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The Origin of the Bill of Rights

by Natalie Bolton

Introduction:

To assist teachers in teaching the founding of the United States government, Professor Gordon Lloyd has created a website in collaboration with the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University on the Bill of Rights. In an effort to assist students in understanding the origins of the Bill of Rights and how the Bill of Rights became the first ten amendments of the U.S. Constitution, two lesson plans have been created that combine content from websites created by Gordon Lloyd that tell the story of the Bill of Rights. Students will review several primary source documents including: the Magna Carta; Petition of Right; English Bill of Rights; Massachusetts Body of Liberties; Pennsylvania Frame of Government; Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges; Declarations and State Constitutions to understand and explain the origins of the Bill of Rights. Students will review George Washington’s First Inaugural Address; Madison’s June 8, 1789 speech to Congress, Report of the House Select Committee (July 28, 1789), House Approves Seventeen Amendments (August 24, 1789), First Congress Approves Twelve Amendments (September 25, 1789), and Adoption of the Ten Amendments (December 15, 1791) to explain the politics of the Bill of Rights.

The Origins of the U.S. Bill of Rights lesson will begin by having students describe what they already know about the origins of the Bill of Rights. Students will then examine two tables that summarize the 26 rights included in the Bill of Rights and what prior English, Colonial, and American documents included those rights. To allow students to meet the lesson learning objective, students will participate in a Structured Academic Controversy (SAC). The purpose of SAC is to present students with arguments from both sides of a debate so they may draw their own conclusions. The topic of debate for this lesson is: Are the origins of the U.S. Bill of Rights more inherited from the English and Colonies or created during the revolutionary period (1776 – 1787) by the States? The lesson will conclude by students responding to a document-based essay question aligned with the lesson learning objective.

Guiding Question:

Which of the rights in the U.S. Bill of Rights were inherited from the English and/or Colonial traditions and which rights owe their origin to the revolutionary period (1776 – 1787) in the United States?

Learning Objective:

After completing this lesson, students should be able to:

Analyze English and colonial documents and State Constitutions and justify if the rights within the U.S. Bill of Rights are more inherited from the English and/or Colonial traditions or created from the revolutionary period (1776 – 1787) in the United States.

Background Information for the Teacher:

Introduction

What part do the English Heritage and the Colonial tradition play in helping us to discover the roots and development of the United States Bill of Rights? One thesis is that there is a continuous development from English roots through nearly two hundred years of colonial times into the Bill of Rights. Another thesis is that there is a separate and different and more important colonial tradition that provides for an American version of a Bill of Rights.

The Magna Carta, 1215

Despite the presence of words such as “scutage,” and “wapenstakes,” which locate the Great Charter squarely in the feudal era, the spirit of the document speaks to subsequent generations. The Magna Carta is more than a practical document specifically designed to solve feudal difficulties. True, King John was forced at gunpoint to recognize the existence of the traditional rights of the barons, but there are a set of principles which inform the sixty-three chaptered document signed in Runnymede in 1215 and reaffirmed by subsequent British monarchs. The principles extend beyond the often recognized origin of the no taxation without representation doctrine in chapter 12 and the due process clause of chapter 39. The concepts of trial by jury and no cruel punishments are present in chapter 21; and the confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment is anticipated in chapters 38, 40, and 44. But the most important contribution of the Magna Carta is the claim that there is a fundamental set of principles, which even the King must respect. Above all else, Magna Carta makes the case that the people have a “right” to expect “reasonable” conduct by the monarch. These rights are to be secured by the principle of representation outlined in the longest chapter.

The English Petition of Right, 1628

The 1628 Petition of Right is the second of the three British documents that provided a strong common law component to the development of the American Bill of Rights. The authors of the statute consciously invoke the memory of the rule of law heritage of the Magna Carta: they insist that the monarchy honor and respect rights to which Englishmen have been accustomed for centuries. In the thirteenth century, the nobles petitioned the King to abandon his arbitrary and tyrannical policies; four centuries later, it was the commoners who petitioned the King to adhere to the principles of reasonable government bequeathed by the English tradition. Under the leadership of Sir Edward Coke, a legal scholar-turned-practical politician, Parliament petitioned Charles I – son of the recently deceased King James I – to uphold the traditional rights of Englishmen. Among the customary “divers rights and liberties of the subjects” listed were no taxation without consent, “due process of law,” the right to habeas corpus, no quartering of troops, the respect for private property, and the imposition of no cruel punishment.

