12 Social Studies Toolkit by Binghamton University, 2015. The text is excerpted from the original, and spelling has been modernized. Public domain. Available from the Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy, Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Library: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_616.asp. See also a crowd-sourced annotated version of the document at ConText:   http://context.montpelier.org/document/178.
  • Source C: James Madison, journal notes describing the approval of the Connecticut Plan, Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 (excerpts with description of the historical context), July 17, 1787 This annotated version of James Madison's convention notes was created for the New York State K–12 Social Studies Toolkit by Binghamton University, 2015. The text is excerpted from the original, and spelling has been modernized. Public domain. Available from the Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy, Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Library: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_716.asp. See also a crowd-sourced annotated version of the document at ConText:    http://context.montpelier.org/document/178.



     

New York State Social Studies Framework Key Idea & Practices 7.4 HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION: The newly independent states faced political and economic struggles under the Articles of Confederation. These challenges resulted in a Constitutional Convention, a debate over ratification, and the eventual adoption of the Bill of Rights.
 Gathering, Using, and Interpreting Evidence    Comparison and Contextualization

 Conceptual Understandings:
  • (7.4a) Throughout the American Revolution, the colonies struggled to address their differing social, political, and economic interests and to establish unity. The Articles of Confederation created a form of government that loosely united the states, but allowed states to maintain a large degree of sovereignty.
  • (7.4b) The lack of a strong central government under the Articles of Confederation presented numerous challenges. A convention was held to revise the Articles, the result of which was the Constitution. The Constitution established a democratic republic with a stronger central government.
  • (7.4c) Advocates for and against a strong central government were divided on issues of states’ rights, role/limits of federal power, and guarantees of individual freedoms. Compromises were needed between the states in order to ratify the Constitution.

 
Staging the Question Describe daily life instances where compromises were made.