The Great Compromise

 

President George Washington

What was the Great Compromise of 1787? Definition
Definition: The Great Compromise, aka the Connecticut Compromise, resolved the highly controversial issue of representation that was raised at the  Constitutional Convention. that was held between May 25, 1787 - September 17, 1787 at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia.

Summary of the Great Compromise of 1787
Summary: The Great Compromise was presented  at the Constitutional Convention,
which was a meeting of states whose delegates were formulating plans for the National government. There were many disputes over the proposals between the large and small states and between the North and the South states. The Convention reached a complete deadlock over the issue of representation. Connecticut delegates Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth developed the Connecticut Compromise which would subsequently be called the Great Compromise. The Great Compromise consisted of the idea of proportional representation in the lower house (House of Representatives) and equal representation of the states in the upper house (Senate).

Events leading to the Great Compromise of 1787: The Virginia Plan (Large State Plan)
The events leading to the Great Compromise of 1787 arose at the Constitutional Congress (aka the Philadelphia Congress) related to the plans submitted containing ideas for the power and structure of the United States system of government. Fifteen resolutions were made in the Virginia Plan (also called the Large State Plan) that was written by James Madison and proposed by Edmund J. Randolph. The Virginia Plan was strongly supported by the large states because of the resolution suggesting proportional representation. Proportional representation meant that the more people a state had, the more representatives it would get in the legislature (government).

Events leading to the Great Compromise of 1787: The New Jersey Plan (Small State Plan)
The small states fiercely opposed the Virginia Plan because the resolution for proportional representation would mean that the small states would have less say in government than the large states. If the Virginia Plan was agreed each state would have a different number of representatives based on the population of the state. The small states, consisting of New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, and Delaware therefore proposed the New Jersey Plan. The New Jersey Plan consisted of eleven resolutions, drafted by New Jersey delegate William Paterson, was collectively proposed by delegates from the small states. The New Jersey Plan detailed a legislature of only one house and featured equal representation, in which each state had the same number of representatives. The aim was for the small states to have the same level of power in the legislature as the large states.

Great Compromise of 1787: The Deadlock
The two opposing sides could not agree, their views were extreme opposites. The Constitutional Convention reached a complete deadlock over the thorny issue of representation. It required the opposing sides to make concessions enabling a breakthrough to the deadlock over representation for the convention to continue.

Great Compromise of 1787: The Great Compromise on Representation
Connecticut delegates Oliver Ellsworth and Roger Sherman then proposed a compromise to resolve the subject of Representation in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Great Compromise cleverly included elements from both the Virginia and New Jersey plans. The 'Great Compromise' basically consisted of proportional representation in the lower house (House of Representatives) and equal representation of the states in the upper house (the Senate).

  • Members of the House of Representatives should be apportioned among the states according to their population and should be elected directly by the people

  • In the Senate they proposed that each state, regardless of size, population, or wealth, should have two members

  • The Senators would be chosen by the state legislatures.

  • The states would be equally represented in the Senate with two seats for each state

It was also decided that the House of Representatives was the only house of Congress that could write bills to create taxes.

Importance of the Great Compromise
The importance of the Great Compromise cannot be underestimated. The issue of representation threatened to destroy the convention. The merits of the Great Compromise was discussed and debated and on July 23 the issue over representation was finally settled.

  • It was decided that there would be two chambers in Congress: the Senate and the House of Representatives

  • The House of Representatives would be based on population

  • The Senate would be based on equal representation of two seats per state

The Significance of the Great Compromise
The Significance of the Great Compromise was that:

  • The Great Compromise ensured the continuance of the Constitutional Convention

  • The Great Compromise established the Senate and the House of Representatives and allowed for them to work efficiently

  • The Great Compromise, combining the best elements of the Virginia and New Jersey Plans, established the Separation of Powers consisting of the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary branches

  • The Great Compromise was included in the United States Constitution

Two other major compromises were reached at the Constitutional Convention: the Three Fifths Compromise and the Commerce and Slave Trade Compromise.

 

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President George Washington Video
The article on the Great Compromise provides the definition and history of one of the major achievements of his presidential term in office. The following video will give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 1st American President whose presidency spanned from April 30, 1789 to March 4, 1797.

 

 

 

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