To be sure, King Charles did not consider himself bound by the petition; in fact he disregarded it. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to underestimate the importance of the document. On the one hand, it reaffirmed the right to petition as a fundamental right that can be invoked legitimately against a monarch who has strayed from traditional principles. Moreover, Coke’s argument still had considerable appeal over one hundred years later on the other side of the Atlantic. During the 1760s, the American colonists articulated their grievances against King George in terms reminiscent of Coke’s petition to uphold the rights of Englishmen. On the other hand, King Charles’s rejection of the appeal shows the inherent limitations of the right to petition.

The Massachusetts Body of Liberties, 1641

The Massachusetts Body of Liberties, adopted in December 1641, was the first attempt in Massachusetts to restrain the power of the elected representatives by an appeal to a document that lists the rights, and duties, of the people. The document, drafted and debated over several years, combines the American covenanting tradition with an appeal to the common law tradition. Containing ninety-eight sections, it covers the rules concerning judicial proceedings (sections 18-57); “liberties more peculiarly concerning the free man” (sections 58-78); and the rights of women (79-80), children (sections 81-84), servants (85-88), foreigners (89-91), and animals (92-93). Section 94 provides biblical justification supporting the death penalty in twelve cases, and Section 95 contains eleven liberties given by “the Lord Jesus…to the Churches.” The most enduring part of the Body of Liberties are the preamble and the first seventeen sections, which contain the essential rights of the common law tradition. Of particular importance are references to what by now were traditional on the American side of the Atlantic: the equal treatment of all persons under laws passed by the legislature, just compensation for property taken for public use, the right to petition government for redress of grievances, the right to trial by jury, the right to travel, and lastly, the right to trade.

The Pennsylvania Frame of Government, 1681

In 1681, King Charles II granted Quaker William Penn ownership of the “Province of Pennsilvania.” The 1682 Frame of Government was designed “for the good Government thereof” and included a “grant” of “divers Liberties, Franchises and Properties.” This document is unique to the seventeenth-century American experience; the authorizing, or granting, agent was neither the English monarch nor the people. Penn, as lone founder, “did grant and confirm unto” the inhabitants certain individual rights. And yet, scholars are surely correct to note that this 1682 document ranks among “the most influential of the Colonial documents protecting individual rights,” against the abuse of governmental powers.

There is both a constitutional and legalistic tone to the document. First, a preamble announcing the purposes of government and declaring that the rule of “good laws,” supported by a wise and virtuous people, is to be chosen over “the rule of one, few, and many” magistrates in a country inhabited by “a loose and depraved people.” This is followed by a “Frame,” containing twenty-four sections guaranteeing the right of participation and outlining the powers and responsibilities of government officials. Finally, there is an extensive itemization of civil and criminal rights and expectations. The list not only includes the familiar common law right to fair trial by a jury of one’s peers, but also detailed provisions for the careful handling of such specific matters as court fees, fines, and documents.

The document also addresses the American religious paradox. On the one hand, Section XXXV declares that inhabitants “shall, in no ways, be molested or prejudiced for their religious persuasion, or practice, in matters of faith and worship, nor shall they be compelled, at any time, to frequent or maintain any religious worship, place or ministry whatever.” On the other hand, specific provision is made in Section XXXVI for the observance of “the Lord’s day,” and punishments are indicated in Section XXXVII for “offences against God.” There is a political, as well as a theological, reason for itemizing twelve offences of “uncleanness,” eight offences of “violence,” and eleven offences productive of “rudeness, cruelty, looseness, and irreligion.” These thirty-one “offences against God” are examples of the “wildness and looseness of the people” that, in turn, “provoke the indignation of God against a country.”

