Independence Hall: International Symbol of Freedom

exterior of Independence Hall

Photo by Robin Miller. Courtesy Independence National Historical Park.

This lesson is part of the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) program.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The powerful sentiments eloquently expressed in the Declaration of Independence called a new nation into being in July 1776. After months of intense debate in the Assembly Room of the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia, delegates to the Second Continental Congress had at last voted to declare independence. For much of the ensuing Revolutionary War, Congress met and conducted the affairs of the young nation from the State House. In the summer of 1787, when it had become apparent that the Articles of Confederation needed to be revised to allow for a stronger national government, delegates once again gathered in Philadelphia. Despite the stifling summer heat, members of the Constitutional Convention spent four long months hammering out the United States Constitution behind closed doors and windows.

Known today as Independence Hall, the stately, red brick building where our Founding Fathers made a stand against tyranny and later forged a framework for a national government speaks timelessly of freedom, democracy, and the human spirit. The enduring principles and philosophies expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution have inspired numerous countries around the globe over the past two centuries. Recognizing the impact Independence Hall has had on governments worldwide, the United Nations made the building a World Heritage Site in 1979. This designation testifies that Independence Hall is an important part of the world's cultural heritage and deserves to be protected for future generations.

About This Lesson

Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in which Independence Hall is located, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Independence Hall is a World Heritage Site. This lesson is based on the World Heritage List Nomination "Independence Hall," the National Register of Historic Places registration file "Independence National Historical Park" (with photographs), and other materials on Independence Hall and the founding of the United States of America. The lesson was written by Brenda K. Olio, former Teaching with Historic Places historian, and edited by staff of the Teaching with Historic Places program and Independence National Historical Park.

The lesson was made possible by Independence National Historical Park. The staff of the National Park Service's Office of International Affairs provided invaluable assistance in securing this partnership between the national park and the TwHP program. It was published in 2007. The lesson grew out of a desire on the part of the park, the Office of International Affairs, and others to inform the public about the United Nations World Heritage List and also about the importance of recognizing and protecting resources of "outstanding universal value" throughout the world. This lesson is one in a series that brings the important stories of historic places into classrooms across the country.

Where it fits into the curriculum

Time Period: Mid 18th century through early 21st century

Topics: This lesson could be used in American history, social studies, government, civics, and geography courses in units on colonial America, the early National period, American political history, or the global influence of American democratic political ideals. The lesson also could be used in a unit on commemoration or Heritage Conservation.

United States History Standards for Grades 5-12

Independence Hall: International Symbol of Freedom relates to the following National Standards for History:

Era 3: Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)

  • Standard 1A: The student understands the causes of the American Revolution
  • Standard 1B: The student understands the principles articulated in the Declaration of Independence
  • Standard 2A: The student understands revolutionary government-making at national and state levels
  • Standard 3A: The student understands the issues involved in the creation and ratification of the United States Constitution and the new government it established

World History Standards for Grades 5-12

Independence Hall: International Symbol of Freedom relates to the following National Standards for History:

Era 7: An Age of Revolutions, 1750-1914

  • Standard 1A: The student understands how the French Revolution contributed to transformations in Europe and the world (including how the American Revolution affected social and political conditions in France)
  • Standard 1B: The student understands how Latin American countries achieved independence in the early 19th century
  • Standard 6: The student understands major global trends from 1750 to 1914

Era 8: A Half-Century of Crisis and Achievement, 1900-1945

  • Standard 2B: The Student understands the global scope, outcome, and human costs of World War I

Curriculum Standards for Social Studies

(National Council for the Social Studies)

Independence Hall: International Symbol of Freedom relates to the following Social Studies Standards:

Theme I: Culture

  • Standard A: The student compares similarities and differences in the ways groups, societies, and cultures meet human needs and concerns.
  • Standard B: The student explains how information and experiences may be interpreted by people from diverse cultural perspectives and frames of reference.
  • Standard C: The student explains and gives examples of how language, literature, the arts, architecture, other artifacts, traditions, beliefs, values, and behaviors contribute to the development and transmission of culture.

Theme II: Time, Continuity, & Change

  • Standard B: The student identifies and uses key concepts such as chronology, causality, change, conflict, and complexity to explain, analyze, and show connections among patterns of historical change and continuity.
  • Standard C: The student identifies and describes selected historical periods and patterns of change within and across cultures, such as the rise of civilizations, the development of transportation systems, the growth and breakdown of colonial systems, and others.
  • Standard E: The student develops critical sensitivities such as empathy and skepticism regarding attitudes, values, and behaviors of people in different historical contexts.

Theme III: People, Places, & Environments

  • Standard A: The student elaborates mental maps of locales, regions, and the world that demonstrate understanding of relative location, direction, size, and shape.

  • Standard H: The student examines, interprets, and analyzes physical and cultural patterns and their interactions, such as land uses, settlement patterns, cultural transmission of customs and ideas, and ecosystem changes.

Theme IV: Individual Development & Identity

  • Standard B: The student describes personal connections to place - as associated with community, nation, and world.
  • Standard C: The student describes the ways family, gender, ethnicity, nationality, and institutional affiliations contribute to personal identity.
  • Standard E: The student identifies and describes ways regional, ethnic, and national cultures influence individuals' daily lives.
  • Standard H: The student works independently and cooperatively to accomplish goals.

Theme V: Individuals, Groups, & Institutions

  • Standard B: The student analyzes group and institutional influences on people, events, and elements of culture.
  • Standard C: The student describes the various forms institutions take and the interactions of people with institutions.
  • Standard E: The student identifies and describes examples of tensions between belief systems and government policies and laws.
  • Standard F: The student describes the role of institutions in furthering both continuity and change.
  • Standard G: The student applies knowledge of how groups and institutions work to meet individual needs and promote the common good.

Theme VI: Power, Authority, & Governance

  • Standard A: The student examines persistent issues involving the rights, roles, and status of the individual in relation to the general welfare.
  • Standard B: The student describes the purpose of government and how its powers are acquired, used, and justified.
  • Standard E: The student identifies and describes the basic features of the political system in the United States.
  • Standard F: The student explains conditions, actions, and motivations that contribute to conflict and cooperation within and among nations.
  • Standard I: The student gives examples of how governments attempt to achieve their stated ideals at home and abroad.

Theme IX: Global Connections

  • Standard B: The student analyzes examples of conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among groups, societies, and nations.
  • Standard F: The student demonstrates understanding of concerns, standards, issues, and conflicts related to universal human rights.
  • Standard G: The student identifies and describes the roles of international and multinational organizations.

Theme X: Civic Ideals & Practices

  • Standard A: The student examines the origins and continuing influence of key ideals of the democratic republican form of government, such as individual human dignity, liberty, justice, equality, and the rule of law.
  • Standard B: The student identifies and interprets sources and examples of the rights and responsibilities of citizens.
  • Standard D: The student practices forms of civic discussion and participation consistent with the ideals of citizens in a democratic republic.
  • Standard F: The student identifies and explains the roles of formal and informal political actors in influencing and shaping public policy and decision-making.
  • Standard J: The student examines strategies designed to strengthen the "common good," which consider a range of options for citizen action.

Objectives for students

1. To examine the results of the Second Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia;
2. To explain the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and consider the global impact of both documents;
3. To describe the significance of Independence Hall and its nomination as a World Heritage Site;
5. To find and conduct research on local government buildings.

Materials for students

The materials listed below can either be used directly on the computer or can be printed out, photocopied, and distributed to students.
1. Two maps showing the 13 colonies and Philadelphia in the colonial period;
2. Three readings describing the history of Independence Hall and the World Heritage Convention;
3. Images of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and partial transcripts;
4. Three photos of Independence Hall today;
5. One painting of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Visiting the site

Independence Hall is located within Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The park is open daily with the exception of Christmas day. A visit to Independence National Historical Park should start at the Independence Visitor Center located at 6th and Market Streets. Here you can pick up a park brochure, park map, and free timed tickets for guided tours of Independence Hall. For more information, visit the park's website.

Getting Started

Inquiry Question

Painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence

Trumbull Collection, Yale University Art Gallery. Photo courtesy WikiMedia Commons.

What do you think is being depicted in this painting?

Setting the Stage

To a large extent, the history of colonial America was defined by a struggle between European powers for control. The desire of both Great Britain and France to dominate territory in North America culminated in the French and Indian War (1754-63). This conflict began in America, but spread to Europe in 1756 where it was referred to as the Seven Years' War. Although Great Britain emerged victorious, the country was severely in debt. King George III decided to make the American colonies pay taxes on goods shipped to America such as sugar, paper, and tea as a way to raise money to help pay for the war. Colonists responded by refusing to buy British products. The King eventually repealed all taxes on British goods except tea, but colonists continued to protest. After the famous Boston Tea Party in 1773, when colonists dumped 342 chests of British tea into the harbor rather than pay taxes on it, the King sent soldiers to Boston to close the port. Other colonies sympathized with the situation in Boston and sent money, food, and supplies. Over the next several months, the relationship between the colonies and Great Britain continued to deteriorate.

In September 1774, 55 delegates (men chosen to represent the majority in each colony) gathered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to discuss taxation and the growing rift with Great Britain. The delegates at this meeting, known as the First Continental Congress, wrote a letter to the King listing their complaints and asserting their rights as British subjects. Before adjourning, the delegates recommended that a second meeting take place in Philadelphia the following spring. The King refused to acknowledge the colonies' concerns, and by the time the Second Continental Congress convened at the Pennsylvania State House in May 1775, armed conflict had already erupted at Lexington and Concord.

The Pennsylvania State House, the building we know today as Independence Hall, witnessed the creation of the United States of America. It was in the Assembly Room of this building that members of the Second Continental Congress debated and signed the Declaration of Independence. A decade later, after securing independence by winning the Revolutionary War, delegates to the Constitutional Convention formulated the Constitution in the same room. These documents, hallmarks of democratic ideals and freedom, have not only shaped the United States, but have served as an example for numerous countries struggling for governmental change. In recognition of the role Independence Hall played in influencing governments worldwide, the United Nations inscribed the building on its list of World Heritage Sites in 1979. This designation means that Independence Hall is considered to be an important part of the world's culture and deserves to be protected now and for future generations.

Locating the Site

Map 1: The Thirteen Colonies

Map of the thirteen colonies with roads and significant cities from the time marked

Approximately 2.5 million people lived in the 13 British colonies by 1775. The colonies were grouped into three basic sections: New England (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island); middle colonies (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland); and southern colonies (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia). Colonists considered themselves British subjects first and Virginians, New Englanders, etc. second. They did not think of themselves as "Americans" at this time.

By 1775, Pennsylvania's population had reached about 300,000—the largest of any colony except Virginia. Philadelphia, with 30,000 people, was the largest city in the colonies. Many delegates to the Second Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention had to travel long distances to reach Philadelphia. Those traveling by land would use the post roads, shown in red on this map. The 800-mile trip from Georgia could take two or three weeks.

Questions for Map 1
1) Why do you think most colonists considered themselves "British" as opposed to "American" in 1775?
2) Shade in the three sections of the colonies using different colors. In which section is Pennsylvania located?
3) Locate Philadelphia. Why might the city have been chosen to host the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention?
4) What means of travel would have been available to delegates to get to Philadelphia? How long might it have taken delegates from the South to reach the city? What do you think this indicates about the degree of interest in the issues being considered?
5) Approximately how many miles is it from your city to Philadelphia? How long might it take you to get there by car today?

Locating the Site

Map 2: Plan of the city and environs of Philadelphia, 1777

Map depicting Philadelphia and the surrounding area

Courtesy Independence National Historical Park

William Penn founded Philadelphia in 1682 as the capital of Pennsylvania. By 1710, this simple Quaker town had grown into the largest city in the colonies. By the time of the Revolutionary War, the city was among the largest in the entire British Empire as well as the wealthiest and most cosmopolitan city in North America. Furthermore, Philadelphia was the biggest port on the coast and located approximately in the middle of the colonies.

