June 16, 1787: Comparing the Plans

Head-and-shoulders engraving of a man in colonial attire.
Charles Pinckney

New York Public Library,

"...give New Jersey an equal vote, and she will dismiss her scruples, and concur in the national system."

Charles Pinckney (SC), Madison's Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention

Saturday, June 16, 1787: The Convention Today

The convention resolved itself once more into a Committee of the Whole to compare the Virginia and the New Jersey plans. This debate will take up the rest of June.

Lansing (NY) called for reading the first resolution of each plan -- that of New Jersey sustains state sovereignty that of Virginia destroys it. He gave several reasons for preferring the New Jersey Plan. So did Paterson (NJ). Both stressed that the New Jersey Plan was compatible with the delegates' instructions and with the wishes of the people.

James Wilson (PA) responded with a point -by-point comparison of the two plans, and with arguments in favor of the Virginia Plan. Wilson compared the plans on thirteen points, including the type of legislatures proposed, a single executive versus more than one executive, and the basis of authority, be it the people or the state legislatures.

A comparison of the two plans found in the papers of James Wilson and which is almost certainly the notes from which he spoke 200 years ago this day is as follows:

From Virginia
1. A Legislature consisting of two or three branches.
2. On the original Authority of the People
3. Representation of Citizens according to Numbers and Importance.
4. A single Executive Magistrate.
5. A Majority empowered to act.
6. The national Legislature to legislate in all Cases to which the State Legislatures are incompetent, or in which the Harmony of the Union may be interrupted.
7. To negative Laws contrary to the Union or Treaties.
8. Executive removable on Impeachment and Conviction.
9. The Executive to have a qualified Negative.
10. Provision made for inferior national Tribunals.
11. The Jurisdiction of the national Tribunal to extend to Cases of National Revenue.
12. ----to Questions that may involve the national Peace.
13. The national Government to be ratified under the authority of the People by Delegates expressly appointed for that Purpose.

From New Jersey
1. A single Legislature.
2. On the derivative Authority of the Legislatures of the States.
3. Representation of States without Regard to Numbers.
4. More than one Executive Magistrate.
5. A small Minority able to control.
6. The United States in Congress vested with additional Powers only in a few inadequate Instances.
7. To call forth the Powers of the confederated States in order to compel Obedience.
8. [Executive removable] by Congress on Application by a Majority of the Executives of the States.
9. [The Executive] to have none [Negative].
10. None [No provision for inferior national Tribunals].
11. [The Jurisdiction of the national Tribunal] Only by Appeal in the dernier Resort.
12. [to Questions that may involve the national Peace] Only limited and appellate Jurisdiction.
13. The Alterations in the Confederation must be confirmed by the "Legislatures of every State."

  • The delegates compared the New Jersey and Virginia Plans

Delegates Today
  • Dr. Johnson (CT) again dined at City Tavern and went out walking to find cheaper lodgings. His expenses were nine shillings.
  • General Washington (VA) drank tea at Doctor William Shippen's with Mrs. Livingston's party. Mrs. Livingston was Dr. Shippen's daughter Ann, the estranged wife of Henry Beckman Livingston (son of Robert R. Livingston)
Philadelphia Today
  • Today was cooler, with an east wind and noon temperature of 76°.
  • The market was still a problem as the Evening Herald noted: "not with standing the additional accommodation provided by the public, we find the market people so attached to their old stations, that in Second and Market streets the foot pavements are impassable, and so much of the middle way is encroached upon, that there is hardly sufficient room for the passage of a single horse. This inconveniency and the mischievous practice of engrossing [keeping the best produce for favored customers] demand the immediate attention of the officers employed in this department of the public police."

Part of a series of articles titled The Constitutional Convention: A Day by Day Account for June 1787.

Independence National Historical Park

Last updated: September 25, 2019