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We the People Talk Show: Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists

Created by:
Kevin Throckmorton
Galloway Township

George Wood
Hamilton Township

Constitutional Conversations

Grade Level:
6 to 8


Using primary and secondary source documents, students will examine the arguments for and against ratification of the Constitution.

Historical Context

The failure of the Articles of Confederation required state representatives to draft a new plan of government for the United States of America. Their efforts to do so took place at the Constitutional Convention. Once created, nine of the thirteen states had to ratify the Constitution before it became the law of the land.

The Federalists led by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay argued in favor of ratification, while Anti-federalists George Mason, Patrick Henry, and Richard Henry Lee argued against the new plan.


individual rights, checks and balances, separation of powers, and states' rights

Goals and Objectives:

After completing this activity, students will be able to:

1. Comprehend the positions of the Federalists and Anti-Federalists.

2. Participate in a talk show format debate arguing for or against ratification of the Constitution.

3. Understand the compromises that were reached in order for the Constitution to be ratified.


STANDARD 6.1 (Social Studies Skills) All students will utilize historical thinking, problem solving, and research skills to maximize their understanding of civics, history, geography, and economics.

STANDARD 6.2 (Civics) All students will know, understand and appreciate the values and principles of American democracy and the rights, responsibilities, and roles of a citizen in the nation and the world.

STANDARD 6.4 (United States and New Jersey History) All students will demonstrate knowledge of United States and New Jersey history in order to understand life and events in the past and how they relate to the present and future.

Equipment, materials and other technology needed:

Textbook (two suggested textbooks appear in the references listed below).

Brief Biographies for James Madison, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry, Henry Lee, George Mason.

Federalist/Anti-Federalist quotations.

Video equipment.

Details of Activity

WARM-UP/ENGAGEMENT: Students will evaluate quotations from primary source documents and determine which support the Federalist position and which support the Anti-Federalist position


1. Assign student roles for the talk show (panelist, cameo, audience)

2. Have students read biographies and positions of the Federalists/Anti-Federalists

3. Ask a student to facilitate the talk show by serving as the host (or facilitate the program yourself) and give a brief introduction to the panelists and audience about the format and topic of the show. The host will introduce each panelist who will then give a brief background on themselves and their position on the Constitution.

4. The host will question each panelist and introduce special guests (such as George Washington or Benjamin Franklin, etc.)

5. Ask the remainder of the class, serving as the audience, for their questions/comments.

Practice and Reinforcement

Have students write a letter to the editor taking the position of a federalist or anti-federalist. The letter must include at least three reasons from primary documents supporting their position.


Michael Barry (ed.), Civics in America (Nextext Coursebook) (Geneva, IL: Holt McDougal, 2003).

Jesus Garcia, Winthrop Jordon, et. al. (eds.)Creating America: A History of the United States, Beginnings through Reconstruction (Geneva, IL: McDougal Littell, 2003).

Web Links:
Lessons from the Constitutional Rights Foundation.

See pgs. 20-23 for Federalist/Anti-Federalist docs

For more information about the Teaching American History Program click here