Virginia Plan vs New Jersey Plan

Notes from Philadelphia Convention 1787

The following fictional newspaper articles depicts the fundamental differences between Virginia and New Jersey Plan that became the main issues during Philadelphia Convention in 1787. This convention may well be one of the early pillars of modern democracy.


Which One is Better?

June 18, 1787

PHILADELPHIA – Differences occurred in The Philadelphia Convention mainly between the large states and the small ones especially about the future government system this Union will have. Representatives from the 12 states had their own perspectives about how government should be done.

On May 29, Edmund Randolph of Virginia proposed a perspective called The Virginia Plan. The Plan insisted three separates branches consisting of legislative, executive, and judicial. Using bicameral system, the Congress, which is the legislative branch, will be divided into two Houses and representation based on population or financial contribution.

Members of the lower house (House of Representatives) shall be elected popularly in each State, and they will choose the Senate or the upper house from lists nominated by the State legislatures. The Congress has all powers given under the Articles, including choosing National Executive and National Judiciary. Both of them have rights to veto the acts of congress but could be overridden by the two Houses.

Executive branch should execute the national laws; meanwhile the judicial branch consists of supreme tribunals and inferior tribunals. The Virginia Plan was supported most by the large states, since they had the population and the funding that would benefit them in the representation.

In the other hand the smaller northern states opposed the Plan because they will have fewer votes in the legislative.

Another kind of perspective delivered in the convention was the New Jersey Plan. William Paterson from New Jersey presented it on June 15. Unlike the Virginia Plan, New Jersey Plan preferred unicameral (one house in the legislative) system with equal representation of each state. It also proposed a plural federal executive chosen by the Congress, which could be removed on the request by the majority of States’ governors.

The executive branch then will appoint the federal judiciary composed of a single Supreme Tribunal. The New Jersey plan was a favor to the small states in the north part of the Union. But those who supported the Virginia Plan, which are the large states from the south opposed it.

It was obvious that debates among the delegates will occur about both of the Plan. Each of the Plans has its own benefits and flaws. The main difference that was debated is on what the representation of each state should be based on.

Should it be based on population or financial contribution as proposed by the Virginia Plan, so that the rich and populous states would have more power in the legislatures? Or should it be based on equality among all states, so the poor and the rich states have the same power in the legislature?

The people of the Union only could hope that their representatives would decide the best for their government system to be implemented soon in order to replace the Articles of Confederation. The decision is very important in determining this country’s future.

So, which one is better?


Finally: A Compromise!

July 3, 1787

PHILADELPHIA – Finally, the strong debate about how the representation in the Congress should be based on has ended. Both of the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan have their own point of view. But indications proofed that none of them can be implemented in our government system if we want to keep the Union in one piece.

Among the strong indications was the withdrawal threat from several States, which were on both sides of the issue. Fortunately, a compromise has been reached. It was a great compromise between two major sides debating each other.

The Connecticut delegation was the first to suggest the compromise. It combines both Plans in one perspective. Even though the legislative used the bicameral system consists of House of Representatives and the Senate such as in the Virginia Plan, but there are differences about the representation basis.

Representation in the House of Representative (lower house) shall be based on population of the state. Equal representation of each state will be held in the Senate (upper house). Therefore, it combines both ideals that could cause serious conflicts between the States in the Union , and the delegates approved it to resolve the disputes among them.

- Kentucky, August 2002

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