Constitutional Convention Anniversary

The year was 1787. The place: the State House in Philadelphia, the same location where the Declaration of Independence had been signed 11 years earlier. On May 25, a week later than scheduled, delegates from the various states met to frame a Constitution for a federal republic that would last into “remote futurity.” Among the first orders of business was electing George Washington president of the Convention and establishing the rules – including complete secrecy of its deliberations – that would guide the proceedings. For four months, 55 delegates worked out a series of compromises between competing proposals.

A More Perfect Union: America Becomes A Nation is a 1989 American feature film dramatizing the events of the Constitutional Convention. This historically accurate 2-hour film brings the Founding Fathers to life as you become an eyewitness to those stirring, heated debates during the sweltering summer of 1787. Filmed on location at Independence Hall; Williamsburg, Virgina; and other historical sites, it is exciting drama of the best kind – fact, rather than fiction. The film focuses on the viewpoint of James Madison, since the script is based primarily on his writings. These include the copious minutes he took during the Constitutional Convention, which were published as Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787A More Perfect Union was officially recognized by the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution as being “of exceptional merit.”

I was impressed by how interesting this movie is, despite being mostly talking and no action. My favorite part is when the Constitutional Delegates are endlessly squabbling over some petty issue. Finally Ben Franklin stands up and says: “I’ve lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing Proofs I see of this Truth — That God governs in the Affairs of Men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that except the Lord build the House they labor in vain who build it. I firmly believe this, — and I also believe that without his concurring Aid, we shall succeed in this political Building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our Projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a Reproach and Bye word down to future Ages.” He then suggests that they should only continue after prayer. This movie is a great supplement to any course on the Constitution, and it should be required viewing for all students of American history!

Did You Know…? The Constitutional Convention is shown in Episode 40 of Liberty’s Kids.*

You can also find additional resources at the following links:

*Liberty’s Kids – In this animated series, the young central characters – Sarah, James, and Henri – and their friend, Moses, find themselves in the middle of key events leading up to the American Revolution and through the Revolutionary War itself as well as its aftermath. Historically accurate, respectful of our Founding Fathers, and fun to watch, this 6-DVD set is a great introduction to American History!

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