The Constitutional Convention

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How did the Great Compromise balance the wishes of small states and large states? 

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When meeting to form the legislative branch of Congress at the Constitutional Convention, representatives of the thirteen states faced a multitude of opinions and decisions. Many former Englishmen were concerned that each of their states would be fairly represented in a large, legislative body. As many feared an oligarchy or return to tyranny by the elite, statesmen at the Convention insisted upon arduous debate and discussion before writing and approving Article I of the Constitution. Many founders wanted to make sure that the legislative branch of the federal government would hold more power than the executive branch, but each state had to agree upon the terms.

Small states,which had faced difficult trade and economic dealings under the Articles of Confederation, wanted to make sure they had an equal voice and voting power in Congress. Larger states, which had more people, opinions, and land to represent, wanted to secure a more significant presence and voting power in Congress.

Roger Sherman from Connecticut led the movement to create a bicameral (two-house) legislature. He proposed The Great Compromise in which the lower house, The House of Representatives, would be based on the population of each state; this appeased the larger states. The upper house, the Senate, would have equal representation of each state; this appeased the smaller states. This proposal met with approval from large and small states because the interests of both were secured, as the terms for legislators was designated, as well. Representatives would serve two-year terms, and Senators would serve six-year terms. Thus, accountability and opportunity for change would be present in both houses.

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The Great Compromise, proposed by Roger Sherman, balanced the wishes of both the large states and the small states. The large states believed representation in Congress should be based on population. Since they had more people, they would have more representatives and thus more power. Small states objected to this. They were afraid their voice wouldn’t be heard if the plan of the large states prevailed. The small states wanted equal representation in Congress. By proposing a two-house system, a bicameral legislature, the needs of both large states and small states would be met. In one house, the House of Representatives, representation would be based on population. This favored the large states. In the other house, the Senate, there would be equal representation with each state having two senators. This favored the small states. Thus, the Great Compromise benefited both groups of states by giving each group some of what it wanted.

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