The New Jersey Plan: Explanation & Supporters
New Jersey Plan: The New Jersey Plan was one option as to how the United States would be governed. The Plan called for each state to have one vote in Congress instead of the number of votes being based on population. This was to protect the equality of the states regardless of population size.
The New Jersey Plan was introduced to the Constitutional Convention by William Paterson, a New Jersey delegate, on June 15, 1787. The Constitutional Convention was convened to amend the Articles of Confederation, but it became apparent that a new government would need to be created. The Articles of Confederation was the first form of government but was considered ineffective because Americans did not want to have another tyrant like Great Britain. The states wanted power. One of the major debates that emerged during the Convention is how many votes each state would have in Congress.
The New Jersey Plan was meant to be the alternative to the Virginia Plan in regards to how the federal government would be structured. Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and a delegate from Maryland (named Luther Martin) created the New Jersey Plan. The New Jersey Plan was meant to protect the interests of the smaller states from being trampled by the larger states. The plan called for one vote per state in Congress rather than having votes based on representation since that would benefit the larger states. The Virginia Plan called for two houses based on representation and that would have nullified the power of the smaller states.
New Jersey Plan Definition
The New Jersey Plan (also known as the Small State Plan or the Paterson Plan) was a proposal for the structure of the United States Government presented by William Paterson at the Constitutional Convention on June 15, 1787. The plan was created in response to the Virginia Plan, which called for two houses of Congress, both elected with apportionment according to population. The less populous states were adamantly opposed to giving most of the control of the national government to the more populous states, and so proposed an alternative plan that would have kept the one-vote-per-state representation under one legislative body from the Articles of Confederation. The New Jersey Plan was opposed by James Madison and Edmund Randolph (the proponents of the Virginia State Plan).
One criticism of the Virginia Plan was that it called for the creation of a new government instead of just amending the Articles of Confederation. The New Jersey Plan would amend some of the ideas of the Articles of Confederation. The New Jersey Plan had 11 resolutions, and some of the key ideas included:
- Restoring the unicameral structure from the Articles of Confederation
- Each state was equal regardless of the size of its population
- Power to tax and regulate interstate commerce
- Gave Congress the power to tax
Virginia Plan Vs New Jersey Plan
William Paterson, representing New Jersey, took the lead in opposing the Virginia Plan. Following two weeks of debate, Paterson introduced his own proposal: the New Jersey Plan. The plan argued for increasing the power of the federal government to correct problems with the Articles of Confederation but maintaining the single house of Congress which existed under the Articles of Confederation.
In Paterson’s plan, each state would get one vote in Congress, so there would be equal power divided among states regardless of population.
Paterson’s plan had features beyond the apportionment argument, such as the creation of a Supreme Court and the right of the federal government to tax imports and regulate trade. But the greatest difference from the Virginia Plan was over the issue of apportionment: the allocating of legislative seats based on population.
Delegates from the large states were naturally opposed to the New Jersey Plan, as it would diminish their influence. The convention ultimately rejected Paterson’s plan by a 7-3 vote, yet the delegates from the small states remained adamantly opposed to the Virginia plan.
The disagreement over the apportionment of the legislature had the convention stymied. What saved the convention was a compromise brought forward to Roger Sherman of Connecticut, which became known as the Connecticut Plan or the Great Compromise.
Under the compromise proposal, there would be a bicameral legislature, with a lower house whose membership was apportioned by the population of the states, and an upper house in which each state would have two members and two votes.
The next problem that arose was a debate over how the population of enslaved Americans—a considerable population in some of the southern states—would be counted in the apportionment for the House of Representatives. If the enslaved population counted toward apportionment, the slave states would acquire more power in Congress, though many of those being counted in the population had no rights to speak of. This conflict led to a compromise in which slaves were counted not as full people, but as 3/5 of a person for purposes of apportionment.
As the compromises were worked out, William Paterson threw his support behind the new Constitution as did other delegates from smaller states. Though Paterson’s New Jersey Plan had been rejected, the debates over his proposal ensured that the U.S. Senate would be structured with each state having two Senators.
The issue of how the Senate is constituted often comes up in political debates in the modern era. As the American population is centered around urban areas, it can seem unfair that states with small populations have the same number of Senators as a New York or a California. Yet that structure is the legacy of William Paterson’s argument that small states would be deprived of any power at all in a completely apportioned legislative branch.
What Was The New Jersey Plan
What was the New Jersey plan and what did it propose?
The New Jersey Plan was a proposal for the structure of the U.S. federal government put forward by William Paterson at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The proposal was a response to the Virginia Plan, which Paterson believed would put too much power in large states to the disadvantage of smaller states.
What was the main purpose of the New Jersey plan?
The purpose of the New Jersey Plan, proposed in June 1787, was to support the interests of the smaller states in the nation, in opposition to Virginia’s plan, which argued for a powerful national government.