The English Bill of Rights, 1689

The third British contribution to the development of the American Bill of Rights is the 1689 English Bill of Rights. The “Convention Parliament” of 1689 declared an end to the three-year reign of James II – formerly the Duke of York – and passed an Act to secure “the Kingdom from Popery and Arbitrary Power.” To that end, Parliament listed twelve indictments against him and issued a declaration of the rights and liberties of the subject. Never again, declared the agreement between the Parliament and the newly enthroned monarchs–King William of Orange and Queen Mary, daughter of dethroned King James II – must the “Religion, Laws, and Liberties” of the Realm “be in danger of being subverted.” To that end, several ancient rights of Englishmen are reaffirmed: the right to petition government for the redress of grievances, the expectation that governmental policy shall confirm to the rule of law, that standing armies in peace time without the consent of Parliament is illegal, and “that Excessive Bail ought not to be required, nor Excessive Fines imposed; nor cruel and unusual Punishments inflicted.” Parliament also declared that henceforth it was going to be a major political actor; the representatives of the people shall be guaranteed the freedom of speech and debate and that there were to be frequently held elections. Not included, however, in the declaration of rights that Englishmen have are the right to the free exercise of religion and the right to choose their form of government.

The Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges, 1701

The final document in this chapter, the 1701 Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges, was the last and, perhaps, “the most famous of all colonial constitutions.” This charter, also written by William Penn, replaced the original 1682 document as the fundamental law of the colony. (The necessary “Six parts of Seven of the Freemen” requested an amendment to the 1682 Frame of Government.) The new charter, which remained in force for the next one hundred and seventy five years, was designed to be more “suitable to the present Circumstances of the Inhabitants.” The most important structural changes are the provisions for annual county-based elections to a unicameral General Assembly and an enhanced political role for the legislature. Enhanced protection is also given to freedom of conscience. For example, the free exercise of religion clause is placed first, and is unamendable, and religious qualification for holding office is limited to belief in Jesus Christ. Moreover the “offences against God” section of the 1682 charter are absent. Finally, Penn included the right of criminals to have “the same Privileges of Witness and Council as their prosecutors.”

Gordon Lloyd has created a table below highlighting the 26 rights contained in the U.S. Bill of Rights and their colonial heritage and English tradition origin. The table is explained using the commentary given by Gordon Lloyd below.

Commentary

We start off in the first column with the 26 rights contained in the U.S. Bill of Rights. There are two main “root” sources presented in this table for the U.S. Bill of Rights, namely, the colonial heritage and the English tradition. And the question we are looking at is to what extent is the U.S. Bill of Rights dependent on, or derived from, the English past and/or the colonial past?

I have chosen three English documents that are regularly relied on to make the case that there is a direct and strong link between the English inheritance and the U.S. Bill of Rights. Also reproduced are four colonial sources in an attempt to capture the emergence of a separate American Mind, albeit still a colonial mind.

What is surprising, and counter to the usual portrayal that there is a strong and direct reliance of the U.S. Bill of Rights on the English heritage, is that only 7 out of the 26 rights in the U.S. Bill of Rights can be traced back to Magna Carta! Similarly, 7 can be traced to the English Petition of Rights, and 7 to the English Bill of Rights. When we account for duplication among the three sources, the maximum number amounts to 10 of 26. Nevertheless, we still need to remember that 40% is not numerically negligible.

What is indisputable, and also surprising in the opposite direction, is the even stronger relationship between the U.S. Bill of Rights and the Colonial past. 18 of 26, or 70%, can be traced directly to the Colonial tradition. And 15 of 26, or 60%, come from one source alone: the Massachusetts Body of Liberties of 1641!

Even more importantly, there is a distinctively qualitative difference in the emerging Colonial American version of rights. Unique is the emergence of the individual right of religious worship, the political rights of press and assembly, and what became the Sixth Amendment in the U.S Bill of Rights dealing with accusation, confrontation, and counsel. These are home grown.

