Social Studies - 2018-19

VUS.5b - Constitutional Convention

The student will apply social science skills to understand the development of the American political system by

b) describing the major compromises necessary to produce the Constitution of the United States, with emphasis on the roles of James Madison and George Washington;

Adopted: 2015


Unit Themes

Unit Essential Questions


How do systems, ideas, or beliefs change over time?

Constitutional Principles 

How does the US Constitution shape our lives as Americans?  


How does democracy shape the American experience?


The Constitution of the United States was created in a spirit of compromise in order to establish an effective form of government, with notable contributions by Virginians George Washington and James Madison.


Key issues and their resolutions 

 Made federal law the supreme law of the land when constitutional, but otherwise gave the states considerable leeway to govern themselves 

 Balanced power between large and small states by creating a Senate, where each state has two senators, and a House of Representatives, where membership is based on population as stated in the Great Compromise 

 Appeased the Southern states by counting slaves as three-fifths of the population when determining representation in the United States House of Representatives 

 Avoided a too-powerful central government by establishing three co-equal branches (legislative, executive, judicial) with numerous checks and balances among them providing for separation of powers 

 Limited the powers of the federal government to those identified in the Constitution

Key leaders 

 George Washington, president of the Convention

o Washington presided at the Convention and, although seldom participating in the debates, lent his enormous prestige to the proceedings. 

 James Madison, “Father of the Constitution”

o Madison, a Virginian and a brilliant political philosopher, often led the debate and kept copious notes of the proceedings—the best record historians have of what transpired at the Constitutional Convention.

o At the Convention, he authored the Virginia Plan, which proposed a federal government of three separate branches (legislative, executive, judicial) and became the foundation for the structure of the new government.

o He later authored much of the Bill of Rights.


Terms & EventsPeoplePlaces

Articles of Confederation






House of Representatives

Three-Fifths Compromise

Equal Branches: Judicial, Executive, Legislative

Population-based legislature


Checks and Balances

Limited Government

Virginia Plan

Bill of Rights

Virginia Declaration of Rights

Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom


Supreme Court

Constitutional Convention

James Madison

George Washington

George Mason

Thomas Jefferson

Patrick Henry



Philadelphia, PA

Updated: May 18, 2018