The city boasted 6,000 houses, 33 churches, 10 newspapers, and 300 shops laid out in an orderly grid pattern along the banks of the Delaware River.1 While typical colonial streets were made of dirt, many of Philadelphia's streets were made of cobblestone or brick and lined with street lamps to light the city at night. The State House, where the Second Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention met, was an impressive brick building constructed to house the colonial government of Pennsylvania.

1 Joy Hakim, From Colonies to Country: 1710-1791 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 158.

Questions for Map 2
1) What natural features form the east-west boundaries of the city?
2) How would you describe Philadelphia at the time of the Revolutionary War?
3) Do you think Philadelphia was a logical place for the delegates to meet? Explain your answer.
4) Why might this 1777 map of Philadelphia have included a drawing of the State House? What do you think this suggests about the importance of the building?

Determining the Facts

Reading 1: American Democracy Takes Shape

As called for at the end of the First Continental Congress, the Second Continental Congress gathered in the Assembly Room of the Pennsylvania State House on May 10, 1775. The purpose of this meeting was to further discuss the colonies' deteriorating relationship with Great Britain. The delegates quickly named John Hancock from Massachusetts as president of the Congress and George Washington as commanding general of the Continental Army. In April, a colonial militia already had begun fighting British soldiers at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. In August, the delegates sent the Olive Branch Petition to King George III in which they claimed that the King's ministers in the colonies were corrupt and had forced the colonists to fight. The colonists urged the King to put an end to the fighting and return to peace. Rather than agree with the colonists, King George instead declared that the colonies were in rebellion.

Despite the King's refusal of the Olive Branch Petition and increased fighting between colonists and British soldiers, by the following spring colonists still did not agree on whether they should separate from Great Britain. Many still considered themselves loyal British subjects who were trying to show the government that they deserved the same rights as any man living in Great Britain. On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia put forth a resolution urging the Congress to declare independence once and for all. When the delegates still could not agree, they postponed further discussion of the resolution for a few weeks.

In the meantime, Congress appointed a committee to draft a declaration stating why the American colonies were entitled to form an independent nation. The committee consisted of five delegates: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman. Written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, the document included three parts: reasons why America should sever ties with Great Britain, a list of wrongdoings the King had committed against America, and the statement that America was hereafter an independent nation. Jefferson's eloquent words turned the colonies' complaints over issues such as taxes and trade restrictions into a struggle for universal human rights. Jefferson's draft included a harsh condemnation of the slave trade and of the King for supporting it, but the final version omitted that language. On July 2, 12 colonies voted to adopt Lee's resolution for independence (New York did not vote until weeks later). On July 4, the delegates adopted the Declaration of Independence knowing that it was an act of treason punishable by death.

After making the decision to formally separate from Great Britain, the Second Continental Congress continued to meet in the State House, but now focused on fighting the war and building a new nation. Congress spent a lot of time trying to find ways to pay for the new Continental Army, which was in desperate need of basic supplies, uniforms, and even shoes. Ambassadors went to France, Spain, Holland, and other nations seeking help. At home, Congress worked on creating a formal agreement among the colonies that would bind them together into one nation. Delegates adopted the resulting Articles of Confederation at the State House in 1777, although it was not ratified by all 13 states until 1781. They carefully crafted the Articles to make sure that a central government did not have too much power. After the experiences with Great Britain, those shaping the new nation wanted to establish a government that was powerful enough to accomplish tasks, but did not take away the liberties of the individual colonies. The first article gave the colonies their new collective name: the United States of America.

Although fighting essentially ceased in late October 1781, the Revolutionary War did not officially end until April 15, 1783, when Congress ratified the peace treaty. Great Britain had at last agreed to withdraw British troops and recognize America as an independent nation. Soon after, Congress left Philadelphia and convened first in New Jersey and then New York. Although the Articles of Confederation had served its purpose of binding the states together, its many weaknesses soon became apparent. Congress had so little authority that the decisions they made could be easily ignored by individuals and the states. The Articles essentially treated each state as an individual nation, so the new central government had no power to collect taxes, control trade, or oversee the general affairs of the country. Once it became clear that a stronger national government with power to act on behalf of all the states was necessary, congressional delegates called for a special meeting or convention to discuss ways to revise the Articles.

In May 1787, 55 delegates from 12 states (Rhode Island declined to participate) met at the Pennsylvania State House to revise the Articles of Confederation. Many of the delegates to what became known as the Constitutional Convention were lawyers and doctors, some were merchants, and a few were farmers. The group included many of the most talented and well respected men in America. Twenty-nine of the delegates had college degrees at a time when few Americans were well-educated. Three-fourths of the men had served in the Continental Congress. As the first order of business, the delegates selected George Washington as president of the convention. They established that each state would have one vote and a majority would rule. All discussions and actions were to be kept secret until finalized, so doors and windows were closed tight despite the stifling summer heat. For the next four months, delegates argued long and hard over how to reshape the government.

Edmund Randolph of Virginia presented a plan that called for the national government to have three parts, or branches: an executive branch with a president to lead the government; a legislative branch with a Congress to make laws; and a judicial branch with a court system to enforce laws. After serious debate, the delegates decided to use this Virginia Plan as the foundation for creating a new government rather than merely revising the Articles of Confederation. There remained, however, many details to iron out.

One particularly contentious issue centered on how many congressional representatives each state would be allowed. Should Rhode Island, the smallest state with the least population, have the same voting power as a large, more populated state like Virginia? In mid-July, delegates agreed to a solution presented by Roger Sherman of Connecticut. Under the Great Compromise, the legislative branch would include two houses: the Senate would consist of two members per state, and the House of Representatives would elect members based on each state's population. More conflict arose, however, when southern states wanted to include enslaved people in their population totals. Northern states argued that if slaves were considered legal property, they should be counted for taxation purposes, but not representation. Under the resulting Three-fifths Compromise, delegates determined that every enslaved person would be counted as three-fifths of a person for both representation in the House of Representatives and for taxation.