 

 

 

The English and Colonial Roots of the U.S. Bill of Rights

Click on a column header to view that column’s document.

Content of Bill of Rights
No Established Religion/Favored Sect
Rights of Conscience/Free Exercise
Freedom of Speech
Freedom of Press
Freedom of Assembly
Freedom of Petition
Keep and Bear Arms/Militia
Quartering of Troops
Double Jeopardy
Self Incrimination
Due Process of Law
Takings/Just Compensation
No Excessive Bail and Fines
No Cruel and/or Unusual Punishments
No Unreasonable Searches/Seizures
Speedy/Public Trial in Criminal Cases
Nature of Accusation
Confrontation of Accusers
Compulsory Witness
Assistance of Counsel
Rights Retained by the People
$ Limitation on Appeals
Common Law and Jury Trial
(Local) Impartial Jury for All Crimes
Grand Jury for Loss of Life or Limb
Reservation of Nondelegated Powers
Totals 9 7 16 6 5 6 7 8 8 26

The State Constitution Origins of the U.S. Bill of Rights

Click on a column header to view that column’s document.

Content of Bill of Rights
No Established Religion/Favored Sect
Rights of Conscience/Free Exercise
Freedom of Speech
Freedom of Press
Freedom of Assembly
Freedom to Petition
Keep and Bear Arms/Militia
Quartering of Troops
Double Jeopardy
Self Incrimination
Due Process of Law
Takings/Just Compensation
No Excessive Bail and Fines
No Cruel and/or Unusual Punishments
No Unreasonable Searches/Seizures
Speedy/Public Trial in Criminal Cases
Nature of Accusation
Confrontation of Witnesses
Compulsory Witness
Assistance of Counsel
Rights Retained by the People
$ Limitation on Appeals
Common Law and Jury Trial
(Local) Impartial Jury for All Crimes
Grand Jury for Loss of Life or Limb
Reservation of Nondelegated Powers
Totals 17 6 20 19 17 17 7 8 6 20 20 5 2 5 8

 

 

Introduction

On May 15, 1776, the Second Continental Congress issued a “Resolve” to the thirteen colonial assemblies: “adopt such a government as shall, in the opinion of the representatives of the people, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particular, and America in general.” Between 1776 and 1780, elected representatives met in deliberative bodies–as founders–and chose republican governments. Connecticut and Rhode Island retained their colonial charters, but the other eleven reaffirmed the American covenanting tradition and created governments dedicated to securing rights. What transpired was the most extensive documentation of the rights of the people the world had ever witnessed.

We have reproduced three state constitutions: Virginia, the first to be written and adopted one week prior to the Declaration of Independence; New Jersey, adopted on July 2, 1776, and the first to exclude a prefatory bill of rights; and Pennsylvania, the third constitution adopted and considered the most radical. Together, they capture the diversity and uniformity of the revolutionary conversation over bicameralism, separation of powers, length of service, and how rights were to be secured by a republican frame of government. They express the American covenanting tradition–reinforced by the enlightenment doctrine of natural rights–that it is the right of the people to choose their form of government. These constitutions are practical expressions of the ideal that government ought to be founded on deliberation and consent rather than accident and force.

Seven states attached a prefatory declaration of rights to the frame of government: Virginia (June 1776), Delaware (September 1776), Pennsylvania (September 1776), Maryland (November 1776), North Carolina (December 1776), Massachusetts (March 1780), and New Hampshire (June 1784). These declarations were, in effect, a preamble stating the purposes for which the people have chosen the particular form of government. There is a remarkable uniformity among the seven states with regard to the kinds of civil and criminal rights that were to be secured. The Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts Declarations capture both the similarity, and the subtle differences, given to “the free exercise of religion,” “the establishment of religion,” the freedom of press, the right to petition, the right to bear arms, the quartering of troops, the protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, the centrality of trial by jury, the right to confrontation of witnesses and the right to counsel, the importance of “due process of law,” and the protection against excessive fines and cruel and unusual punishment.

