The Constitutional Convention

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What are the characteristics of the New Jersey plan?

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In 1787, the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia to amend the ineffectual Articles of Confederation. The Articles' ineffective governance of the new nation was underlined by the Shays Rebellion in Massachusetts. Therefore, the delegates decided to discard the Articles and create a new system of government.

One idea for the...

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In 1787, the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia to amend the ineffectual Articles of Confederation. The Articles' ineffective governance of the new nation was underlined by the Shays Rebellion in Massachusetts. Therefore, the delegates decided to discard the Articles and create a new system of government.

One idea for the new government was the Virginia, or large-state, plan. It called for a strong national government with executive, judicial, and legislative components. It proposed a bicameral legislature with representation based on population.

Opponents of the large-state plan offered the New Jersey, or small-state, plan. The New Jersey Plan kept many elements of the Articles of Confederation. The key characteristic of the Articles was its weak central government. The New Jersey Plan proposed a unicameral legislature with equal representation for the states.

Finding a solution to the problem of states's representation was difficult. The delegates's frustration was exacerbated by the hot summer weather. A grand committee was set up to find a solution—The Great Compromise.

The Great Compromise established a bicameral legislature which gave states equal representation in the Senate. Representation in the House would be based on population. This arrangement was accepted by both large states and small states and remains the basis of America's legislature to this day.

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William Patterson of New Jersey came up with the New Jersey Plan, which was considered the small-state plan during the Constitutional Convention.  It called for a unicameral (single house) legislature where every state got one vote, regardless of size.  It was considered a mere revision of the Articles of Confederation, though Patterson did call for the federal government to be able to overturn state laws whenever it saw fit.  Larger states such as Virginia thought this plan unfair, as the people who lived in smaller states would have more political power than those in larger states.  James Madison created the Virginia Plan to counteract this--he wanted representation in Congress to be based on population.  It appeared as though there would be a deadlock until Roger Sherman created the Great Compromise which created our bicameral (two house) legislature.  Each state would get two seats in the Senate.  State population would play a role in representation in the House of Representatives.  

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