Tensions continued to run high between large and small states and northern and southern ones. The slave trade sparked heated debate. Although several states had abolished the slave trade and slavery, southern states maintained that slavery was integral to their economic survival. In the end, delegates agreed that Congress could not make any laws regarding the importation of enslaved people until 1808. This compromise also stipulated that escaped enslaved people would have to be returned to their owners. While the compromises regarding slavery allowed delegates to move forward with drafting the Constitution, they harmed enslaved people and would lead to serious consequences for future generations.

The delegates then set to work defining the powers of the three branches of government and establishing checks and balances to make sure no branch could ever have complete power over the other two. Presidential elections and terms soon proved to be a stumbling block. Delegates argued over whether the president should be elected directly by the people or by the legislature. After many proposals, they decided that electors, chosen from each state in a manner directed by the state legislatures, would vote by ballot for presidential candidates. The man with the most votes would become president for a term of four years, and the man with the second highest votes would be vice-president.

Finally, after months of intense arguments and numerous compromises, enough delegates agreed on a final draft on September 17, 1787. They had decided that at least nine of the 13 states would have to approve or ratify the Constitution in order for it to become valid. Each state held conventions and voted on whether or not to accept it. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify it, and the Constitution became official. The nation at last had a framework that would allow individual states with different interests and needs to cooperate and function together as one united nation. George Washington wrote in a letter that the creation of the Constitution was "little short of a miracle."1 Once the Constitution was ratified, Congress arranged for the first national election and set March 4, 1789 as the date that the new government would officially begin.

1 Joy Hakim, From Colonies to Country: 1710-1791 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 184.

Reading 1 was compiled from David and Patricia Armentrout, The Constitution (Vero Beach, Fla.: Rourke Publishing LLC, 2005); Joy Hakim, From Colonies to Country: 1710-1791 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); Edward M. Riley, The Story of Independence Hall (Gettysburg, Penn: Thomas Publications, rep. 1990); Jay Schleifer, Our Declaration of Independence (Brookfield, Conn.: The Millbrook Press, 1992); and Sandra Steen and Susan Steen, Independence Hall (New York: Dillon Press, 1994).

Questions for Reading 1
1) What was the Olive Branch Petition? Why do you think it received its name? What was the result?
2) What are the three parts of the Declaration of Independence?
3) What are the Articles of Confederation? What were some of its weaknesses?
4) Why did delegates originally convene in Philadelphia in May 1787? What was the result of the Constitutional Convention?
5) How did the delegates deal with the issue of slavery? What were some of the other issues that caused heated debates among the delegates? How did the delegates resolve these debates?

Determining the Facts

Document 1: The Declaration of Independence (Partial Transcript)

Thomas Jefferson based many of his political ideas on the writings of European Enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke and Montesquieu. Like these scholars, Jefferson asserted that governments must represent the governed and protect man's natural rights of life and liberty.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. - Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world. [The Declaration goes on to list 27 grievances against the King.]

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. - And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The National Archives’ webpage, “America’s Founding Documents” has photographs and a full transcript of the Declaration of Independence.

Questions for Document 1
1) What is the purpose of government according to the Declaration? What are the major situations it identifies as justification for overthrowing a government?
2) Why did the colonies feel justified in separating from Great Britain? How did the colonies attempt to resolve differences before deciding to establish a separate nation?
3) If you had been a member of an enslaved or free black family at this time, what might you have thought about the language of the Declaration? How real would claims of natural rights, equal rights, and the blessings of liberty have seemed in your life?
4) Briefly paraphrase each excerpt. What is the general tone of the document?

Determining the Facts

Document 2: The United States Constitution (Partial Transcript)

The Constitution outlines specific rules for the operation of the government. The 4,543-word document contains a brief introduction or Preamble followed by seven articles. Articles I-III detail the role of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. Article IV explains that each state must honor the laws of all other states. Article V outlines how the Constitution can be changed or amended. Article VI establishes the Constitution as the highest law of the nation. Article VII establishes that nine states must ratify the Constitution in order for it to become official.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Article I
Section 1

All legislative powers, herein granted, shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Section 2
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second year by all the people of the several States….

Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states…according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons…three fifths of all other persons.

The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other officers, and shall have the sole power of impeachment.

Section 3
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.

The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside; and no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the members present.

Section 7
Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate shall, before it becomes a law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approve he shall sign it; but if not, he shall return it, with his objections, to that House in which it shall have originated….If after such reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent…to the other House…and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become law.

Section 8
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States….

Section 9
The migration or importation of such persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.

Article II
Section 1

The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years….

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress….

Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States; and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend, the Constitution of the United States."

Section 2
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States….

Section 4
The President, Vice-President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Article III
Section 1

The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such Inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

Article IV
Section 4

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion….

Article V
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution….

Article VI
…This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land….

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Article VII
The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.

Questions for Document 2
1) According to the Preamble, why was the Constitution established?
2) What examples can you find in the excerpts that illustrate some of the compromises reached during the Constitutional Convention?
3) Why do you think delegates made sure to allow for amendments or changes to be made to the Constitution? Find out how many times the Constitution has been amended over the years.
4) Based on Reading 1, how would you define the phrase "checks and balances"? What examples can you find in the excerpts?
5) What do you think the delegates meant when they called the Constitution the "supreme Law of the Land"?
6) What is the general tone of the Constitution? How does the tone differ from that of the Declaration of Independence? What do you think accounts for this difference?

Determining the Facts

Reading 2: From State House to World Heritage Site

History of Independence Hall
Construction began on the Pennsylvania State House about 1732 and continued through the 1740s. Prior to its construction, the Pennsylvania Assembly had conducted the colony's affairs by meeting in private homes and taverns. The Assembly moved into the impressive new building in September 1735 while construction was still underway. At the time, the State House was considered the most ambitious public building in the colonies. The first floor included two chambers–one for the Supreme Court and one for the Assembly. The upper floor housed a chamber for the Governor and his advisors as well as a gallery to serve as a waiting room and a space for public entertainment. Covered walkways called arcades connected the main structure to two wing buildings–the east wing held public documents and the west wing held books on the upper floor. In 1750, the Assembly authorized the addition of a bell tower. By 1753, the tower and wooden steeple were complete and a bell bearing the inscription, "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof…" was hung.

