Debate on the Legislature

Virginia-Plan-washington
George Washington’s copy of the Virginia Plan

Library of Congress


Debate on the Legislature

"…that the national Legislature ought to consist of two branches"
-3rd Resolution of the Virginia Plan

Working from the 15 resolves of the Virginia Plan, the Committee of the Whole:

  • Decided on a bicameral legislature
  • Agreed on election of the first house (today's House of Representatives) by the people
  • Agreed not have the second house (today's Senate) elected by the first house
  • Agreed that either house could initiate legislation


    Madison noted that the resolution calling for a bicameral legislature "was agreed to without debate or dissent, except that of Pennsylvania" probably due to "Docr. Franklin who was understood to be partial to a single House of Legislation". The proposal calling for popular election of the members of the first house was more controversial. Elbridge Gerry (MA) and Roger Sherman (CT) opposed the participation of the people so directly in government while Pierce Butler (SC) argued that a popular election would be impractical. The proposition passed with six states approving, New Jersey and South Carolina opposed, and Connecticut and Delaware divided.

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Last updated: February 26, 2015

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