|Making A Nation
READ AND DISCUSS
George Mason was one of three delegates who refused to sign the United States Constitution. While still at the Convention, he took his draft of the Constitution and wrote down his objections on the back of it.
Mason's objections, along with articles by others in support of the Constitution, appeared in newspapers throughout the country in the months to come. These pieces were probably read by representatives in each state who were deciding whether or not to ratify the Constitution. The man on the street probably read these essays, too, and wondered, "Will we ever agree on our new government?" The major points of Mason's document, rewritten in modern language, appear on the following pages.
Each group reads one of the objections. Come up with a group response to the question. Write a summary of Mason's objection and the answer to your group's question on a large sheet of paper titled, "I Object!, Says Mason." Share this with the class.
Question: Do you think a national bill of rights is important? Are the rights of citizens in danger without a national bill of rights? Why or why not?
Background: If this section of the Constitution were approved, Rhode Island and Delaware would only have one representative for their whole state in 1787. The House would be able to vote on laws with only twenty members present! Right before the Constitution was signed, the size of the House of Representatives was enlarged from one representative per 40,000 people to one representative per 30,000 people in each state. Mason admitted that this change "in some degree lessened" his objection to the plan.
Question: Mason was worried that the House of Representatives was too small and that the citizens were not adequately represented. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a small House of Representatives? Make two lists.
Background: Mason proposed that the council of advisors consist of six members -- two members from New England, two from the middle states, and two from the South. The members would be chosen by the Senate.
Question: Evaluate Mason's plan for a council of advisors to the President. Is this council necessary? If so, who should be on the council? Who should choose its members? Do we have something like this council today?
Question: Explain Mason's remark that the office of Vice President makes one state more powerful than the others. Why did Mason think that this would happen?
Find out about the duties of today's Vice President. Do you agree with Mason: Is the office of Vice President unnecessary? Why or why not?
Background: Mason believed that the national government should stop the sale of slaves into the country. During the Federal Convention, he said, "Slavery discourages arts & manufactures. The poor despise [hate] labor when performed by the slaves ... [Slavery] produce[s] the most pernicious [harmful] effect on manners. Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant."
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