When delegates to the Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia in May 1775, the Assembly Room of the State House provided a suitable meeting place. The Continental Congress continued to meet here and conduct the business of the new nation for much of the Revolutionary War. From September 1777 until June 1778, however, British forces occupied Philadelphia and forced Congress to relocate. While using the State House as a hospital and troop quarters, British soldiers damaged the building and destroyed much of the furnishings. After the occupation, the State Assembly repaired the building and remodeled the second floor to create a space to conduct business while the Congress continued to use the Assembly Room. The wooden steeple above the brick tower was removed because of decay, and the brick tower was covered with a low roof. In June 1783, angry soldiers demanding back pay surrounded the State House and forced Congress to leave Pennsylvania. No longer needed to house the national government, the State House underwent general repairs and alterations before the Pennsylvania Assembly resumed meeting in the Assembly Room. Four years later, however, the Assembly again temporarily gave up the use of its chamber to the members of the Constitutional Convention.

From 1790 to 1800, Philadelphia again served as the seat of the national government while a permanent capital city was being built on the Potomac River. During this period, Congress met in nearby Congress Hall (built in 1787-1789) rather than in the State House. In 1799, the government of Pennsylvania moved to Lancaster, and the following year the Federal Government moved to its new home in Washington, D.C. In 1802, artist Charles Willson Peale received permission to modify the State House and rent the second floor and the Assembly Room to display his natural history collection and portraits of founders of American government, military heroes, and men of science and letters.

In 1812, the State allowed City authorities to tear down the wing buildings and replace them with two large fireproof office wings. In 1816, the City purchased the entire block on which Independence Hall stood from the State, thus saving it from possible destruction by private developers. At the time, however, the building was not revered for its association with the founding of the United States. That began to change in 1824, when the Marquis de Lafayette visited Philadelphia as part of an extensive tour of the United States. At the age of 20, the French officer Lafayette had served under George Washington during the Revolutionary War and developed a life-long friendship with the future president. Preparations for elaborate ceremonies to be held in the Assembly Room during Lafayette's visit drew attention to its state of disrepair and sparked interest in restoring the room and honoring the memory of the American Revolution. It was during this period that the Assembly Room was first referred to as the "Hall of Independence" and the State House yard was named Independence Square.1

In 1828, the City began an effort to restore the building by hiring architect William Strickland to rebuild the wooden steeple. The new steeple followed the general design of the original, but included a clock face on each side. In 1831 the City hired an architect to restore the Hall of Independence "to its ancient form."2 The building was used to exhibit paintings and entertain distinguished visitors to the city. In 1852, the City decided to celebrate July 4 each year in the "said State House, known as Independence Hall."3 This is the first recorded use of the term Independence Hall to denote the whole building. In 1854 the Mayor of Philadelphia opened the Assembly Room to the public, filled with more than 100 oil portraits from Peale's collection.

As plans to commemorate the 1876 Centennial unfolded, Independence Hall received even more attention. Members of a Centennial committee located and brought back furniture thought to have been used in the Assembly Room in 1776. Over the next 20 years, the building served as a museum of Revolutionary War period artifacts. In the 1890s, when the last City offices moved out of the building, interest in restoring the whole building to the period of the Revolution mounted, and a more accurate and extensive restoration occurred. During this time, the 1812 office buildings were removed and replaced by wings and arcades which resembled the original 18th-century design.

In the early 20th century, the City of Philadelphia oversaw the restoration of other historic buildings on Independence Square such as Congress Hall and the Supreme Court Building. In 1942, a group of citizens established the Independence Hall Association. The Association campaigned tirelessly to achieve recognition and protection of Independence Hall and the surrounding buildings. On June 28, 1948, Congress created Independence National Historical Park "…for the purpose of preserving for the benefit of the American people as a national historical park certain historical structures and properties of outstanding national significance located in Philadelphia and associated with the American Revolution and the founding and growth of the United States…."4 The City of Philadelphia continues to own the Independence Hall group of buildings, but the National Park Service operates and maintains them.

Even after the park was officially established, it took millions of dollars and years of work to restore the area. The country's Bicentennial in 1976 was the impetus for a major effort. Independence Hall, the primary historic structure within the park, was painstakingly analyzed and restored. Teams of experts carefully studied 18th-century drawings and documents as well as analyzed paint layers and other physical evidence to help unravel the physical history of the building. This time-consuming effort resulted in the recreation of Independence Hall visitors know today.

Worldwide Influence
More than 600,000 people visit Independence Hall each year. This landmark is revered not just by citizens of the United States, but by people around the world because of its association with the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. In 1821, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "The flames kindled on the Fourth of July, 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism; on the contrary, they will consume these engines and all who work them."5 Indeed, the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution are recognized for inspiring political thinkers in many parts of the world. Leaders of many nations have adapted the concepts, wording, or spirit of these documents to suit their own circumstances and goals.

The Declaration of Independence has served as inspiration for colonies striving for freedom from colonial powers and for groups who hope to change the framework of their governments. Its influence has been felt in Europe as well as Latin America and beyond. For example, in 1898, the Declaration of Independence of the First Philippine Republic from Spain set forth principles and language very similar to the U.S. Declaration. In 1903, Sun Yat-sen of China came to the United States to seek support for a revolution in his country. He put together a pamphlet which listed grievances against the imperial government much like the list Jefferson put forth in 1776. During and after World War I, many nationalities wanted the right to govern themselves. A conference of Eastern European leaders actually met in Independence Hall in 1918 and produced the "Declaration of Common Aims of the Independent Mid-European Nations" which had a similar form and style to our Declaration of Independence. In 1945, Ho Chi Minh referred to the universal applicability of the U.S. Declaration's principles in the opening of the Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

The United States Constitution has had a lasting global impact as well. Several nations have closely studied the U.S. document and paraphrased portions of it and adopted similar principles. In Europe, the draft of the French Constitution (1793) used the United States Constitution as a source of inspiration as did the Constitution of the Second French Republic. Venezuela's 1811 Constitution incorporates parts almost verbatim, and the Constitutions of Mexico (1824) and Uruguay (1830) similarly illustrate careful consultation of the United States Constitution. When Brazil became a republic in 1889, it was renamed the United States of Brazil, and its Constitution carries the same sentiments as ours. The Preamble to the United Nations Charter (1945) mimics that of our Constitution, beginning "We the Peoples."