Four of the states decided not to “prefix” a bill of rights to their newly founded republican constitutions: New Jersey (July 1776), Georgia (February 1777), New York (April 1777), and South Carolina (March 1778). Nevertheless, each had prefaces confirming the authority of the covenanting tradition and also incorporated individual protections into the body of their constitutions.

Virginia. The Virginia Declaration of Rights was adopted by the House of Burgesses in June 1776. Among the delegates were George Mason, the most important contributor, and twenty-five-year-old James Madison who drafted the section on the “free exercise of religion.” The “rights” listed in the first five sections might strike the contemporary reader as odd; it is important to remember, however, that among the most fundamental rights articulated by the revolutionary generation was the right of the people to choose their form of government. Sections six through fourteen cover familiar ground. Most of the civil rights and criminal procedures listed were part of the Americanized version of the “rights of Englishmen” tradition. Section fifteen reflects the traditional republican argument that free government could survive only if the people were virtuous. Because colonial America turned to religion to perform this important political function, there was a presumption that religion had an “established” status. In 1776, the Anglican church was the established church of Virginia, and there is nothing in the Virginia Bill of Rights that challenges this establishment. On the other hand, Madison’s natural right argument, incorporated in section sixteen, challenged the public dimension of religion on the ground that the exercise of religion should be “free” of “force or violence.”

The same Convention also framed and adopted the Virginia Constitution. The first, and longest, section anticipates the Declaration of Independence: Twenty-one separate indictments are listed against King George. Section two provides the authorization for establishing a new foundation. Sections three through thirteen pertain to the bicameral legislature; and the remainder focuses on the election of executive officers. Section twenty-one lays the foundation for the Northwest and Southwest Territories.

New Jersey. The 1776 New Jersey Constitution, framed by a convention that met from May 26 through July 3, was the second to be adopted and the first to omit a prefatory Bill of Rights. Nevertheless, the constitution appeals to “the nature of things” and the American covenanting tradition. Moreover, civil rights and criminal procedures are addressed in four of the thirty-nine articles. Article XVI provides that “all criminals shall be admitted to the same privileges of witness and counsel, as their prosecutors doe or shall be entitled to,” and Article XXII confirms the common law tradition with the trial by jury being given permanent protection. Two articles address the issue of religious rights. Article XVIII guarantees to all “the inestimable privilege of worshipping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience,” and proclaims that no one shall ever be obliged to support financially any ministry “contrary to what he believes to be right, or has deliberately or voluntarily engaged himself to perform.” Article XVIX states that there “shall be no establishment of any one religious sect in this Province, in preference to another,” and that all persons of “any Protestant sect…shall fully and freely enjoy every privilege and immunity, enjoyed by others their fellow subjects.” New Jersey was the first state to prohibit the establishment of a specific sect as the official religion.

Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Constitution, prefaced by a Preamble and Declaration of Rights, was framed by a specially-elected convention that met from mid-July to the end of September 1776. Although the document was not submitted to the people for ratification, it expresses the radical dimension of the conversation over what frame of government would best secure the rights of the people: Pennsylvania was the only state to choose a unicameral rather than a bicameral legislature. Although the legislature was very powerful, the constitution calls for an “open” assembly with policymaking taking place under the full scrutiny of an informed electorate. In section forty-seven, the framers created an elected Council of Censors to provide periodic review of the operation of the laws and institutions “in order that the freedom of the commonwealth may be preserved inviolate for ever.” This model was subsequently praised by Jefferson in his Notes on Virginia and criticized by Madison in Federalist 47-51.

John Adams’s 1779 judgment that the Pennsylvania Bill of Rights “is taken almost verbatim from that of Virginia” is correct as far as it concerns the common law tradition. Nevertheless, all sixteen deserve to be reproduced in their entirety in order to appreciate the remarkable uniformity and subtle differences among the states. It is particularly important to note that Pennsylvania repeats the claim that “a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, industry, and frugality are absolutely necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty,” and that only Christians are eligible to hold office. Also noteworthy are the sections dealing with searches and seizures, freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, “the natural inherent right to emigrate,” and the right to assemble.

