Constitutional Convention Snapshot

The New Jersey Plan VS. the Virginia Plan

The Constitutional Convention

In the February of 1787, James Madison persuades the Confederation Congress to plan a meeting to revise the Articles of Confederation. Three months later, in May of 1787 the first meetings to strengthen the Articles are held in Philadelphia. The meetings were kept secret and included representation from 12 of the 13 states. A total of fifty-five delegates attended the meetings originally meant to revise the Articles of Confederation, but the delegates ended up creating an entirely new plan for the United States Government. Two plans were ultimately compromised after months of arguing for each, the final product is now the constitution of the United States of America. Those two main plans were the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan.


The New Jersey Plan

  • Strong central government split into three branches
  • Unicameral legislature
  • Each state gets one vote and equal representation in the legislature despite state population
  • Congress required an extraordinary majority to pass laws.
  • Government can use force against states that fail to properly serve their people
  • Wanted a federal court system.

William patterson

  • Delegate from New Jersey
  • Proposed the New Jersey plan so that smaller states could have equal representation in government while larger states could have the peace of mind that smaller states would not band together in alliances against them

Richard Bassett

  • Delegate from Deleware
  • supported the New Jersey Plan due to all states, from big ones to small ones, getting equal representation
  • Supported the idea of an extraordinary majority which allowed a pocket of protection for minorities


The Virginia Plan

  • Central government divided into three branches: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial, with the power to check other branches
  • Strong national government with the power to make laws, tax, control interstate trading, and the power to override state laws.
  • Congress required a simple majority to pass laws
  • Bicameral legislature with the number of representatives for each state reflecting that states population. The lower house of the legislature has members directly voted upon by the people of each state. The upper house will have representatives voted upon by the state legislature.

James Madison

  • Delegate from Virginia
  • Favored a strong national government well over a weak national government
  • Strongly believed in separating the powers of government into three branches and allowing each branch the ability to make sure that the other branches do not get too strong
  • Was a writer of the federalist papers that supported the ratification of the constitution

Edmund Randolph

  • Delegate from Virginia
  • Introduced the Virginia plan
  • Refused to sign the constitution due to its lack of a bill of rights, but supported its ratification in Virginia after its signing


Problems at the convention

The Constitutional Convention had been at a standstill for weeks after the New Jersey Plan was rejected for ratification. Compromises saved the convention, choosing to please supporters of the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan by piecing together a constitution that included ideas from both plans and there was even a compromise for slaves counting as citizens of a state under some conditions so that small states were not at such a huge disadvantage when it came to population count. The presidential election was also up for argument wether it was done by citizens or by state or national legislatures. A compromise was made to have the president elected by state electors. These electors were to be equal to the number of state representatives in congress and were to be elected by the people of their state and if no presidential candidate got majority vote, then the House of Representatives choses who becomes president.

Near the end of the convention many refused to sign the constitution due to its lack of a bill of rights, but many argued that it was powerful enough to protect citizens rights.Eventually, 39 delegates from the 12 states that attended the convention signed the constitution.