To honor the role Independence Hall has played in promoting the ideals of freedom and democracy, the United Nations designated the building a World Heritage Site in 1979. Only sites deemed to be of outstanding universal significance receive this recognition. According to the World Heritage List nomination for Independence Hall, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution "enunciate enduring as well as universal principles and eloquently express mankind's aspirations for justice and freedom. The two charters have transcended the particular circumstances of their creation and any deficiencies in their scope or application to become part of the political and philosophical heritage of the world."6

1 Charlene Mires, Independence Hall in American Memory (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002), 72.
2 Edward M. Riley, The Story of Independence Hall (Gettysburg: Thomas Publications, 1990), 43.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid., 51.
5 Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1821. As quoted on the National Archives and Records Administration's Charters of Freedom web page.
6 "Independence Hall" World Heritage List Nomination, 1979, 18.

Reading 2 was compiled from Independence: A Guide to Independence National Historical Park (Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, 1982); "Independence Hall" World Heritage List Nomination, 1979; Joy Hakim, From Colonies to Country: 1710-1791 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); Charlene Mires, Independence Hall in American Memory (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002); Edward M. Riley, The Story of Independence Hall (Gettysburg, Penn: Thomas Publications, rep. 1990); Sandra Steen and Susan Steen, Independence Hall (New York: Dillon Press, 1994); Anna Coxe Toogood, "Independence National Historical Park" (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1984; and Russell F. Weigley, ed. Philadelphia: A 300-Year History (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1982).

Questions for Reading 2
1) For what purpose was the State House built? What role did it play in the formation of the United States?
2) What were the major events in the history of the State House? Create a time line covering these events.
3) What event first prompted interest in restoring Independence Hall? Why do you think this event had such an impact?
4) What are some examples of the global impact of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution?
5) When was Independence Hall designated a World Heritage Site? Based on what you have learned, why do you think Independence Hall received this honor?

Determining the Facts

Reading 3: The World Heritage Convention

The World Heritage Convention is an international treaty intended to identify and help conserve natural and cultural sites of global significance. These sites are officially recognized by inclusion in the World Heritage List. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)—a specialized agency of the United Nations—maintains this list. Established in 1945, UNESCO's purpose is "to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture."1

UNESCO launched its first international campaign to protect an important heritage site in the late 1950s. At that time, ancient temples of Egypt were in danger of being submerged by the creation of a dam on the Nile River. Under UNESCO's direction, 50 countries came together and donated a total of $80 million to save the site. Ultimately the temples were dismantled and re-erected out of the reach of the flood waters. This extraordinary campaign demonstrated that some sites are so valuable that they form part of the common heritage of mankind. The project also showed that the peoples of the world acknowledged responsibility for protecting such important sites.

As a result of the project in Egypt, UNESCO partnered with the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) to prepare a document on the importance of protecting the world's cultural heritage. The United States and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) proposed combining the conservation of cultural and natural sites. On November 16, 1972, the General Conference of UNESCO adopted the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. The aim of the Convention is to "protect, conserve, preserve and transmit cultural and natural heritage of outstanding universal value to future generations." The phrase "outstanding universal value" means that the disappearance of such sites through natural disasters, war, increased urbanization, and simple neglect would be an irreplaceable loss for the entire world. The Convention strongly asserted that it is our moral and financial obligation to protect this common heritage through international co-operation.

The Convention was the first comprehensive international document calling attention to the urgent need to identify and protect our cultural and natural heritage. To facilitate these activities, it established the World Heritage List and created the World Heritage Committee to implement the ideas expressed in the Convention. The World Heritage Convention outlines a practical procedure for helping to protect important sites. Participating countries, referred to as State Parties, agree to assume responsibility for identifying, nominating, and protecting important sites, with the assistance and support of the World Heritage Committee. Furthermore, the Convention set up the World Heritage Fund to provide financial assistance to World Heritage Sites. State Parties and various organizations or individuals contribute to this fund.

The World Heritage Committee defined cultural heritage sites as monuments, groups of buildings, and sites. These sites must meet at least one of the following criteria to be considered of outstanding universal significance.

Sites should:
1. represent a masterpiece of human creative genius (e.g. the Taj Mahal, India); or
2. exhibit an important interchange of human values…on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design (e.g. the Acropolis, Greece); or
3. bear a unique…testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization (e.g. the Great Wall, China); or
4. be an outstanding example of a type of building or architectural or technological ensemble or landscape… (e.g. Historic Centre of Florence, Italy); or
5. be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement or land use… (e.g. Jesuit Missions, Bolivia); or
6. be associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance (e.g. the Statue of Liberty, United States).

If a country believes it possesses sites that fit the criteria and would like the sites to be considered for inclusion on the World Heritage List, it must take the following steps:
1. become a State Party by signing the World Heritage Convention and pledging to protect their cultural and natural heritage.
2. prepare a tentative list of cultural and natural heritage sites in its territory that it believes are of outstanding universal value.
3. select sites from its tentative list for nomination to the World Heritage List.
4. send a completed nomination form to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre for each site proposed. The nomination must justify why the site is universally important (according to criteria established by the World Heritage Committee) and must prove that the site is well protected and managed.

Upon receiving a completed nomination form, the World Heritage Centre forwards it to ICOMOS for evaluation. ICOMOS experts then visit the site, determine if it meets the appropriate criteria, and make an evaluation report. The 21 members of the World Heritage Committee review both the nomination and the ICOMOS report and participate in an examination of the nomination, as presented by representatives of ICOMOS, at the Committee's annual meeting. The Committee then decides whether or not to inscribe the site on the World Heritage List. A similar process is applied for natural site nominations.

World Heritage conservation is an ongoing process. New sites are added to the World Heritage List each year, but existing sites also are monitored. State Parties provide reports on the status of World Heritage Sites, and any sites that are seriously threatened are placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger. This step is intended to bring international attention to the need for ongoing protection of the site.

