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The Virginia Plan


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The Constitutional Convention was tasked with proposing amendments to the Articles of Confederation which would make it a more workable plan for national government. Though the final product of the Convention was a replacement for the Articles, the first proposal was presented as a series of changes to the Articles. The list of changes was drafted by James Madison and presented to the Convention by the governor of Virgina, Edmund Randolph. It became known as the Virginia Plan. It was presented to the Convention on May 29, 1787

Also of interest are Charles Pinckney's Plan, the New Jersey Plan, and the British Plan.

The following text was taken from the Avalon Project's reproduction of Madison's notes from the convention. The text is largely unaltered as presented here, but spelling has been corrected and abbreviations have been expanded.


Resolutions proposed by Mr. Randolph in Convention May 29, 1787

1. Resolved that the Articles of Confederation ought to be so corrected and enlarged as to accomplish the objects proposed by their institution; namely, "common defense, security of liberty and general welfare."

2. Resolved therefore that the rights of suffrage in the National Legislature ought to be proportioned to the Quotas of contribution, or to the number of free inhabitants, as the one or the other rule may seem best in different cases. [1]

3. Resolved that the National Legislature ought to consist of two branches. [2]

4. Resolved that the members of the first branch of the National Legislature ought to be elected by the people of the several States every — for the term of —; to be of the age of — years at least, to receive liberal stipends by with they may be compensated for the devotion of their time to public service; to be ineligible to any office established by a particular State, or under the authority of the United States, except those peculiarly belonging to the functions of the first branch, during the term of service, and for the space of — after its expiration; to be incapable of reelection for the space of — after the expiration of their term of service, and to be subject to recall. [3]

5. Resolved that the members of the second branch of the National Legislature ought to be elected by those of the first, out of a proper number of persons nominated by the individual Legislatures, to be of the age of — years at least; to hold their offices for a term sufficient to ensure their independency; to receive liberal stipends, by which they may be compensated for the devotion of their time to public service; and to be ineligible to any office established by a particular State, or under the authority of the United States, except those peculiarly belonging to the functions of the second branch, during the term of service, and for the space of — after the expiration thereof. [4]

6. Resolved that each branch ought to possess the right of originating Acts; that the National Legislature ought to be empowered to enjoy the Legislative Rights vested in Congress by the Confederation and moreover to legislate in all cases to which the separate States are incompetent, or in which the harmony of the United States may be interrupted by the exercise of individual Legislation; to negative all laws passed by the several States, contravening in the opinion of the National Legislature the articles of Union; and to call forth the force of the Union against any member of the Union failing to fulfill its duty under the articles thereof. [5]

7. Resolved that a National Executive be instituted; to be chosen by the National Legislature for the term of — years, to receive punctually at stated times, a fixed compensation for the services rendered, in which no increase or diminution shall be made so as to affect the Magistracy, existing at the time of increase or diminution, and to be ineligible a second time; and that besides a general authority to execute the National laws, it ought to enjoy the Executive rights vested in Congress by the Confederation. [6]

8. Resolved that the Executive and a convenient number of the National Judiciary, ought to compose a Council of revision with authority to examine every act of the National Legislature before it shall operate, and every act of a particular Legislature before a Negative thereon shall be final; and that the dissent of the said Council shall amount to a rejection, unless the Act of the National Legislature be again passed, or that of a particular Legislature be again negatived by — of the members of each branch. [7]

9. Resolved that a National Judiciary be established to consist of one or more supreme tribunals, and of inferior tribunals to be chosen by the National Legislature, to hold their offices during good behavior; and to receive punctually at stated times fixed compensation for their services, in which no increase or diminution shall be made so as to affect the persons actually in office at the time of such increase or diminution. That the jurisdiction of the inferior tribunals shall be to hear and determine in the first instance, and of the supreme tribunal to hear and determine in the dernier resort, all piracies and felonies on the high seas, captures from an enemy; cases in which foreigners or citizens of other States applying to such jurisdictions may be interested, or which respect the collection of the National revenue; impeachments of any National officers, and questions which may involve the national peace and harmony. [8]

10. Resolved that provision ought to be made for the admission of States lawfully arising within the limits of the United States, whether from a voluntary junction of Government and Territory or otherwise, with the consent of a number of voices in the National legislature less than the whole. [9]

11. Resolved that a Republican Government and the territory of each State, except in the instance of a voluntary junction of Government and territory, ought to be guarantied by the United States to each State. [10]

12. Resolved that provision ought to be made for the continuance of Congress and their authorities and privileges, until a given day after the reform of the articles of Union shall be adopted, and for the completion of all their engagements.

13. Resolved that provision ought to be made for the amendment of the Articles of Union whensoever it shall seem necessary, and that the assent of the National Legislature ought not to be required thereto. [11]

14. Resolved that the Legislative Executive and Judiciary powers within the several States ought to be bound by oath to support the articles of Union. [12]

15. Resolved that 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.


Footnotes

1. Proportional representation was used in the House of Representatives, as found at Article 1, Section 2.

2. A bicameral legislature was used in the final draft, as found at Article 1, Section 1.

3. Many of the elements of this section were included in the final draft and are found at Article 1, Section 2. Notably not included are: recall, term-limits, and the post-service waiting period.

4. This section details the precursor to the Senate, found at Article 1, Section 3 of the final draft. In the final draft, the Senate was chosen by the states and not the lower house, and the Senate is not proportional.

5. This section reflects many of the fears of the delegates to the convention - in particular that the needs of the national government were being contravened by the states. The final draft does not allow the override of state laws by the Congress, nor has an explicit authorization to use force against any belligerent state.

6. The inclusion of an executive was a key provision of the Virginia Plan, and is a key provision of the Constitution. This is an entirely new concept for the national government, as the Confederation had no executive worthy of the name; however, the states all had experience with executives, and the pros and cons of having one. The method for choosing the executive here is scant in detail, but is akin to how a Prime Minister is chosen in a parliamentary system. See Article 2.

7. The power vested here in a Council of Revision exists in the Constitution in penumbrae only. Article 1, Section 7 gives the President a veto and specifies that a veto can be overridden, but the Supreme Court has no explicit power of revision. The Supreme Court, however, asserted the right of judicial review early in the days of the republic under the Constitution, as an implied power.

8. The creation of a national court system was another key provision missing in the Articles of Confederation and included in the final draft. Some key elements from this section found their way into the final draft (see Article 3).

9. As the people of the nation reached out toward the western part of North America, the method of adding new states was rethought. The Articles had an open invitation to Canada to join the union, but new states required a supermajority vote of Congress. This section did not preclude the use of a supermajority, but in the final draft, only a simple majority is needed to admit new states (see Article 3, Section 3).

10. A republican form of government is guaranteed to each state in Article 4, Section 4.

11. The Articles of Confederation were found to be impossible to amend, requiring unanimous consent in Congress to any change. This section calls for a method of amendment that did not involved Congress. The Constitution has such a provision, and more, found in Article 5.

12. An oath to support the Constitution, to be taken by all state and federal officials, was mandated in Article 6.



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