Delaware. The Delaware Declaration of Rights followed Pennsylvania and appealed to natural rights and the common law tradition. Of particular interest is the concern for the political rights of the people: the right to hold officials accountable, the right to participate in government and to petition for redress of grievances, and the right to no ex post facto laws.

Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Declaration of Rights and Constitution, drafted over a six-month period, was adopted in spring 1780. It was the first to be ratified by the people rather than by the people’s representatives. Actually, the 1780 Constitution was a revised version of the 1778 Constitution rejected in large part because of the absence of a Bill of Rights. The town of Boston declared “that all Forms of Government should be prefaced by a Bill of Rights; in this we find no Mention of any.” Eleven towns also objected to the denial of the right of suffrage to free “negroes, Indians, and mulattoes” in Article V. The Essex Result–the combined judgment of the twelve towns of Essex County reached at a county convention–also expressed concern that the foundation was illegitimate because the people were excluded from the adoption process.

The Massachusetts Preamble confirmed the “right of the people to set up what government they believe will secure their safety, prosperity, and happiness.” The provisions in “Part the First” dealing with search and seizure, self-incrimination, confrontation of witnesses, self-incrimination, cruel and unusual punishments, freedom of press, the right to petition, and that no one shall be deprived of “life, liberty, or estate, but by the judgment of his peers, or the law of the land,” were common among all the states that adopted a Bill of Rights. Massachusetts, also included specific political rights of the people: the right to no ex post facto laws, frequent elections, an independent judiciary, and the right to a strict separation of governmental powers “to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men.” As was the case in Virginia and Pennsylvania, the need for “piety, justice, moderation, temperance, industry, and frugality” was listed in the Bill of Rights. What is distinctive about Massachusetts is that the virtue of the people was to be secured by established religion. The third “right” was that of the citizens to support, financially, the establishment of Protestantism as the public religion. To be sure, no one particular sect would be given preference over another; all were “equally under the protection of the law” and the “free exercise” of religion was protected.

Taken from: http://teachingamericanhistory.org/bor/origins-chart/

Preparing to Teach this Lesson

Prior to teaching this lesson the teacher should cover content related to the Articles of Confederation and its weaknesses. The teacher should familiarize her/himself and students with Madison’s Notes on the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Gordon Lloyd has presented the content of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 as a Four Act Drama. Students and teacher should also be familiar with Ratification of the Constitution, and the Federalist and Antifederalist Debates.

Analyzing primary sources:

If your students lack experience in dealing with primary sources, you might use one or more preliminary exercises to help them develop these skills. The Learning Page at the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress includes a set of such activities. Another useful resource is the Digital Classroom of the National Archives, which features a set of Document Analysis Worksheets. Finally, History Matters offers pages on “Making Sense of Maps” and “Making Sense of Oral History” which give helpful advice to teachers in getting their students to use such sources effectively.

Suggested Activities

Introductory Activity: KWL

Time required for activity: In class activity 20 minutes.

Students will complete a KWL chart to determine what students know about the origins of the U.S. Bill of Rights in relation to English, colonial America, and revolutionary America.

Students should record their responses on the KWL graphic organizer lesson resource. First, students should complete the K column to demonstrate what they know about the origins of the U.S Bill of Rights. The teacher should debrief with students and then provide students time to complete the W portion of the graphic organizer. The W portion of the graphic organizer allows students to reflect on what additional information they would like to know about the origins of the U.S. Bill of Rights. Students should use the tables Content Bill of Rights and State Constitutions and Content Bill of Rights and English and Colonial Roots or the Excel spreadsheet/chart on the Origins of the Bill of Rights to complete the W portion of the graphic organizer.

After the activity on the Origins of U.S. Bill of Rights has been completed, students should complete the L section of the graphic organizer to indicate what they learned about the origins of the U.S. Bill of Rights from analyzing English and colonial America documents and State Constitutions.

