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New Jersey and Virginia Plans


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AP Government

            Two approaches were made to outline the federal government during the Constitutional Convention.  The first was the Virginia Plan.  This plan was presented by Edmond Randolf, though James Madison was its key writer.  The Virginia Plan called for a three-branch government, consisting of executive, legislative, and judicial branches.  The legislature would be bicameral, with both houses having proportional representation.  This plan was beneficial to the four largest states, whose population was three times the smaller states.  One of these houses would be elected through popular election.  The other had representatives appointed by each states legislature.  Two weeks after this plan was presented, William Paterson introduced what became known as the New Jersey Plan.  This plan drew up a similar three-branched government.  The main difference was that the legislative branch would be unicameral.   This legislative body would have equal representation, which would be appointed by state legislatures.  This equal apportionment was preferable to the smaller states, because it gave them the majority of seats.

       The main controversy between the Virginia and the New Jersey Plans were found in their ideas concerning representation.  The large states would doubtless refuse to ratify any constitution that made them a minority in the legislature.  Likewise, the smaller states did not want to be completely dominated by the large states, which would have thrice their number of votes.  A compromise had to be made, and it came in the form of the Connecticut, or Great, Compromise.  This called for a bicameral government, the upper house having equal representation, the lower with proportional.