Constitutional Convention
Signing of the Constitution, Albert Herter, Wisconsin State Historical Society

Act II: The Connecticut Compromise

Part Two of a Constitutional Convention role-playing scheme for educators and secondary classrooms.

Scene 1: Consideration of Revised Virginia Plan

June 20, 1787 | Lansing questions legality and practicality of the Amended Plan

Revised Resolution 1 and 2: Debated the issue of a two-branch legislature.

2Defeated (6 – 4 – 1) a motion to consider vesting the powers of legislation in a one-branch Congress. Maryland divided. Sherman argued that “the disparity of the States in point of size … was the main point of difficulty.” Following L. Martin, he argued that “each State like each individual had its peculiar habits, urges, and interests.” But “if the difficulty on the subject of representation can not be otherwise got over, he would agree to have two branches, and a proportional representation in one of them, provided each State had an equal voice in the other.”

Madison’s Notes for the day.

June 21, 1787 | Specifics of House Representation discussed

Revised Resolution
2Resumed discussion of the National Legislature and resolved that it should have two branches (7 – 3 – 1). Maryland divided. New York, New Jersey, and Delaware voted “no.”
3Reconsidered method of electing First Branch. Defeated a motion for election by State Legislatures (6 – 4 – 1). Agreed to popular election (9 – 1 – 1). Maryland divided. New Jersey voted “no.” Wilson considered “the election of the First Branch by the people not only as the Cornerstone, but as the foundation of the fabric.”

Madison’s Notes for the day.

June 22, 1787 | Specifics of House Representation discussed

Revised Resolution
3cDefeated a motion to permit First House to determine its pay (7 – 2 – 2). New York and Georgia divided. New Jersey and Pennsylvania opposed. 
3dDefeated a move to strike the National Treasury as the source of pay (5 – 4 – 2). New York and Georgia divided. 
3Agreed on minimum age of 25 for members of House (7 – 3 – 1). New York divided. 

Discussed making members ineligible for other state or national office during their own term of office plus one year after leaving office. Defeated motion to strike (4 – 4 – 3). New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware divided. 

Madison’s Notes for the day.

June 23, 1787 | Ineligibility requirements for members of Congress 

Revised Resolution
3Defeated (5 – 5 – 1) a motion by Butler to provide House members adequate compensation from the National Treasury. Georgia divided. 

Agreed (8 – 2 – 1) to strike ineligibility of House members for other Federal Offices. Massachusetts divided. Pennsylvania and Georgia voted “no.” 

Madison’s Notes for the day.

June 25, 1787 | The purpose of the Senate

Revised Resolution
4Agreed (5 – 5 – 1) to change “Second Branch of the National Legislature” to “Second Branch of the United States Legislature.” 
5Agreed (9 – 2) to election of the Second Branch by State Legislatures. Pennsylvania and Virginia voted “no.” 
4bAgreed unanimously to minimum age of 30 for Senators. Pinckney delivers an “American Exceptionalism” speech: “the people of this country are not only very different from the inhabitants of any State we are acquainted with in the modern world; but I assert that their situation is distinct from either the people of Greece or Rome, or of any State we are acquainted with among the ancients.” 

Madison’s Notes for the day.

June 26, 1787 | Specifics of Senate Representation discussed

Revised Resolution
4Resumed discussion of Senate terms. Nine-year terms with triennial rotation defeated (8 – 3). Sherman’s six-year terms with biennial rotation proposal approved (7 – 4). 

Agreed (10 – 1) that members should “receive a compensation for the devotion of their time to the Public Service.” South Carolina voted “no.” 

Disagreed (6 – 5) that State Treasuries should pay Senators. 

Discussed and agreed unanimously on eligibility for other Federal and State offices. Madison explained that the main purpose of the Senate was “to protect the people against the transient impressions into which they themselves may be led.” Madison links “longevity” in the Senate with “longevity” of the American System. The problem is the emergence of “a leveling spirit” and the solution is to find a “republican” remedy. See Federalist 63 where Madison argued on behalf of “the cool and deliberate sense of the community.” Sherman presented the opposing argument: “Government is instituted for those who live under it… Frequent elections are necessary to preserve the good behavior of rulers. Hamilton ”did not mean to enter particularly into the subject.” But he did! “He acknowledged himself not to think favorably of Republican Government; but addressed his remarks to those who did think favorably of it. In order to prevail on them to tone their Government as high as possible.” 

