Going to Court | Revolutions on Trial

Here are the videos for all 4 trials in order:

American

Haitian

French

Xinhai

Imagine revolting against your oppressors only for them to think you’re too stupid to execute it yourself and that someone must have betrayed them, thats the Haitian Revolution for you.

“Revolutions on Trial” our most recent project has probably been 1 of the biggest project I’ve done below only DI. In this project we learnt what defines a revolution, why it happens, what changes and stays the same after a revolution, and how to defend or attack said revolution in a court trial. The reason for a court trial is that we would be putting on a skit for the PLP 2021 Winter Exhibition in the form of a semi-realistic court trial. 

Our opener for this project was a participation simulation called “Nation X” to help us understand how a revolution could start by starting our own. If revolutions are meant to create a fair and functional society, we need to figure out what that is first. This was a summary reflection I wrote on Nation X:

Now would be a good time to understand our 3 main keystones, and 2 main topics.

The keystones were: “Why Do Revolutions Happen?” “What Happened in the Revolution I Am Studying?” and “How Do Legal Teams Prepare For A Trial?”. 

The 2 main topics were: Revolutions, & Legal Trials.

These were understandings that would be developed throughout the project but were necessary in order to complete it.

TOPIC 1: Revolutions

Introducing our first big focus: Crane Brintons “Anatomy of a Revolution” theory, and the George Orwell classic “Animal Farm”.  Here is a summary of Animal Farm written by the BBC:

“The animals get fed up of their master, Farmer Jones, so they kick him out. Once they are free of the tyrant Jones, life on the farm is good for a while and there is hope for a happier future of less work, better education and more food. However, trouble brews as the pigs, Napoleon and Snowball, fight for the hearts and minds of the other animals on the farm. Napoleon seizes power by force and ends up exploiting the animals just as Farmer Jones had done. The novel ends with the pigs behaving and even dressing like the humans the animals tried to get rid of in the first place.”

Im very glad that we were given time to analyze each chapter within Animal Farm, it really helped me learn how to understand texts and how revolutions begin, and how it applies to the Crane Brinton revolution theory. After reading the book we wrote a reflection summary on it and how it connects to this project which you can see here:

Crane Brintons “Anatomy of a Revolution” theory suggests that for a revolution to be deemed one it has follow certain stages, Crane Brinton also uses the allegory of a disease to describe a revolution. The 4 stages are: Incubation (the symptoms that begin to break out, government injustice, economic crisis, Moderate, Radical, and Recovery. We used these principles to understand why the events in Animal Farm and our revolutions took place, think of it as a justification for each part of a revolution.

Now its time to figure out which revolution we would be studying, we were divided into 8 groups and were given revolutions to study: 2 groups would study American, 2 would study French, 2 would study Haitian, and 2 would study Xinhai. I was in a Haitian group with Fraser WFaith S, Julian N, and Luca P C. We would later be told if we would be prosecution or defence for the mock trial.

Studying the Haitian Revolution was a very big task, because there was so much to do I’m not going to go over the actual information so here are our sources if you want to go over them yourself:

Toussaint Louverture | HISTORY

Five Myths about the Haitian Revolution

Social Studies & The Haitian Revolution

The Haitian Revolution | Crash Course

Revolutions Podcast: Season 4 The Haitian Revolution

The Haitian Revolution Playlist | Extra Credits

What I will go over is what we did with our learning, we created a graphic organizer. Graphic organizers are something that I haven’t done on this scale and I had completely forgot how.  Here is my graphic organizer 1st draft:

A big part of any PLP project (and hopefully all work) is peer critique. Getting 1 person from each revolution to share our graphic organizers. This was extremely insightful and helped me realize my first draft was more a synopsis of events. I was able revise into something closer to being graphical, and organized. This is my 2nd draft:

It was very important that step was done well because this next one is big, both Haitian groups are going to start to work together!

Working in huge groups usually doesn’t work to well, and I still can’t tell fully if this was the case or not, nevertheless we got a final product. Our first goal was to create a giant graphic organizer so everyones knowledge and understanding was the same, we were also tasked with pinning each event with one of the 4 Crane Brinton stages to create a timeline.

