New Jersey Plan

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The adoption of the virginia plan by the constitutional convention of 1787 frightened state sovereignty supporters and nationalists from small states. Abicameral Congress apportioned on the basis of population would have enabled the great states to dominate the new government. On June 15, 1787, william paterson of New Jersey introduced a substitute plan that retained the "purely federal" (confederated) character of the articles of confederation. Under the Article a unicameral Congress in which each state had one vote preserved the principle of state equality.

as charles pinckney observed, if New Jersey had an equal vote, she would "dismiss her scruples, and concur in the national system." The New Jersey plan, though merely amending the Articles, was a small states' nationalist plan, not a state sovereignty plan. It recommended a Congress with powers to regulate commerce and to raise revenue from import and stamp duties, and it would have authorized requisitions from the states enforceable by a national executive empowered to use the military against states defying national laws and treaties. The plan recommended a national judiciary with broad jurisdiction, extending to cases arising out of the regulation of commerce and the collection of the revenue. The nucleus of the supremacy clause, making national law the supreme law of the states, was also part of the plan. It was a warning to large-state nationalists that they would have to compromise on the issue of representation. The Committee of the Whole defeated the plan 7–3, with one state divided. The Convention was thereafter stymied until the great compromise was adopted.

(See constitutional history, 1776–1789.)

Leonard W. Levy


Brant, Irving 1950 James Madison: Father of the Constitution, 1787–1800. Pages 46–54. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.

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New Jersey Plan

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New Jersey Plan