America's Founding Charter
The Constitutional Convention of 1787: Constructing the American Republic has as its subject the most fundamental political-legal event in American history. Students in the game, playing delegates to the Convention, gather in “Philadelphia” to write a new constitution for the United States. Or is it that they gather to amend the already existing constitution, the Articles of Confederation, ratified a mere six years earlier? The job at hand is itself a matter of controversy. Informing the debates are two competing theories of republican government: Country republicanism, with roots in the Classical and Renaissance worlds and in the thought of Aristotle, Machiavelli, Rousseau, etc.—but called Confederalism at the Convention; and Court republicanism, arising from a “new science of politics” developed by authors such as Locke, Montesquieu, Hume, etc.—but called Nationalism at the Convention. The game attempts to teach the entire founding period, and not just the four-month Convention, by allowing, where appropriate, the thought of the ratification period to filter in—e.g., Federalist and Antifederalist writings. Sectional interests, backroom deal making, personal rivalries, foreign intrigue, and the danger of leaks all work to add drama to the proceedings. The game comes in three fully developed versions, differing by length and level of play--Advanced, Intermediate, and Introductory (called Standard). All versions use the same game book.
Using the Game
Possible Reacting Game Pairings
Complete guidance on role assignments can be found in the instructor's guide, and questions can be directed to the game author.
The game comes in three fully developed versions: Standard (Introductory), which has 6 game sessions; Mid-Size (Intermediate), with 8 game sessions; and Full-Size (Advanced), with 14 game sessions.
Reacting Consortium members can access all downloadable materials (including expanded and updated materials) below. You will be asked to sign in before downloading. Basic game materials (Gamebook, Role Sheets, Instructor's Guide, and Handouts) are available to any instructor through the publisher.
Students also need a Role Sheet, which contains biographical information, role-specific resources or assignments, and their character's secret victory objectives.
John Patrick Coby
John Patrick Coby is the Esther Booth Wiley 1934 Professor of Government at Smith College in Massachusetts, where he teaches courses in political theory and American political thought. He is the author of six books and numerous journal articles, book chapters, and book reviews. Included among his books are Socrates and the Sophistic Enlightenment: A Commentary on Plato’s Protagoras; Machiavelli’s Romans: Liberty and Greatness in the Discourses on Livy; and, in the Reacting to the Past Series, The Constitutional Convention of 1787: Constructing the American Republic. At Smith he is the recipient of three teaching prizes: the Smith College Faculty Teaching Award, the Sherrerd Prize for Distinguished Teaching, and the Board of Trustees Honored Professor Award.
"This is a fantastic resource for engaging students in history. I played this game with my 11th grade civics class. The students had a lot of fun. There was competition, intrigue, alliance-breaking and -shattering, and, yes, some deception. While the students are playing, they're also learning. I could have lectured for hours about the relative merits of House terms and bored them to tears. But turn it into a competition, and suddenly THEY are the ones making the arguments!"
"It's working. I'd been feeling like I made a mistake by [using] ConCon asynchronously, but I'm currently a fly on the wall of heated slack deliberations. The arguments are nuanced and well-grounded. They're creating side channels for extra-factional private discussions, and they're cutting deals and brokering compromises. Amazing!"
"Incredible maneuvering, negotiating, compromise, backstabbing, passion, argumentation - a brilliant game session dealing with the composition of the Senate. Terrific roleplay and on-point discussion. If I were a better person, I'd be concerned that my students were up till 4 AM working on their papers and strategizing, sleeping through Organic Chemistry, and outlining strategies in Biotech. But I am not"