The Great Compromise

Essential Questions

What were the debates before and the resolution of the Great Compromise?

Great Compromise

"The design of an entirely new national framework underwent many revisions and was only achieved through compromise.

The Virginia Plan

Madison's initial proposal, now known as the Virginia Plan, called for a strong central government. This central government would have had a close relationship with the people, who were to vote directly for some national leaders. Madison also proposed that the central government be made up of three distinct branches: a bicameral legislature, an executive, and a judiciary. The lower house of the legislature would be elected directly by the people, and then the lower house would elect the upper house. Together they would choose the executive and judiciary.

The New Jersey Plan

Madison's Virginia Plan was opposed by delegates representing states with small populations. Under the Articles of Confederation, each state had a right to one vote, but under Madison's plan, its total number of votes would depend on the state's population. In other words, the more people a state had, the more power it held.

To counter the Virginia Plan, the smaller states proposed the New Jersey Plan, which would continue more along the lines of the articles. This plan called for a unicameral legislature with one vote per state.

The division between high- and low-population states was the major hurdle that delegates to the Convention needed to overcome to design a stronger national government, which they all agreed was needed. Could the states ever form a more perfect union?

The Great Compromise

After more debate, a proposal was finally put forward by delegates from Connecticut — a small population state. It suggested that representatives in each house of the proposed bicameral legislature be selected through different means.

The upper house, or Senate, would grant equal power to individual states by including two people from each state regardless of size. Meanwhile, the lower house, the House of Representatives, would have different numbers of representatives based on that state's total population.

By coming up with this mixed solution, the Constitution was forged through what is known as the Connecticut Compromise."

excerpt from "Conceived of Compromises: Creating the U.S. Constitution" By, adapted by Newsela staff 05/17/2017

Discussion Questions

  • What was the Great Compromise? What debate did it settle?

Activity 1: What were the major plans during the development of the Constitution and their resolution?

Using the information from this lesson, answer the questions in a thinking map. Complete this assignment digitally or on paper. It will be collected in your portfolio.

Extension Activities

NEWSELA: Conceived of Compromises: Creating the U.S. Constitution

NEWSELA: Federalists and Anti-Federalists Fight Over the Constitution