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Summary of Plans from the Constitutional Convention

Although the Virginia Plan was presented by Edmund Randolph, most of the ideas came
from James Madison. The plan benefited large states like Virginia itself; specifically, the more
populous the states were, the more representatives those states would have in Congress, which
was called proportional representation. The proposal offered to have three branches of
government, including legislative, executive, and judicial. The legislature would be divided into
two houses of Congress, one of which would be elected by the People while another was chosen
by the representatives from the first house. The legislature would not only have the ability to pass
law, but also appoint officials serving in the executive and judicial branches. The executive’s
power was uncertainly mentioned in the plan except for the capacity to veto law. There would be
a separate judiciary and interpreter of laws, having the judicial branch divided in . In addition,
national laws would have the power to cancel state laws if those two were to conflict one
Unlike the Virginia Plan, the New Jersey Plan written by William Paterson was mainly
supported by smaller states due to the benefits it brought to the less populous states. The proposal
also offered a three-branch government, but with only one house of Congress, which was similar
to the one under the Articles of Confederation. The plan proposed equal representation, meaning
every state would only have one vote in Congress regardless of the population size. Congress,
besides the power in commerce, trade, and tax, was also given the ability to choose and remove
officials serving in the executive branch. The executive then went on to elect the Supreme
Court’s judges in the judicial branch. The proposal also mentioned that there would be a separate
judiciary and interpreter of law, having Moreover, national laws were given the authority to
compel obedience over state laws.

With the Virginia Plan as well as the New Jersey Plan’s failure to pass and reach a
political agreement, there appeared the Great Compromise by Roger Sherman. The proposal
offered a bicameral legislature, including the House of Representatives and the Senate. The
House would reflect the state’s population size whereas the Senate would be based on equal
representation, satisfying both previous proposed plans. There were still many problems
regarding the plan, but it was used as reference to create the finished document of the
constitution, mainly written by Gouverneur Morris. In addition to the authority in commerce,
trade, tax, Congress also had the capacity to elect presidential candidates. In a unitary executive,
the power shall be given to the president. It was also mentioned there would be a separate
judiciary and interpreter of laws, which the power would fall in the hand of the Supreme Court
and lower courts. Last but not least, national law would have the supremacy to preempt state law.

Nelson, Michael, ed. “Constitutional Beginnings.” In Guide to The Presidency and Executive
Branch. Washington, DC: SAGE, 2013.
Riggs, Thomas, ed. “Constitutional Convention.” In Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic
History. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2015.