Work Resumes on the Virginia Plan

William Blount
William Blount
Unidentified artist, c. 1790

Independence National Historical Park

Work Resumes on the Virginia Plan

"I am not at Liberty to say what is doing in Convention and if I was the Business is so much in Embryo that I could say nothing that would be in the least satisfactory."

- North Carolina delegate William Blount to his brother, John

Having yesterday voted not to abandon the Virginia Plan for a much less centralized government, the Convention resumed work on it.

Dr. Johnson (CT) said that the New Jersey Plan protected the states better, but was willing to be convinced otherwise. Wilson (PA) tried, as did Madison (VA). The Convention then resolved that the Legislature should have two branches, (7 aye, three no, and Maryland divided) and went on to discuss the first branch of the legislature.

In discussing the first house of the legislature, General C.C. Pinckney (SC) moved for election in such manner as the State legislature directed "instead of by the people." After debate the provision for popular election of the first branch then passed (9 aye, New Jersey no, Maryland divided).

Term of service was next. The committee report said three years. Randolph (VA) moved for two. Dickinson (DEL) preferred three, Ellsworth (CT) preferred one year, and was seconded by Strong (MA). Wilson agreed. Madison felt that annual elections in so large a country would be extremely inconvenient. Sherman preferred annual elections but would be content with biennial. Mason preferred biennial. Hamilton argued for three years. The motion for striking "three years" passed, 7 aye, New York, Delaware and Maryland no, New Jersey divided. Two years was then agreed to, none contrary.

The Virginia Plan implied that the new national government would rest directly on the people of the nation, and not on the states. It explicitly recognized, however, that the states would continue to exist, and would draw their authority from the people, too. There would be one national government and a number of state governments, each sovereign within its defined area of authority. This concept was new to the world.

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