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.