By 2006, there were 830 sites in 138 State Parties on the World Heritage List. Of these, 644 are cultural, 162 natural, and 24 are mixed properties that meet the criteria for both natural and cultural sites. The United States has had 20 sites inscribed on the World Heritage List. The designation of Independence Hall, one of only eight U.S. cultural sites on the list, testifies to the building's global impact and its significant place in world history.

1 As cited in the Constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, adopted in London on November 16, 1945.

Reading 3 was compiled from Breda Pavlic, Elizabeth Khawajkie, and Sarah Titchen, World Heritage in Young Hands: To Know, Cherish, and Act (UNESCO, 1998) and UNESCO's World Heritage web pages (

Questions for Reading 3
1) What is the World Heritage Convention? What event prompted its establishment?
2) In your own words, briefly describe how a site is added to the World Heritage List.
3) Do you agree that the significance of some cultural and natural sites reaches beyond the country in which it is located and extends to the global community? Explain your answer.
4) Do you agree that it is important for the global community to work together to identify and protect cultural and natural resources? Why or why not? What might have happened to sites like Independence Hall if efforts were not made to restore and protect them?
5) Which World Heritage List criteria do you think Independence Hall meets? Explain your answer.

Visual Evidence

Photo 1: Independence Hall, north facade

exterior of Independence Hall

Photo by Robin Miller. Courtesy Independence National Historical Park.

At the time of its construction in the 1730s, the Pennsylvania State House was the largest public building in Philadelphia. The five-part plan includes a 105-foot long main block, two covered arcades, and two 50-foot long wing buildings at the end of the arcades. Andrew Hamilton, Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly and chairman of the building committee, designed the building in the Georgian style of architecture. Characterized by its sense of proportion, balance, and symmetry, Georgian architecture was popular in Great Britain and the American colonies during the reigns of George I, II, and III (1714-1820).

The front or north facade of Independence Hall features elegant details such as marble panels between the first and second floors, marble keystones above each window, a carved wooden cornice, and a wooden balustrade stretching between the chimneys on the roof. The rear or south facade is more simply decorated. The tower consists of a wooden steeple set on top of a three-story brick base.

Visual Evidence

Photo 2: Independence Hall, south facade

exterior of the south facade of Independence Hall

Photo by Robin Miller. Courtesy Independence National Historical Park.

Questions for Photos 1 & 2
1) How would you describe Independence Hall? What elements do you think demonstrate the balance and symmetry characteristic of Georgian architecture?
2) Locate the arcades in Photo 1 and one of the wing buildings in Photo 2. Based on Reading 2, what were these originally designed for? When and why were they torn down? When and why were they rebuilt?
3) Do you think preservation of Independence Hall has enhanced its value as a symbol of freedom? Why or why not?

Visual Evidence

Photo 3: Assembly Room, Independence Hall

Interior of the Assembly Room

Courtesy Independence National Historical Park.

The Assembly Room to the east of the central hall measures about 40 feet square, which was large for a room of that period. The furniture in the room today includes tables, chairs, green table coverings and other pieces that are representative of the time of the Continental Congress, but not original to the building. The National Park Service used surviving bills for furnishings purchased for the room in the 18th century as well as records for repairs to various items to help them create the present arrangement. The only original furnishings are the chair used by George Washington as he presided over the Constitutional Convention and the silver inkstand used to sign the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The inkstand, designed in 1752 for the Pennsylvania Assembly, includes a quill box and a shaker for sprinkling sand over wet ink to speed drying.

Questions for Photo 3
1) Based on Reading 2, describe the use of this room over time. What were some of the changes that occurred to the room physically?
2) How would you describe the room itself? How would you describe the furnishings? Do you think the room today could be an accurate portrayal of how it appeared during the time of the Continental Congress? Explain your answer.
3) Do you think it was important to have restored the room to this period? Explain your answer.

Visual Evidence

Painting 1: The Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776. Painted by John Trumbull, 1786-1820

Painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence

Trumbull Collection, Yale University Art Gallery. Photo courtesy WikiMedia Commons.

Today, we take for granted that important events, political and other, are captured by photographs and/or television cameras. Sketches, paintings, and written descriptions were all that would have been available in the 18th century. Unfortunately, there are no known depictions of the State House Assembly Room created during the actual meetings of the Second Continental Congress or the Constitutional Convention.

John Trumbull began this painting in 1786 after consulting with Thomas Jefferson in Paris about what took place in the State House Assembly Room in July 1776. Trumbull's goal was to depict as accurately as possible the portraits of the men who played a part in creating the Declaration of Independence. He painted the majority of the 48 portraits from life between 1789 and 1794, and he copied the rest from existing portraits. As a result, most of the delegates appear older than they would have at the actual signing. Although the portraits are accurate, the setting and composition are more symbolic. The Assembly Room details, including the style of the chairs, draperies, and the military decorations on the wall do not depict the room as it actually appeared in 1776.

Questions for Painting 1
1) How many years after the event did Trumbull start his painting? What do you think were some of the challenges he faced in creating this work?
2) Why do you think Trumbull thought it was important to capture the portraits of these men? Why do you think it took so many years to complete this painting?
3) Based on what you learned in Reading 1, who are the five men standing at the center of the painting? Who do you think is seated in the chair at the right? Why might Trumbull have chosen to portray this scene?
4) Study the painting carefully. What feelings does it evoke for you?
5) Compare the design of the Assembly Room as it appears in the painting and in Photo 3. What are some of the differences? What might account for these differences?

Putting it All Together: Activities

The enduring principles and philosophies expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution have inspired numerous countries around the globe over the past two centuries. In this lesson, students have examined the history of Independence Hall, the reasons it was designated a World Heritage Site, and the meaning of that designation. After completing the following activities, students will be able to explain in greater detail the differences the Founding Fathers had to work through to establish independence and create a new government, the international impact of events at Independence Hall, the value of recognizing important cultural and natural sites, and the importance of their own local governmental buildings.

Activity 1: The Signers
Have students select a person who signed either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution (or both) and compile a brief biography. This biography should include the person's background, political views, and contribution to the Continental Congress or the Constitutional Convention. Ask students to present their biographies to the class. Then have the class discuss the variety of personalities, backgrounds, and opinions held by these men.