Depending on student content vocabulary readiness the teacher may need to review vocabulary used in English and colonial America documents and State Constitutions. One way to review is to use a word wall. The teacher will tell students that the class will be adding several words to the word wall today. Word walls are a literacy strategy that may be used before reading (explicit teaching and modeling), during reading (guided practice) and after reading (guided practice). For guidance on how to use “word walls” with secondary students please see the U.S. Government lesson plan on the CCSSO Adolescent Literacy Toolkit Social Studies page:

http://programs.ccsso.org/projects/adolescent_literacy_toolkit/resources_for_teachers/10620.php

Activity: Structured Academic Controversy

Time required for activity: In class activity three 45-minute class periods or two 45-minute class periods with homework.

The purpose of a Structured Academic Controversy (SAC) is to utilize structure in order to facilitate instructional conversation. Participating in a SAC allows students to actively participate in a conversation/class discussion, develop a deeper understanding about a topic, and reflect on their learning. The topic of debate for this lesson is, “Are the origins of the U.S. Bill of Rights more English, colonial America or revolutionary America?” The lesson will conclude by students responding to a document-based essay question in which students are asked to analyze English documents, colonial America documents, and State Constitutions and justify if the rights within the U.S. Bill of Rights are more inherited from the English and/or Colonial traditions or created during the revolutionary period (1776 – 1787) in the United States.

To prepare for the SAC, the teacher should divide the class into three large groups representing the English, colonial America, and revolutionary America. Each group is responsible for drafting an argument that cites how their group’s historical documents were the most influential in determining the rights included in the U.S. Bill of Rights. The question for the SAC is: Are the rights within the U.S. Bill of Rights more inherited from the English and/or Colonial traditions or created from the revolutionary period (1776 – 1787) in the United States?

Based on group assignment, students will read either the full text, portions of text or summarized text (based on teacher discretion). The English group will read the Magna Carta, Petition of Right, and English Bill of Rights. The Colonist will read: the Massachusetts Body of Liberties, Pennsylvania Frame of Government, and Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges. The American group will read the following Declarations and/or State Constitutions: Virginia Declaration of Rights and Constitution, Constitution of New Jersey, Pennsylvania Bill of Rights, Delaware Declaration of Rights and Constitution, and Declaration and Constitution of Massachusetts.

All summaries are written by Gordon Lloyd and can be accessed from the TeachingAmericanHistory.org Bill of Rights website. In addition to accessing the summaries on the website, relevant portions of the primary source documents have each been included with this lesson in order for teachers to modify them to address different needs of students.

Depending on student content vocabulary readiness the teacher may need to review vocabulary used in English and colonial America documents and State Constitutions. One way to review is to use a word wall. The teacher will tell students that the class will be adding several words to the word wall today. Word walls are a literacy strategy that may be used before reading (explicit teaching and modeling), during reading (guided practice) and after reading (guided practice). For guidance on how to use “word walls” with secondary students please see the U.S. Government lesson plan on the CCSSO Adolescent Literacy Toolkit Social Studies page:

http://programs.ccsso.org/projects/adolescent_literacy_toolkit/resources_for_teachers/10620.php

 

Prior to participating in the SAC, the teacher should review the norms of the SAC.

The Structured Academic Controversy (SAC) Norms

  • Be respectful of each other.
  • Disagree with another person’s position and ideas but don’t be critical of the person.
  • Don’t take criticism of your ideas as a personal attack.
  • Listen to everyone’s ideas, especially if you don’t agree with them.
  • Change your mind when the evidence supports this.
  • Try to understand both sides of the controversy.
  • Understand the position differences before trying to reach consensus.
  • Focus on reaching the best outcome, not on winning.

Preparing for the SAC

(A SAC PowerPoint has been included that summarized the steps and can be shared with students).

Step 1:Preparing your position

In small groups, read your assigned primary source documents based on your role. As a team, agree on the three key documents and JOT DOWN your key arguments supporting your assigned position on the SAC topic. You are preparing to collaboratively present your ideas to the groups opposing your position so use these notes to assist you with your presentation. Final ideas should be summarized on the SAC Handout.

