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Madison’s Notes and the U.S. Constitution

Inform Yourself

Read the Constitution. Visit the Library of Congress’s “The Making of the U.S. Constitution” page to read a brief account of the Constitutional Convention followed by the text of the Constitution as originally adopted (that is, without the Bill of Rights and other amendments). The text of the Constitution also appears at the end of this book. Are you surprised by how short the document is? Does the text sound familiar? What did you not expect to find?
Dip into James Madison’s notes from the Constitutional Convention. To read what happened on those hot summer days in 1787 in Philadelphia, click on a day in the calendar on “The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787” page to read that day’s entry in Madison’s journal. After reading the notes for any day, answer the following questions: What did the members of the Convention agree on? What issues did they disagree on? Can you find evidence of the debates between the small and large population states? Can you find evidence of the debates between slave-owning and non-slave-owning states? Can you find debate over the power of the presidency?
Watch a slide show on the Bill of Rights. “Jump Back in Time” is also presented by the Library of Congress. Four short slides walk you through the adoption of the Bill of Rights. Answer the question in the third slide: “What amendments in the Constitution most affect you?”

Connect with Others

Visit the United States Constitution page on Facebook. The U.S. Constitution has more than 200,000 Facebook fans. What type of posts appear on this page? Do the messages reflect different interpretations of the Constitution? What does this tell us about the Constitution? Is the Constitution a living document, or is it fixed in stone?

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