Experiences: U.S. History A as the New York Ratifying Convention

Arts and humanities teacher Colin Williams shares about his history students’ mock debates.

What looked like a room full of students last week was in fact a room full of delegates to the New York ratifying convention in Poughkeepsie. The men of New York elected these delegates to decide whether to ratify the new Constitution. At each table sat a Federalist, advocating ratification, an Anti-Federalist, advocating changes or rejection, and a judge. The two debaters made opening statements, closing statements and then talked to each other in 10 minutes of open debate. They quoted from the document itself and arguments already made by delegates such as Alexander Hamilton. In the photograph above, a judge rises to deliver his decision on who has won the debate at his table. The Anti-Federalists won, so a new Constitution will have to be drafted soon.

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