Step 2: Presenting positions and listening for understanding

English, Colonists, and American groups will have 5 minutes to present and explain their key ideas and arguments. When your assigned group is not presenting, group members will LISTEN and TAKE NOTES on the SAC Handout with the goal of understanding the other positions. Once each group has presented their ideas, other group members may ask questions for clarification.

Step 3: Presenting the opposing viewpoint

The “American” group now has 3 minutes to present their understanding of the position and arguments of the “English” group. This is done using notes taken previously on the SAC Handout. “English” group members can clarify as needed.

The “English” group now has 3 minutes to present their understanding of the position and arguments of the “Colonist” group. This is done using notes taken previously on the SAC Handout. “Colonist” group members can clarify as needed.

The “Colonist” group now has 3 minutes to present their understanding of the position and arguments of the “American” group. This is done using notes taken previously on the SAC Handout. “American” group members can clarify as needed.

Step 4: Consensus-Building: Open conversation about the SAC topic within the small group

English, Colonists, and American group members will shed their assigned positions and the group discusses the SAC topic from group members’ individual perspectives. The goals are identifying areas of agreement and disagreement and possible solutions to the SAC topic. Note for teacher: Keep in mind the solution may be that the origins of the Bill of Rights blend the ideas of English, Colonial, and American. After the SAC, students may or may not be completely tied to his/her assigned group related to the origins of the Bill of Rights.

Step 5: Large group discussion of SAC topic and debrief the SAC process

Adapted from: http://teachinghistory.org/teaching-materials/teaching-guides/21731

After completing the activity, students should return to their KWL chart and complete the L portion of the KWL graphic organizer.

Assessment:

After completing this lesson, students should individually be able to write a response to the following question:

                              Origins of the Bill of Rights

English Documents Colonial Documents State Constitutions
Magna Carta Massachusetts Body of Liberties Virginia Declaration of Rights and Constitution
Petition of Right Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges Constitution of New Jersey
English Bill of Rights Pennsylvania Frame of Government Pennsylvania Bill of Rights
Declaration and Constitution of Massachusetts

 

Use the tables Content Bill of Rights and State Constitutions and Content Bill of Rights and English and Colonial Roots or the Excel spreadsheet/chart on the Origins of the Bill of Rights and select three documents from the Origins of the Bill of Rights table above that you feel had the greatest influence on the U.S. Bill of Rights. Analyze the tables and your selected three documents and justify by citing evidence from your selected documents, if the rights within the U.S. Bill of Rights are more inherited from the English and/or Colonial traditions or created from the revolutionary period (1776 – 1787) in the United States.

Scoring Criteria:

Note: A general look-for document has been provided for the teacher highlighting the rights found in English, Colonial, and State Constitutions and their alignment with the U.S. Bill of Rights.

Credit will be fully rewarded if the response:

  1. thoroughly addresses all aspects of the task by accurately interpreting the tables and documents, plus incorporates outside information related to the documents.
  2. discusses all aspects of the task and supports with accurate facts, examples and details.
  3. weighs the importance, reliability and validity of the evidence.
  4. analyzes conflicting perspectives presented in the documents and weaves the documents into the body of the essay.
  5. includes a strong introduction and conclusion.

Credit will be reduced if the response:

  • does not recognize the reliability, validity, or perspectives of the documents.
  • reiterates the content of the documents with little or no use of outside information.
  • discusses the documents in a descriptive rather than analytic manner.
  • shows little recognition of the tasks, lacked an introduction or conclusion.

Extending the Lesson:

Extension 1: Create a visual representation of the 26 rights contained within the Bill of Rights and the origin of each right.

Extension 2: Write an editorial that summarizes the 26 rights included within the Bill of Rights and makes the public question the origins of the rights as more British (English tradition or colonial America) or revolutionary America by citing English, Colonial, and State Constitution historical documents to support your perspective.

Related EDSITEment Lesson Plans:

Selected EDSITEment Websites:

 

Standards Alignment:

      1. NCSS-10

        Civic ideals and practices.

      2. NCSS-5

        Individuals, groups, and institutions.

      3. NCSS-6

        Power, authority, and governance.

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