This is the fourth post in our series leading up to the 225th anniversary of the Constitution.
By the time everyone else showed up in Philadelphia, the Virginia delegation, at the urging of James Madison, had a series of proposals for the new government. On May 29, Edmund Randolph presented 15 resolutions known as the Virginia Plan.
The Convention immediately considered each resolution, and, in a matter of days, the delegates agreed on the following points:
- The government should be divided into legislative, executive, and judicial branches.
- The legislative branch should consist of two houses.
- The first house of the legislature should be elected by the people of each state.
- The second house of the legislature should be elected by members of the first house.
The Virginia Plan included many fundamental concepts of U.S. government and provided a great starting point for discussion of the new government. It was not, however, a perfect plan. It also included ideas that seem strange in contrast to the familiar framework spelled out in the final Constitution.
Some of the more jarring proposals in the Virginia Plan include:
- Members elected to the first house should serve for three years.
- The executive branch should be elected by the legislature and serve a term of seven years.
- The number of representatives each state has in the legislature should be based on how much money that state contributes to the national government.
The debates that wrought Randolph’s initial proposals in to the finished document were, by turns, coolly rational and hotly contested, but the Virginia Plan defined the scope of the discussion from the very beginning.
(Image: Assembly Room in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, PA.)