The Making of the Constitution
Part 3: The Great Compromise

Because it was presented by William Paterson of New Jersey, the small states' proposal was called the New Jersey Plan. This plan kept more of the existing national government. The Congress would still be one house, but it would have the power to raise taxes and to regulate trade. More importantly to the small-state delegates, each state would continue to have one vote in Congress, regardless of that state's population.

This plan wasn't too popular with the large-state delegates, who seemed to have a majority. But the small-state delegates didn't much like the Virginia Plan, either, and refused to vote for it. It seemed that the Constitutional Convention was deadlocked.

Roger Sherman, a delegate from Connecticut, provided the answer. He offered a deal that he thought both sides would like. This was called the Connecticut Compromise, or the Great Compromise.

This created the federal government that exists today. Congress had two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The number of members of the House would be based on the population of each state. The Senate would have two members from each state, with each Senator being elected by state legislatures.

Both sides got some of what they wanted. The large states were happy because they got more members in the House of Representatives. The small states were happy because they got equal representation in the Senate.

The large states were also happy because the House of Representatives was the only house of Congress that could write bills to create taxes. The small states were also happy because in all other respects, the two houses of Congress were equal. (And in fact, the Senate was called the upper house.)

Next page > The Presidency > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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David White