Return to Starting Point: New Jersey Plan

How are we to interpret Dickinson’s remark that it was Madison’s unwillingness to compromise that brought about this breakdown in negotiations?
Is the New Jersey Plan pretty much the same as the Articles of Confederation (1781)? Where does the three-fifths clause fit into the New Jersey Plan and the revised Virginia Plan (1787)? Can we say that these two documents make it clear that the key debate is between the small states and the large states?

Although on June 13 the delegates had seemed to endorse the Revised Virginia Plan, which preserved, with modifications, the new institutional structure proposed by the original Virginia Plan, not all were content. On June 15, William Patterson presented the alternative New Jersey Plan, which restored the structure of the Articles of Confederation but at the same time added to the powers of Congress. Why, after two weeks of negotiation concerning the representation of people, states, and property, would the New Jersey coalition insist on starting all over again?

Madison gives a clue in a footnote to his coverage of the debates: “This plan had been concerted among the Deputations, or members thereof, from Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and perhaps Mr. Martin, from Maryland, who made with them a common cause, though on different principles. Connecticut and New York were against a departure from the principle of the Confederation, wishing rather to add a few new powers to Congress than to substitute a National Government. The States of New Jersey and Delaware were opposed to a National Government, because its patrons considered a proportional representation of the States as the basis of it. The eagerness displayed by the members opposed to a National Government, from these different motives, began now to produce serious anxiety for the result of the Convention.” At this point delegates had approved, in the working draft of the Virginia Plan, to proportional suffrage in both houses of Congress, although to a different mode of election in each (direct election in the first house and appointment by state legislatures in the second). In the same footnote to the June 15 debate, Madison comments that John Dickinson of Delaware turned to him and said, “You see the consequence of pushing things too far. Some of the members from the small States wish for two branches in the General Legislature, and are friends to a good National Government; but we would sooner submit to a foreign power, than submit to be deprived in both branches of an equality of suffrage, and thereby be thrown under the domination of the larger States.”

The smaller states did not deny the weakness of the federal government under the Articles. But they opposed using the Constitution to make an end-run around the states by basing representation entirely on the people. The New Jersey plan did incorporate the three-fifths compromise into its Resolution 3, which stipulated that the amounts of “requisitions”—funds sent from the states to supply the needs of the federal government—would be calculated according each state’s population.

—Gordon Lloyd

Source: Gordon Lloyd, ed., Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 by James Madison, a Member (Ashland, Ohio: Ashbrook Center, 2014), 77-86.

June 15

In Convention, — Mr. PATTERSON laid before the Convention the plan which he said several of the Deputations wished to be substituted in place of that proposed by Mr. RANDOLPH.[1]

After some little discussion of the most proper mode of giving it a fair deliberation, it was agreed, that it should be referred to a Committee of the Whole; and that, in order to place the two plans in due comparison, the other should be recommitted.

At the earnest request of Mr. LANSING[2] and some other gentleman, it was also agreed that the Convention should not go into Committee of the Whole on the subject till to-morrow; by which delay the friends of the plan proposed by Mr. PATTERSON would be better prepared to explain and support it, and all would have an opportunity of taking copies.

The propositions from New Jersey, moved by Mr. PATTERSON, were in the words following:

  1. Resolved, that the Articles of Confederation ought to be so revised, corrected, and enlarged, as to render the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of government, and the preservation of the Union.
  2. Resolved, that, in addition to the powers vested in the United States in Congress, by the present existing Articles of Confederation, they be authorized to pass acts for raising a revenue, by levying a duty or duties on all goods or merchandizes of foreign growth or manufacture, imported into any part of the United States; by stamps on paper, vellum or parchment; and by a postage on all letters or packages passing through the general post-office; to be applied to such Federal purposes as they shall deem proper and expedient; to make rules and regulations for the collection thereof; and the same, from time to time, to alter and amend in such manner as they shall think proper; to pass acts for the regulation of trade and commerce, as well with foreign nations as with each other; provided that all punishments, fines, forfeitures and penalties, to be incurred for contravening such acts, rules and regulations, shall be adjudged by the common law Judiciaries of the State in which any offence contrary to the true intent and meaning of such acts, rules, and regulations, shall have been committed or perpetrated, with liberty of commencing in the first instance all suits and prosecutions for that purpose in the Superior common law Judiciary in such State; subject, nevertheless, for the correction of all errors, both in law and fact, in rendering judgment, to an appeal to the Judiciary of the United States.
  3. Resolved, that whenever requisitions shall be necessary, instead of the rule for making requisitions mentioned in the Articles of Confederation, the United States in Congress be authorized to make such requisitions in proportion to the whole number of white and other free citizens and inhabitants, of every age, sex, and condition, including those bound to servitude for a term of years, and three-fifths of all other persons not comprehended in the foregoing description, except Indians not paying taxes; that, if such requisitions be not complied with, in the time specified therein, to direct the collection thereof in the non-complying States; and for that purpose to devise and pass acts directing and authorizing the same; provided, that none of the powers hereby vested in the United States in Congress, shall be exercised without the consent of at least — States; and in that proportion, if the number of confederated States should hereafter be increased or diminished.
  4. Resolved, that the United States in Congress be authorized to elect a Federal Executive, to consist of — persons, to continue in office for the term of — years; to receive punctually, at stated times, a fixed compensation for their services, in which no increase nor diminution shall be made so as to affect the persons composing the Executive at the time of such increase or diminution; to be paid out of the Federal treasury; to be incapable of holding any other office or appointment during their time of service, and for — years thereafter: to be ineligible a second time, and removable by Congress, on application by a majority of the Executives of the several States; that the Executive, besides their general authority to execute the Federal acts, ought to appoint all Federal officers not otherwise provided for, and to direct all military operations; provided, that none of the persons composing the Federal Executive shall, on any occasion, take command of any troops, so as personally to conduct any military enterprise, as General, or in any other capacity.
  5. Resolved, that a Federal Judiciary be established, to consist of a supreme tribunal, the Judges of which to be appointed by the Executive, and to hold their offices during good behavior; to receive punctually, at stated times, a fixed compensation for their services, in which no increase nor diminution shall be made so as to affect the persons actually in office at the time of such increase or diminution. That the Judiciary so established shall have authority to hear and determine, in the first instance, on all impeachments of Federal officers; and, by way of appeal, in the dernier[3] resort, in all cases touching the rights of ambassadors; in all cases of captures from an enemy; in all cases of piracies and felonies on the high seas; in all cases in which foreigners may be interested; in the construction of any treaty or treaties, or which may arise on any of the acts for the regulation of trade, or the collection of the Federal revenue: that none of the Judiciary shall, during the time they remain in office, be capable of receiving or holding any other office or appointment during their term of service, or for — thereafter.
  6. Resolved, that all acts of the United States in Congress, made by virtue and in pursuance of the powers hereby, and by the Articles of Confederation, vested in them, and all treaties made and ratified under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the respective States, so far forth as those acts or treaties shall relate to the said States or their citizens; and that the Judiciary of the several States shall be bound thereby in their decisions, any thing in the respective laws of the individual States to the contrary notwithstanding: and that if any State, or any body of men in any State, shall oppose or prevent the carrying into execution such acts or treaties, the Federal Executive shall be authorized to call forth the power of the confederated States, or so much thereof as may be necessary, to enforce and compel an obedience to such acts, or an observance of such treaties.
  7. Resolved, that provision be made for the admission of new States into the Union.
  8. Resolved, that the rule for naturalization ought to be the same in every State.
  9. Resolved, that a citizen of one State committing an offence in another State of the Union, shall be deemed guilty of the same offence as if it had been committed by a citizen.

  1. 1. Edmund Randolph of Virginia, who had proposed the Virginia plan on May 29.
  2. 2. John Lansing, Jr. of New York
  3. 3. last
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