Madison’s Notes for the day.

June 27, 1787 | Resolutions 7 and 8 discussed

Revised Resolution
7Discussed “the right of suffrage in the first branch.”
8Discussed “the right of suffrage in the second branch” to be the same as the First Branch. 

Luther Martin delivered a three-hour “desultory” speech, the substance of which was “that an equal vote in each State was essential to the federal idea, and was founded in justice and freedom, not merely in policy.” More: “the propositions on the table were a system of slavery for 10 States.” 

Madison’s Notes for the day.

June 28, 1787 | Luther Martin resumes his ‘discourse’ on the role of States

Revised Resolution
7Resumed discussion on representation in the First Branch. 
8Resumed discussion on representation in the Second Branch. Luther Martin continued his speech from the previous day, “contending that the General Government ought to be formed for the States, not individuals.” Madison remarks: “This was the substance of the residue of his discourse which was delivered with much diffuseness and considerable vehemence.” Franklin, disturbed by “the small progress we have made after 4 or 5 weeks,” calls for “prayers imploring the assistance of heaven.” Williamson responded: “the Convention had no funds.” 

Madison’s Notes for the day.

Scene 2: Contours of Compromise — Partly National, Partly Federal

June 30, 1787 | Loose talk of division and disunion

Defeated (5 – 2 – 1) resolution to ask New Hampshire to send its delegates. Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Georgia absent. Maryland divided. New York and New Jersey opposed.

Revised Resolution
8Ellsworth introduces “Connecticut Compromise Motion”: equal representation in Second Branch with proportional representation in First Branch. Ellsworth: “We are razing the foundations of the building.  When we need only to repair the roof.” Sherman declared: “we are now at a full stop.”  Madison claims that equal State representation in the Senate would infuse “mortality” into the union.  Moreover, the great divide in American politics is “having or not having slaves” rather than large and small States. Davie suggested, “we were partly federal, partly national in our Union.”

The loose talk of division came from Gunning Bedford who was unconvinced that there was a middle way “between a perfect consolidation and a mere confederacy of the States.”

Madison’s Notes for the day.

July 2, 1787 | Creation of the Gerry Committee

Tied (5 – 5 – 1) on Ellsworth’s motion giving each State one vote in Senate and proportional representation in House. Yates and Lansing voted “yes.” Georgia divided. Massachusetts voted no.  Maryland voted yes; Jenifer was temporarily absent. Davie failed to carry North Carolina.

This day, G. Morris returns after an 18-day absence.

Revised Resolution
8Voted to commit the question (9 – 2).

Voted to commit to committee of one member from each state (10 – 1). Pennsylvania voted “no.” Madison failed to carry Virginia. Gerry chaired committee made up of Gerry, Ellsworth, Yates, Patterson, Franklin, Bedford, L. Martin, Mason, Davie, Rutledge, Baldwin. Ellsworth: from the State Governments could he “derive the greatest happiness he could expect in this life.” Franklin: “both sides must part with some of their demands.” Bedford: “There was no middle way between a perfect consolidation and a mere confederacy of the States.” Davie: “we were partly federal, partly national in our Union.” Madison reminded the delegates that “the States were divided into different interests not by their difference of size, but by other circumstances; the most material of which resulted partly from climate, but principally from the effects of their having or not having slaves.”

That time may be given to the committee, and to such as chuse to attend to the celebrations of the Anniversary of Independence,” the Convention adjourned until Thursday.

Madison’s Notes for the day.

July 3, 1787 | Gerry Committee met

Gerry Committee met to work on the questions of the previous day.

Scene 3: Independence Day Contemplation

July 4, 1787 | ‘When in the Course of Human Events’

Independence Day observed. Delegates attended Race Street Church (also known as First Reformed Church) on Fourth and Race Streets to hear annual oration on the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence given by Mr. Mitchell, a student of law. William Pierce and William Few left over the 4th of July break; they decided to return to New York and represent Georgia in the Confederation Congress. 