Activity 2: Legacy of Freedom
Divide the class into two groups. Have students in the first group each select a country and write a short report on how that country's government operated at the time of the American Revolution. Reports should include information on when and how the government structure was put in place and how the government system impacted the people of the country. Students also should compare that country's government to the one established by the United States Constitution.

Students in the second group should choose a country that has used the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution as a model for reforming or establishing its government. (Refer to examples listed in Reading 2.) Have students prepare a short report that summarizes the country's political situation and specifically explains how that country used the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution as a model. The report also should provide information on the results of the country's efforts to invoke governmental change.

After students have shared their reports, conclude the activity by discussing why the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were such revolutionary documents for their time and how the ideals expressed in them have resonated more than 200 years later.

Activity 3: World Heritage Sites
Have students look up the criteria for selecting natural sites for inclusion on the World Heritage List. Then ask students to select and conduct research on a World Heritage Site, making sure that the class selects both natural and cultural sites from a variety of countries. See UNESCO's website for the complete list by country. Have students role-play by asking them to describe the sites they have researched and make a case for the inclusion of each one on the World Heritage List. Ask class members to vote on which ones they would include on the list. Then have each student create one of the following: a poster, three-dimensional exhibit, documentary short, or website to describe one of the sites and explain why and when it was selected as a World Heritage Site. They should also include any relevant information on the site's preservation and any possible threats.

As a class, have students discuss the criteria for designation as a World Heritage Site and consider the variety of resources included on the list. Conclude the activity by having students debate the importance of designating and protecting resources of "outstanding universal value." Students may also want to explore ways that they can get involved in the World Heritage program.

Activity 4: Local Government Buildings
Have students research a building where local government officials meet (or the state capitol building if students live in or near the state capital). The class should arrange to take a tour and/or sit in on a public meeting to get a better understanding of how the local government operates. Students should find out exactly what types of activities take place in the building and the impact the decisions made there can have on daily life in the community. Findings could be presented in a written report, an oral presentation, or a visual display. Students may also want to compare the design and layout of the local meeting room with the Assembly Room at Independence Hall and discuss similarities and differences.

To further the activity, students may want to find out if the building they researched is listed on the National Register of Historic Places or has achieved some other recognition at the local or state level. If so, students should obtain a copy of the nomination documentation and determine if the documentation is thorough and up to date. If not, what information might need to be added to make the nomination more complete? If the building is not listed, what steps might be taken to honor the building and its contribution to the community's history?

Students can research whether or not a place has been listed on the National Register by visiting the National Register website and clicking on "Find Listed Places." Your State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) will also be able to tell students whether or not a place has been listed on the National Register, as well as whether or not it has received state or local recognition. Students can find out the name and contact information for their SHPO on the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers website. Students may obtain copies of nominations from either the National Register or SHPO office.

Additional Resources

Independence National Historical Park
Visit the Independence National Historical Park website for operating hours, maps, schedules of events, and other information that will help you plan a trip to the park. The site also offers descriptions of buildings within the park that are open to the public.

National Park Service Office of International Affairs
The Office of International Affairs evaluates opportunities and coordinates responses involving the National Park Service in international programs, projects, and activities. OIA's World Heritage Convention web pages include an overview of the World Heritage Program and a list of U.S. World Heritage Sites.

Teaching with Historic Places
The Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) website contains more than 130 curriculum-based lesson plans on places listed in the National Register of Historic Places. For information on the evolution of the Liberty Bell as a symbol of freedom and its use by the Women's Suffrage Movement, Civil Rights Movement, and others, read the lesson plan, The Liberty Bell: From Obscurity to Icon.

UNESCO World Heritage Center
UNESCO's World Heritage web pages include a detailed history and text of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. It also offers a complete list of World Heritage Sites organized by country as well as a detailed description of the nomination process. Teachers who are interested in exploring World Heritage further will find the full text of UNESCO's World Heritage in Young Hands educational materials online. The kit contains classroom activities on themes such as World Heritage and identity, tourism, the environment, and a culture of peace.

InterConnections 21
InterConnections 21 is an organization devoted to making connections between the local and the global, the current and next generations, and hometown schools and the halls of the United Nations. The InterConnections 21 website contains the report of the first World Heritage Education workshop held in the U.S., which took place in Philadelphia in January 2005. The report contains details of in-depth working sessions on preservation issues, Independence Hall and cultural identity, the Underground Railroad and the slave trade in Philadelphia, the impact of tourism, and education at Independence Hall. It also explores how World Heritage Education links with national guidelines for curriculum standards in social studies.

University of Minnesota
The College of Design at the University of Minnesota has established a Center for World Heritage Studies, which is undertaking preservation projects at threatened sites.

International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)
ICOMOS is an international non-governmental association of professionals, dedicated to the conservation of the world's historic monuments and sites. The ICOMOS website contains information on conservation principles, techniques, and policies; news about endangered places; an analysis of the World Heritage List; records of meetings and assemblies; and other work of the organization. The U.S. National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (US/ICOMOS) is one of numerous committees forming a worldwide alliance for the study and conservation of historic buildings, districts, and sites. It is the focus of international cultural resources exchange in the United States and as such shares preservation information and expertise worldwide. Visit the US/ICOMOS website for more information.

Library of Congress Digital Collections
The "Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-89" web pages feature documents relating to the work of Congress and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. Online items include extracts of the journals of Congress, resolutions, proclamations, committee reports, treaties, and early printed versions of the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. This website also includes a timeline of United States history from 1774-1789.

National Archives and Records Administration
The National Archive's Charters of Freedom web pages present detailed information on the creation and impact of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. It also includes transcripts and high-resolution digital images of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

The Independence Hall Association operates the website to help support its mission to educate the public about the Revolutionary and Colonial eras of American history, as well as Philadelphia generally. The Declaration of Independence web pages provide a wealth of information about the signers of the Declaration, the history of the Declaration, and an online version of the Declaration. The Philadelphia History web pages include a history and timeline of Philadelphia.

Teach Civics with this Lesson

Last updated: May 24, 2023