TOPIC 2: Legal Trials

It has just been revealed to us that our group will be prosecution (stating the revolution was ineffective) and the other team would he defence (stating the revolution was effective). We realized now more than before how difficult this was going to be, heres why:

The Haitian is a slave revolution, there is no arguing otherwise. The entire revolution was about enslaved people freeing themselves from their oppressors, and no one feels like acting pro-slavery. Luckily all revolutions were given criteria that we would be arguing over:

  1. Political reform aligning with the voice of the people
  2. Increased rights, freedoms, and liberties for the people (religion, mobility, speech)

3. Removal of dictator with sweeping powers

4. Financial stability achieved (jobs, industry)

5. Standard of living improved (food, shelter, water)

6. Removal of internal conflict

Costumes, Witnesses, Scripts, Roles, & Affidavits would soon be the only words I would think about for the next few days so its worth understanding some terms.

Costumes: An outfit to wear that accurately & appropriately fits your role. Those in band had the costumes part easy we could just wear our concert clothes.

Witnesses: People during or slightly after the revolution who are used to strengthen each teams points, often reciting their stories during the revolution and would answer questions from both teams.

Scripts: Although everyone should have an understanding of their revolution, and although the teams are going against each other we had to work together to create a coherent and exciting presentation for the audience. 

Roles: Thee were a couple of main roles during the presentation: Lawyers who would be speaking to the jury, judge, and are the ultimate representation of their case, witnesses who i’ve already covered, the stereotypical Judge who walks through the trial making sure all is fair, and the Court Clerk who mainly deals with introductions, outros, & presenting the final verdict.

Affidavits: An affidavit defined by the Oxford Dictionary is “a written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation, for use as evidence in court.” If you try to use evidence in court that you did not put in your affidavit, the other team can file for mistrial. You can make as many affidavits as you want as long as you send them to the other team and they all must be signed by (in our case) a teacher.

Our prosecution team found the affidavits quite the struggle. We had to use primary & secondary sources, however most primary sources didn’t help our case. We eventually able to find the evidence we needed thanks to a lot of help. Im not sure how many affidavits our team went through but it was in the double digits.

Scripts were also a funny story for the Haitian group. You know how I said the script has to make sense as this is also a presentation as well as a court mock trial? Well our group tried to make changes to strengthen our points, that didn’t go over so well with the other team (I don’t blame them) and we eventually came to a compromise which didn’t have to make massive changes for the opposing team. 

The rest of the time spent was a matter of organizing, and practicing the script. Making this presentation feel like you’re observing an actual trial and not a bunch of children read off a paper is a hard task and I’m not sure how we did, I’m extremely biased so I wouldn’t be a good person to ask. Oh but look at the time, gotta go get ready for…

Exhibition night! Everything is more or less ready. Ive found with big presentations that your rehearsal is generally worse than your performance (i.e. Choir Concert). Although I’m a witness for the Haitian Prosecution team, I was also the judge for the Xinhai Revolution, this was a much smaller part as I had my script and everyones judge lines were more or less the same. It was a jumble of emotions such as: “yeah we got this” “wow I want food” “we do not got this” & “oh no we’re up”. Here’s a photo of some of my friends & I in the green room:

The night was surprisingly not as hectic as I expected, there were 4 places each group should be at a time: Presenting, Green Room, Exhibition, & Doors / Greeters. 

Presenting groups were well, presenting.

Green Room groups were behind the stage practicing lines before their performance.

Exhibition groups got to roam around the exhibition and see what other grades had done.

Doors / Greeters were helping people watching our exhibition, signing people in, controlling the powerpoint, and taking the videos.

The videos I’ve linked above are really all the footage of the night so theres not much to talk about, so what do I think after the fact? Still really fun, still very nerve racking, and we did a lot for this 1 project it honestly felt like 3. In the future I’d like another shot at doing this so I can redeem all the dumb and inefficient decisions I made, but overall I’m proud of the work and surprised our team won, but what were we supposed to answer by the end of it all? What was the purpose?

“How Might we as Legal Teams Determine the Effectiveness and Ineffectiveness of a Revolution?”

Its important to clarify that “effective” & “ineffective” are not so black & white, more like black and extremely dark white. I dont think there is any revolution that was fully effective or fully ineffective. You have to determine either one by finding all of your variables (the criteria our mock trials used, whatever your team cares about more, or whatever gets the jury to vote for you). If you understand the facts, and your criteria that you’re holding the facts to, you can determine the effective/ineffectiveness of a revolution.

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