WHAT WERE THE DISAGREEMENTS ABOUT REPRESENTATION? The Virginia Plan’s proposal to create a two-house Congress was not controversial. Continuing British and colonial practices, all the states except Pennsylvania and Georgia had instituted bicameral legislatures. There also was a widespread belief that a bicameral legislature would be less likely to violate people’s rights than a unicameral legislature. Each house could serve as a check on the other. What was controversial in the Virginia Plan was the principle of proportional representation. James Madison, James Wilson, Rufus King, and others believed that the number of members in both houses should be based on the number of people they would represent. They argued that a government that both acted on and represented the people would give equal voting power to equal numbers of people. From Madison’s perspective states should not be represented as states in the national government. Rather, each representative should serve a district and connect the people of that district to the national government. Other delegates argued for equal representation of the states, as under the Articles of Confederation. Many of these delegates believed that the United States was a confederation of separate states and that national government derived from and represented the states, not the people as a whole. The positions of many delegates in this debate reflected the size of their states. Under the Virginia Plan, a state with a larger number of people would have more votes in both houses of Congress. Many delegates from smaller states wanted equal representation. They feared that unless they had an equal voice, the larger states would dominate them. The delegates agreed on one thing: If the national legislature had two chambers-a House of Senate-then at least one should be based on proportional representation. This would probably be the House. Thus the debate dealt essentially with representation in the Senate.
By mid-June disagreement over representation created a crisis for the convention. Delegates from several small states, led by New Jersey statesman William Paterson (1745-1806), asked for time to come up with an alternative to the Virginia Plan.
WHAT WAS THE NEW JERSEY PLAN? On June 15, 1787, William Paterson, who later would become the second governor of New Jersey, presented what has become known as the New Jersey Plan. This plan proposed keeping the framework of the Articles of Confederation, as the delegates had been asked to do. Following are some of the main parts of the New Jersey Plan:
• Congress would have only one house, as in the Confederation, and it would be given the following increased powers: o Power to levy import duties and a stamp tax to raise money for its operations, together with power to collect money from the states if they refused to pay o Power to regulate trade among the states and with other nations o Power to make laws and treaties the supreme law of the land so that no state could make laws that were contrary to them
• An executive branch would be made up of several persons appointed by Congress. They would have the power to administer national laws, appoint other executive officials, and direct military operations.
• A supreme court would be appointed by the officials of the executive branch. It would have the power to decide cases involving treaties, trade among the states or with other nations, and collection of taxes.
The New Jersey Plan continued the system of government existing under the Articles of Confederation by having the national government represent and act on the states, rather than representing or acting on the people. By the time the New Jersey Plan, many delegates had become convinced that the national government needed new powers and a new organization for exercising those powers.
When the convention voted on the New Jersey Plan four days later, on June 19, it was supported only by the delegations from