In this week’s episode of Constitutionally Speaking, Jay and Luke discuss opposition against the Virginia Plan at the Constitutional Convention. Speaking for the anti-nationalists, Robert Patterson of New Jersey proposed what came to be known as the “New Jersey Plan,” which would only have modified the Articles of Confederation, rather than replace it altogether. This alternative is quickly defeated, but it leads to the most contentious debate at the Convention: What power shall the small states retain in the new Congress? The small states insist upon guaranteed representation in the Congress, while nationalists from large states like James Madison and James Wilson argue that this makes no sense in a truly national government. For weeks on end, the debate grinds on, seemingly without end, until a compromise is finally produced. The “Great Compromise,” as it has become known, apportioned the House by population and the Senate equally for each state. While this mixed Congress, a little bit federal and a little bit national, is hard to defend on purely logical grounds, and no doubt has created problems over the years, the Constitution would never have come together without it.
- Robert Patterson, The New Jersey Plan
- James Madison, Speech of June 19, 1787
- Jay Cost, “In Defense of the Senate“