Scene 4: The Gerry Committee Compromise Proposal Discussed

July 5, 1787 | The Compromise Proposal has three components

Received Report from the Gerry Committee: Representation in First Branch by population (1:40,000). Representation in Second Branch to give each state an equal vote. Money Bills to originate in First Branch and not subject to amendment in Second Branch.

Gerry made a principled defense of Report: “We were neither the same nation nor different nations. We ought not therefore to pursue the one or the other of these ideas too closely.” 

Mason said: ”there must be some accommodation.” 

Madison’s Notes for the day.

July 6, 1787 | Debating the merits of proportional representation

Gerry Committee Report: Agreed (7 – 3 – 1) to commit the question of representation of 1:40,000 in the First Branch to the Morris Committee made up of G. Morris, Gorham, Randolph, Rutledge, and King. Maryland divided. New York, New Jersey, and Delaware voted “no.” Agreed (5 – 3 – 3) to retain money bills provision. Pennsylvania, Virginia, and South Carolina voted “no.” Massachusetts, New York, and Georgia divided. Pinckney argued that “the number of inhabitants appeared to him the only just and practicable rule” of representation. Thus “blacks ought to stand on an equality with whites.” Mason ”was a friend to proportional representation in both branches; but supposed that some points must be yielded for the sake of accommodation.” 

Madison’s Notes for the day.

July 7, 1787 | Sherman reinforces case for equal representation of States in Senate

The Gerry Committee Report was discussed. The question of equal vote for each state in Second House was taken up and it was agreed (6 – 3 – 2) to retain this provision. Massachusetts and Georgia divided. Pennsylvania, Virginia, and South Carolina voted “no.”

Gerry: ”the new Government would be partly national, partly federal.” 

Madison’s Notes for the day.

July 9, 1787 | Distributing 56 seats in the House to the 13 States

The Gerry Committee Report was reconsidered. The G. Morris five-member Committee suggested approval of the population formula (1:40,000). The second paragraph of the Gerry Committee Report was approved (9 – 2). New York and New Jersey voted “no.” The first paragraph was referred to an eleven-member committee (9 – 2). New York and North Carolina voted “no.” 

Gorham from the Morris Committee: “The number of blacks and whites with some regard to supposed wealth was the general guide.” 

Madison’s Notes for the day.

July 10, 1787 | North-South, Large-Small Discussion

Received report from the Eleven Member Committee allocating 65 representatives among the 13 States for the House. Delegates Yates and Lansing from New York leave the Convention and explained their reasons to Governor Clinton of New York. King “was fully convinced that the question concerning a difference of interests did not lie where it had hitherto been discussed, between the great and small States; but between the Southern and Eastern.” 

Madison’s Notes for the day.

July 11, 1787 | The Census and Representation

Inconclusive discussion on periodical censuses. Defeated (7 – 3) a motion to strike out 3/5 for the substitute Butler-Pinckney “all” motion. G. Morris ”could never agree to give such encouragement to the slave trade.” Only Delaware, North Carolina, and South Carolina voted in favor of the Butler-Pinckney proposal to count slaves as 5/5 of a person. “Mr. Mason could not agree to the motion, notwithstanding it was favorable to Virginia because it was unjust.” Defeated (6 – 4) a motion “to include 3/5 of the blacks.” G. Morris was compelled “to declare himself reduced to the dilemma of doing injustice to the Southern States or to human nature, and he must therefore do it to the former.” This day marked the absence of the New York delegation. 

Madison’s Notes for the day.

July 12, 1787 | Blacks equal to the whites in the ratio of representation?

Approved (5 – 4 – 1) a motion to have a census within 6 years of the First Congress. Defeated (7 – 3) a motion for succeeding censuses every 20 years. Agreed (8 – 2) on census every 10 years.Defeated (8 – 2) motion “for rating blacks as equal to whites instead of as 3/5.” Approved (6 – 2 – 2) a motion to proportion direct taxes to representation, including representation of those counted as 3/5 of a person. 

