CONSTITUTION DAY ACTIVITIES: ELEMENTARY
Who were Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Patrick Henry, and George Mason?
George Washington (1732–1799), Marble Statue by Jean-Antoine Houdon, 1785–1792. State Artwork Collection, Library of Virginia. (High Res)
George Bagby Matthews, Patrick Henry, oil painting on canvas, 30 x 50 in. Original by Thomas Sully, Virginia State Art Collection: acquired about 1884, Library of Virginia. (High Res)
Detail from Adoption of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, Virginia State Art Collection: acquired: 1974, Library of Virginia.
Elder, John A., Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826). Oil painting on canvas, 30 x 25 in., Original by Gilbert Stuart. Virginia State Art Collection. Acquired 1887. (High Res)
Find the full biographies for these Founding Fathers at Shaping the Constitution (see links section of this plan)
In 1787 and 1788 Patrick Henry opposed ratification of the Constitution of the United States, fearing that it would create too strong a national government that would, without a bill of rights, endanger the liberties for which the American Revolution had been fought.
Thomas Jefferson succeeded Benjamin Franklin as the U.S. Minister to France (1785–1789), and was therefore out of the country during the Constitutional Convention. His belief that a bill of rights should be added to the Constitution was cited in the Virginia Ratification Convention and helped persuade his friend and collaborator James Madison of the necessity of the Bill of Rights. Jefferson was the first secretary of state for the United States (1789–1793), the second vice president of the United States (1797–1801), and the third president of the United States (1801–1809).
George Mason was one of the Virginia delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, although at the last minute he refused to sign the Constitution because he disapproved of too many of its provisions. His "Objections” to the Constitution were published throughout the country and used by opponents of ratification to argue that the new government would become too powerful, that it blended, rather than separated, the legislative and executive powers, and that it lacked a bill of rights. Mason was one of the most powerful speakers against ratification at the Virginia Convention of 1788, and his speeches helped convince the convention to propose amendments to the Constitution, which in turn persuaded James Madison to introduce a draft bill of rights in the United States House of Representatives in 1789.
In 1787 George Washington attended the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia, presiding over the body, in an effort to address the existing problems with the Articles of Confederation. Convinced of the need for a strong central government, Washington supported the effort to revise the Articles but also championed the Constitution that was created by the convention. Returning home, Washington did not participate in the Virginia ratifying convention, but instead used his influence to promote approval of the document. After the U.S. Constitution was ratified by the requisite number of states, Washington was unanimously elected by the Electoral College in 1789 as the first president of the United States and again for a second term beginning in 1793.
(Definitions are from the Merriam-Webster dictionary)
• amendment — A change in wording or meaning, especially in a law, bill, or motion.
• architect — A person who designs buildings and advises in their construction.
• assembly — A body of persons gathered together (as to make laws or for discussion, worship, or
• author — A person who creates a written work.
• Bill of Rights — A document containing a formal statement of rights; a summary of fundamental rights
and privileges guaranteed to a people against violation by the state.
• constitution — The basic beliefs and laws of a nation, state, or social group that establish the powers and duties of the government and guarantee certain rights to the people in it.
• freedom — The state of being free; the ability to act or move freely.
• gardener — A person who designs or works in a garden.
• lawyer — A person whose profession is to conduct lawsuits for clients or to advise about legal
rights and obligations.
• liberty — The power of choice; permission especially to go freely within specified limits.
• musician — A composer, conductor, or performer of music.
• petition — An earnest request.
• press — The gathering and publishing or broadcasting of news; the newspapers and magazines of a country.
• ratify — To approve and sanction formally.
• rights — The ideal of what is just and good; something to which one has a just claim.
• speech — The power of expressing or communicating thoughts by speaking.
Use the coloring pages handouts as a fun way to introduce our Founding Fathers. Be sure to tell your students why each man is important while they color.
1. Thomas Jefferson
• Have students write a letter or pretend to tell Jefferson about the drafting of the Constitution.
• Students can create a comic showcasing Jefferson's hobbies.
2. George Mason
• Create a class constitution describing the class rules and how to show respect for the personal rights of each classmate.
• Have students write arguments for or against the ratification of the Constitution.
3. Patrick Henry
• Students can write and present a speech sharing their definition of liberty.
• Patrick Henry was an Anti-Federalist. Lead students in a discussion on why some people did not support the Constitution. Are there people today who don't support the Constitution?
4. George Washington
• Discuss with students the role of the U.S. president and have students create their own presidential campaign followed by a class election.
• Students could also write a class letter to the current president. Some topics might include:
• describing what they would do, as a group, if they had the job
• asking him a question about current events
• offering him support on a decision