In this one-week game in the Norton Flashpoints™️ series, students sit as delegates to the New York State Ratifying Convention. The time is June-July 1788; the place is the Poughkeepsie courthouse in the Hudson River Valley. Eight states have ratified to date, but a ninth is needed to give effect to the Constitution. The central issue of the game is democratic representation, presented in three phases of debate and organized around three large questions: What are the qualities and obligations of a representative? How are representatives of the preferred type identified and elected? And by what constitutional measures are representatives kept true to their trust, or speedily removed in the event of corruption? Students divide into Federalists (supporters of the Constitution), Antifederalists (opponents of the Constitution), and Moderates. Besides these three faction roles, delegate roles for 35 players are provided, though their use is optional. After examining all aspects of the representation issue, delegates vote to accept or reject the Constitution drafted in Philadelphia the previous summer--assuming, of course, that ideological divisions do not first blow apart the convention. Core-text readings include selections from The Federalist, "Federal Farmer, "Brutus," and the debates of the New York convention. The game is designed as a Reacting to the Past sampler; accordingly, ease of adoption is its distinguishing feature and primary objective.
Using the Game
Possible Reacting Game Pairings
This game can be used on its own, or with other games. These pairings are meant to be illustrative rather than exhaustive or prescriptive. Raising the Eleventh Pillar may pair well with:
The Moderates take an exam but do not give formal speeches. That's how the game can be completed in two classes (Flashpoints™️) and accommodate any number of students. Moderates debate (optionally) and vote, but they do not write papers or give speeches.
Class Size and Scalability
This game is recommended for classes with 7 to 700 students (i.e., the game has no upper limit on class size).
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.
Role Sheets and Add'l Materials
Students also need a Role Sheet, which contains biographical information, role-specific resources or assignments, and their character's secret victory objectives.
.zip file of .pdf files.
.zip file of .pdf and .pptx files.
John Patrick Coby
John Patrick Coby is the Esther Booth Wiley 1934 Professor of Government at Smith College, 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.
"The subject of representation in a republic is a critical issue that is not often plumbed beyond the surface. This game provides a chance to dig in, in a concentrated fashion, to one of the critical political theory questions ever posed. It carries resonance today (as pointed out at the end of the gamebook) and the structure of the game brings out the issues quickly and thoroughly."
"It also works well at raising the intellectual issues and discussions that are at the heart of Reacting. Though perhaps not a typical Reacting game with individualized roles, I think that’s OK in this situation because the essence of the game is Reacting in terms of intellectual debates that are set in a specific context with real decisions to be made. Being very structured is useful for a short game."
"This is a great companion game to 'The Constitutional Convention.'"