Madison’s Notes for the day.

July 13, 1787 | Representation in the Senate

Approved (5 – 4 – 1) a motion to proportion direct taxes to the number of representatives until the first census. Pennsylvania divided. Agreed (9 – 0 – 1) that the Legislature can regulate the number of representatives in accordance with the number of inhabitants. Delaware divided. 

G. Morris and Butler[/tah-onclick] have a pointed exchange over slavery. Morris was willing to take “friendly leave of each other” rather than to bend on the 3/5 clause. Butler responds, “the security the Southern States want is that their negroes may not be taken from them which some gentlemen within or without doors, have a very good mind to do.” Confederation Congress passes Northwest Ordinance. 

Madison’s Notes for the day.

July 14, 1787 | Does partly national, partly federal make sense

Defeated (5 – 4 – 1) a motion to limit representation of new western states. Discussed equal vote for each State in Second House with money bills originating in First House. Madison argues against the “partly federal, partly national” accommodation. Pinckney moved “that instead of equality of votes” there should be proportional representation in the Senate. Defeated (4 – 6).

Madison’s Notes for the day.

Scene 5: Decision Day on the Connecticut Compromise

July 16, 1787 | Connecticut Compromise accepted (5 – 4 – 1)

Agreed (5 – 4 – 1) to Gerry Committee Report: House Proportional, Senate Equal Representation for each State, and money bills originating in the First Branch and not amendable by the Second Branch. This is also known as the Connecticut Compromise. Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia voted “no.” Massachusetts was divided. According to Randolph, if New York had been present, the vote would have been (6 – 4 – 1).

How does a 5 – 4 – 1 vote represent a compromise? Was it a “mere compromise,” or a “principled compromise?”

Revised Resolution
6bBegan consideration of the proposal to give Congress the authority in all cases to which the separate states are incompetent

Madison’s Notes for the day.

Scene 6: Return to the Amended Virginia Plan; Committee of Detail Created

July 17, 1787 | The Supreme Law of the Land and the Independence of the Presidency

The delegates from large States caucused to decide whether to challenge equal representation in the Senate. They decided not to challenge the compromise. 

Revised Resolution
6bResumed consideration of the powers to be given Congress. Agreed (6 – 4) to motion to include power to legislate in all cases for the general interests of the Union and in those cases where States are separately incompetent. 
6cDefeated (7 – 3) the Congressional negative of State Laws. Madison thought the Congressional negative an “essential” part of the attempt by the Virginia Plan to control State-generated majority tyranny. L. Martin considered the negative to be “improper.” Another “chasm” for Madison. Martin fills the chasm. Revised Resolution 6c, a motion by L. Martin to make laws and treaties supreme law of the respective States approved nem con. This is the origin of the Supremacy Clause. 

Began consideration of Executive. Agreed (10 – 0) on a single executive. Defeated (9 – 1) election by citizens of the United States. Defeated (8 – 2) election by electors appointed by State Legislature. Approved (10 – 0) election by Legislature. Postponed decision on seven-year term. Defeated ineligibility requirement (6 – 4). Defeated motion to substitute hold office “during good behavior” rather than seven years (6- 4). Defeated motion to strike seven years (6 – 4). 

Madison’s Notes for the day.

July 18, 1787 | Discussion of Resolutions 11-16

Revised Resolution
9Agreed to reconsider ineligibility of Executive (8 – 0) (New Jersey and Georgia not voting). Agreed to Executive Veto with 2/3 override. 
11Began consideration of Judiciary. Defeated (6 – 2) motion for appointment by Executive. Motion for Executive nomination and appointment on advice and consent of Second House defeated (4 – 4). 
12-16Agreed to let Legislature create inferior tribunals, nem con. Agreed “that the jurisdiction shall extend to all cases arising under the national laws and to such other questions as may involve the national peace and harmony,” nem con. Agreed to admit new States with the consent of less than the whole of the National Legislature. Began consideration of continuing the Confederation during the transitional period. Took up Guarantee of Republican Government for States. 

