Connecticut Compromise

The Connecticut Compromise (also known as the Great Compromise of 1787 or Sherman's Compromise) was an agreement that large and small states reached during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 that in part defined the legislative structure and representation that each state would have under the United States Constitution. It retained the bicameral legislature as proposed by James Madison, along with proportional representation in the lower house, but required the upper house to be weighted equally between the states.

Contents

Context

On May 29, 1787, Edmund Randolph of the Virginia delegation proposed the creation of a bicameral legislature. Membership in the lower house was to be allocated in proportion to state population, and candidates were to be nominated and elected by the people of each state. Membership in the upper house was to be allocated in the same way, but candidates were to be nominated by the state legislatures and elected by the members of the lower house. This proposal was known as the Virginia Plan.

Less populous states like Delaware were afraid that such an arrangement would result in their voices and interests being drowned out by the larger states. Many delegates also felt that the Convention did not have the authority to completely scrap the Articles of Confederation,[1] as the Virginia Plan would have.[2] In response, on June 15, 1787, William Paterson of the New Jersey delegation proposed a legislature consisting of a single house. Each state was to have equal representation in this body, regardless of population. The New Jersey Plan, as it was called, would have left the Articles of Confederation in place, but would have amended them to somewhat increase Congress's powers.[3]

The Compromise

Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth, both of the Connecticut delegation, created a compromise that, in a sense, blended the Virginia (large-state) and New Jersey (small-state) proposals regarding congressional apportionment. Ultimately, however, its main contribution was in determining the apportionment of the senate, and thus retaining a federal character in the constitution. Sherman sided with the two-house national legislature of the Virginia Plan, but proposed "That the proportion of suffrage in the 1st. branch [house] should be according to the respective numbers of free inhabitants; and that in the second branch or Senate, each State should have one vote and no more."[4] Although Sherman was well liked and respected among the delegates, his plan failed at first. It was not until July 23 that representation was finally settled.[4]

What was ultimately included in the constitution was a modified form of this plan, partly because the larger states disliked it. In the Committee of Detail, Benjamin Franklin modified Sherman's proposal to make it more acceptable to the larger states. He added the requirement that revenue bills originate in the house, and that senate delegations be severed from the state legislatures. During prior assemblies, such as the Confederation Congress, the state delegations would vote as a block as instructed by the state legislatures. Franklin modified this so that the senators would not vote as a block. This freed them from pressure from state legislatures and made them free agents.[5] As such, the senate would bring a federal character to the government, not because senators were elected by state legislatures, but because each state was equally represented in the senate, which was the main aim of the smaller states.[6]

Aftermath

This agreement allowed deliberations to continue and thus led to the Three-Fifths Compromise, which further wrangled the issue of popular representation in the House. Less populous Southern States were allowed to count three-fifths of all non-free, non-Native American people toward population counts and allocations.

See also

References

  1. ^ [1], Madison's notes, June 16th 1787, from the Yale Avalon project.
  2. ^ [2], Madison's notes, May 30th 1787, from the Yale Avalon project.
  3. ^ [3], Madison's notes, June 15th 1787, from the Yale Avalon project.
  4. ^ a b US Constitution.net. "Constitutional Topic: The Constitutional Convention". http://www.usconstitution.net/consttop_ccon.html. Retrieved October 17, 2007. 
  5. ^ Beeman, Richard. "Plain Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution". p199. Random House, 2009.
  6. ^ Beeman, Richard. "Plain Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution". p199. Random House, 2009.

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