Virginia Plan

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At the constitutional convention of 1787, edmund randolph, arguing that the government of the union under the articles of confederation could not defend itself against state encroachments, introduced the alternative of a "national plan," probably the work of james madison. In effect Virginia proposed to supersede the Articles by providing for a strong, central government of three branches, each with broad, undefined powers. The plan included a congress of two houses, the first elected by the people and the second by the first, both to be apportioned on the basis of a state's population of free inhabitants or its contributions to the national treasury. The most significant provision empowered congress to legislate in all cases of state incompetency or whenever state legislation might disrupt national harmony. Congress was also empowered to veto state laws. The sole check on congress was a qualified veto power vested in a council consisting of the executive and some judges. One provision required state officers to swear support of the new constitution, and another authorized the use of force against recalcitrant states. The Virginia Plan structured the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention and became the nucleus of the Constitution of the United States.

Leonard W. Levy


Brant, Irving 1950 James Madison: Father of the Constitution, 1787–1800. Pages 23–54. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.

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Virginia Plan

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Virginia Plan