Madison’s Notes for the day.

July 19, 1787 | Reconsideration of the Independent Presidency

Revised Resolution
9G. Morris moved to reconsider the appointment, duration, and eligibility of the Executive. Agreed (10 – 0). Agreed (6 – 3 – 1) to Ellsworth’s motions to appointment of Executive by electors chosen by State Legislatures (8 – 2). Defeated (8 – 2) ineligibility for re-election. Defeated (5 – 3 – 2) 7-year term. Agreed (9 – 1) to 6-year term. 

Madison’s Notes for the day.

July 20, 1787 | More disputation over the Independent Presidency

Revised Resolution
9Took up apportionment of electors among the States with a minimum of one and a maximum of three per State. Defeated (7 – 3) motion to add an elector for New Hampshire and Georgia. Agreed (6 – 4) to Gerry’s allocation of one to three per each State.

Made Executive removable by impeachment (8 – 2). Franklin saw impeachment as the peaceful republican alternative to assassination under despotism. 

Agreed on fixed compensation, nem con. Agreed (9 – 1) to be paid out of National Treasury.

Madison’s Notes for the day.

July 21, 1787 | The Council of Revision revisited

Revised Resolutions
10, 11Wilson and Madison argued unsuccessfully on behalf of reinstating original Council of Revision. Rejected (4 – 3 – 2) motion to join Judiciary with Executive in the exercise of veto power (New Jersey not voting, Pennsylvania and Georgia divided). Agreed (9 – 0) on qualified Executive Veto. Resumed consideration of Judicial appointments. Defeated (6 – 3) Executive appointment unless Senate disagrees. Approved (6 – 3) selection by Senate alone. 

Madison’s Notes for the day.

July 23, 1787 | Resolutions 17-19 debated

New Hampshire delegates John Langdon and Nicholas Gilman arrived

Revised Resolution
17, 18, 19Agreed unanimously on requiring oaths by both National and State officials to support the Articles of Union. Began discussion of ratification. Discussion of Resolution 19 of the Amended Virginia Plan of June 13: “The amendments which shall be offered to the Confederation by the Convention, ought at a proper time or times, after the approbation of Congress to be submitted to an assembly or assemblies of representatives, recommended by the several Legislatures, to be expressly chosen by the People to consider and decide thereon.” Defeated (7 – 3) motion by Ellsworth and Paterson to amend Resolution 19 to have the new Constitution referred to State Legislatures for ratification. Agreed (9 – 1) to referral to conventions of the people. 
9Agreed (7 – 3) to reconsider election of the Executive. Agreed to refer Revised Resolutions to a Committee of five members to be named the following day. Gen. Pinckney reminded the Convention that if the Committee should fail to insert some security to the Southern States against an emancipation of slaves, and taxes on exports, he should be bound by duty to his State to vote against their Report. It was agreed nem. con. that the committee consist of 5 members, to be appointed tomorrow. 

Madison’s Notes for the day.


July 24, 1787 | Controversy over the Presidency

Chose Rutledge, Randolph, Gorham, Ellsworth, Wilson for the Committee of Detail. 

Revised Resolution
9Reconsidered choice of Executive by electors. Approved (7 – 4) appointment by national legislature. 

Madison’s Notes for the day.

July 25, 1787 | More disccusion on the Presidency

Defeated (6 – 5) resolution to let members have copies of the Revised Resolutions of the Virginia Plan during the break. 

Revised Resolution
9Resumed discussion on election of the Executive. Madison compares and contrasts the four proposals for electing the Executive. 

Madison’s Notes for the day.

July 26, 1787 | Constitutional Convention adjourns with the creation of a 5-member Committee of Detail

Revised Resolution
9Resumed discussion on election of the Executive and approved (7 – 3) a 7-year term with ineligibility for re-election. Agreed (6 – 3 – 1) to the whole resolution on the Executive. Wilson reminds participants “We are providing a constitution for future generations, and not merely for the peculiar circumstances of the moment.”

Madison’s Notes for the day.

Adjourned to Monday, August 6, 1787. 

Four Act Drama Main PageAct IAct IIIAct IV