Chapter 2: Origins of the American Government
Section 4: Creating the Constitution
Virginia Plan vs. New Jersey Plan
The Virgina Plan:
The Virginia Plan called for a new government with three separate branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. The legislature—Congress—would be bicameral.
Representation in each house was to be based either upon each State’s population or upon the amount of money it gave for the support of the central government.
The members of the lower house, the House of Representatives, were to be popularly elected in each State.
The Senate members were to be chosen by the House from lists of persons nominated by the State legislatures.
Congress could veto any State law in conflict with national law, and to use force if necessary to make a State obey national law.
Under the proposed Virginia Plan, Congress would choose a “National Executive” and a “National Judiciary.”
Create a new constitution by thoroughly revising the Articles to have a national government with greatly expanded powers and the power to enforce its decisions.
The New Jersey Plan
It retained the unicameral Congress of the Confederation, with each of the States equally represented.
Congress would be able to tax and to regulate trade between the States.
The New Jersey Plan also called for a “federal executive” of more than one person.
It called for equal representation in a unicameral national legislature.
1. What was agreed to under the Connecticut Compromise?
It was agreed that Congress should be composed of two houses. In the smaller Senate, the States would be represented equally. In the House, the representation of each State would be based upon its population.
Thus, by combining basic features of the rival Virginia and New Jersey Plans, the convention’s most serious dispute was resolved. The agreement satisfied the smaller States in particular, and it made it possible for them to support the creation of a strong central government.
2. Should the slaves be counted as part of the population? How was this dilemma resolved?
The Framers agreed to the Three-Fifths Compromise. It provided that all “free persons” should be counted, and so, too, should “three-fifths of all other persons.” (Article I, Section 2, Clause 3. For “all other persons” read “slaves.”) For the three-fifths won by the southerners, the northerners exacted a price. That formula was also to be used in fixing the amount of money to be raised in each State by any direct tax levied by Congress. In short, the southerners could count their slaves, but they would have to pay for them.
3. Describe the Commerce and Slave Trade Compromise in detail.
According to the Commerce and Slave Trade Compromise, Congress was forbidden the power to tax the export of goods from any State. It was also forbidden the power to act on the slave trade for a period of at least 20 years. It could not interfere with “the migration or importation of such persons as any State now existing shall think proper to admit,” except for a small head tax, at least until the year 1808.
4. What sources influenced the Framers in writing the Constitution?
Works such as William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, the Baron de Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws, Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract, John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, and many others.
More immediately, the Framers drew on their own experiences. Remember, they were familiar with the Second Continental Congress, the Articles of Confederation, and their own State governments. Much that went into the Constitution came directly, sometimes word for word, from the Articles. A number of provisions were drawn from the several State constitutions, as well.
Chapter 2: Origins of the American Government
Section 5: Ratifying the Constitution
From The Constitution
“The ratification of the conventions of nine States shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the same.”
The Congress of the Confederation agreed to this irregular procedure. After a short debate, it sent copies of the new document to the States on September 28, 1787.
Federalists and Anti-Federalists
Two groups quickly emerged in each of the States
The Federalists, who favored ratification
The Federalists were led by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. The Federalists stressed the weaknesses of the Articles. They argued that the many difficulties facing the Republic could be overcome only by a new government based on the proposed Constitution.
The Federalists, on the other hand, had answers to all of the Anti-Federalist complaints. Among them:
• The separation of powers into three independent branches protected the rights of the people. Each branch represents a different aspect of the people, and because all three branches are equal, no one group can assume control over another.
• A listing of rights can be a dangerous thing. If the national government were to protect specific listed rights, what would stop it from violating rights other than the listed ones? Since we can’t list all the rights, the Federalists argued that it’s better to list none at all.
The Anti-Federalists, who opposed it was headed by such well-known Revolutionary War figures as Patrick Henry, John Hancock, and Samuel Adams.
Anti-Federalists did not want to ratify the Constitution. Basically, they argue that:
• It gave too much power to the national government at the expense of the state governments.
• There was no bill of rights.
• No mention of God in the Constitution.
• The denial to the States of a power to print money
• The national government could maintain an army in peacetime.
• Congress, because of the `necessary and proper clause,’ wielded too much power.
• The executive branch held too much power.
By June of 1788, the Constitution was close to ratification. Nine states had ratified it, and only one more (New Hampshire) was needed. To achieve this, the Federalists agreed that once Congress met, it would draft a bill of rights. Finally, New York and Virginia approved, and the Constitution was a reality.
Why was the ratification by Virginia and New York crucial for the success of the Constitution?
NY and VA were among the most influential states in terms of political and economic leadership. Therefore, the Constitution would have more validity once ratified by both states.