In the late 1780s, prominent political leaders in the United States came to realizethat the government created under the Articles of Confederation was ineffective andimpractical and could not serve a nation in managing relationships among states norhandle foreign nations. The fear of creating a government that was too powerful was thebasis for foundation of the Articles of Confederation. It created a weak nationalgovernment that allowed for most of the power to be under the control of the statelegislatures.
Under the Articles, Congress had no means to prevent war or securityagainst foreign invasion. The federal government could not check the quarrels betweenstates or regulate interstate trade, collect taxes, enforce laws. These weaknesses of theconfederation distressed political leaders; in response, they requested a assemblage inorder to revise the Articles and revive the ailing nation. In May of 1787, representativesfrom each state gathered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to find the means of turning theUnited States government into an efficient and powerful business that conducted affairsThe delegates meeting at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787were given expressed consent to alter and revise the Articles of Confederation.
With theexception of those from New Jersey and Virginia, the delegates intended to revise theArticles. One of 55 delegates, William Paterson and his colleagues Roger Sherman,Ellsworth, and Dickinson offered a list of suggestions for revising the Articles ofConfederation in his New Jersey Plan. Paterson was a delegate from New Jersey whofavored the weak national government that the Articles created. Patterson asserted therights of the small states against the large states and wished to expand upon the Articlesmaking a more practical and efficient government.
The New Jersey Plan suggested theCongress maintain its unicameral house system, with states equally represented. Theyproposed that the Congress would have the power to regulate interstate trade and couldhave closely limited power to tax. It also called for a federal Executive with personsappointed by Congress who could be removed on the request of a majority of the stategovernors. The New Jersey plan also allowed for a federal Judiciary with a singlesupreme tribunal appointed by an executive. The New Jersey plan offered a series ofsolutions to the growing concern that the government was too weak under the Articles.
Pattersons proposals were supported by those who discouraged a strong nationalJust as Patterson created a plan, James Madison created a plan that offeredsolutions to the flawed Articles of Confederation. Prior to their arrival at the PhiladelphiaConvention, Madison and the other Virginian delegates formulated a revised documentthat would eliminate the Articles of Confederation and create an entirely new document. The Virginia Plan called for a stronger national government. The Plan would create afederal system with the existence of two governments, national and state, each given acertain amount of authority. Under the Virginia Plan, the national government wouldhave the power to collect its own taxes and make and enforce its own laws. Thegovernment would consist of three separate branches, the legislative, the judicial and theexecutive. The legislative branch, under the Virginia Plan, was bicameral, with thenumber of representatives in each house based on proportional representation, or thenumber of people in each state.
The representatives of the lower house, or the House ofRepresentatives, would be popularly elected and the representatives of the upper house, orSenate, would be chosen by the lower house. Congress would also have the power toveto any state law in conflict with national law, and to accept new states to the Union. Inaddition, an Executive branch would have the authority to execute national law and theJudiciary branch would consist of one or more supreme tribunals and of inferior tribunals. Both the Judiciary and the Executive branches would be able to override and veto acts ofCongress creating a system of checks and balances.While both the New Jersey and the Virginia Plan offered solutions to theproblems governing the United States created by the Articles of Confederation, therewere major differences between the two plans. The major differences debated at thePhiladelphia Convention concerned the debate over what powers to give the newgovernment, the creation of subsequent branches, checks and balances, and the principlesof representation, singular of plural executive. After hours of delegations, it seemed as ifneither Plan could be accepted by small states who did not want proportionalrepresentation and those who feared a tyrannical leader of there was a singular executive.
The delegates to the Constitutional Convention disputed over the two proposals. Afterthree days of deliberations, the New Jersey Plan was rejected due to the overwhelmingdemand to create an effective national government. Despite the advantages of both plans,neither posed a solution to the fears of all the delegates consequently the Virginia Planwas also discarded. What they created instead was a bundle of compromises. The newDelegates compromised to secure the integrity of the smaller states and relinquish thefears of those who believed the central government was too powerful.
If I had been a delegate to the Philadelphia Convention, I would have opposed theidea of a plural executive and favored that of a singular executive. I would support the tohave With an appropriate number of advisors, the American people could be assured thatan Executive leader could be relied on make quality decisions to ensure the success of thenation. In addition, a single executive is more likely to be responsible for the decisionsmade and in effect be more prudent in the process. It seems that an executive committeewould create chaos in the executive branch by the way of disagreement on how to handlethe affairs of the nation.
That kind of uncertainty would not assure the people thatAlexander Hamilton asked, And what even is the Virginia Plan but democracychecked by democracy…? The parts of the VA plan that are democracy checked bydemocracy are the provisions that provide for three separate branches that can veto theother and override decisions. This complicated system of checks and balances is the basisof the government that the Constitution of the United States created.Bibliography: