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Virginia Plan

What was theVirginia Plan? Definition
Definition: The Virginia Plan, also known as the Large State Plan or the Randolph Plan, consisted of 15 resolutions. The Virginia Plan proposed a structure of government to the Constitutional Convention that was held between May 25, 1787 and September 17, 1787 at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia.

Summary of the Virginia Plan
Summary: The Virginia Plan was presented in the form of fifteen resolutions that detailed reasons why the Articles of Confederation should be radically altered and plans for a strong National Government that could collect taxes and make and enforce laws
. The Virginia Plan was based on a national and state government system with a Separation of Powers consisting of legislative, executive, and judicial branches. A bicameral legislature (two houses) consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate would feature proportional representation.

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Who proposed the Virginia Plan?
The Virginia Plan was sponsored and proposed to the Constitutional Convention by Edmund J. Randolph on May 28, 1787. Edmund Jennings Randolph (1753 1813) was a lawyer and the Governor of Virginia who introduced and defended the Virginia Plan to the Convention's delegates. The 15 resolutions of the Virginia Plan immediately broadened the debate from revising the Articles of Confederation to including what form the structure and power of the national government would take. Under President George Washington, Edmund Randolph would become the first Attorney General of the United States.

Who wrote the Virginia Plan?
The first delegates to arrive at the Constitutional Convention were the delegates from Virginia that included James Madison (1751-1836). The enthusiastic James Madison drafted the Virginia Plan whist waiting for the conference to begin, he was the youngest delegate to attend the Constitutional Convention. The Virginia Plan was the first document to suggest a separation of powers into executive, legislative, and judicial branches. James Madison was a political theorist, a planter and a politician who would one day become the 4th president of the United States. The work of Montesquieu (1689-1755) had a powerful influence over James Madison. Montesquieu was a French political theorist and a champion of liberty who was famous for his verbalization of the theory of separation of powers.

What did the Virginia Plan Propose?
The Virginia Plan proposed fifteen resolutions that basically included the following:

Resolution 1: The articles of the confederation ought to be corrected and enlarged

Resolution 2: The right vote in the national legislature, ought to be proportioned to the share of contribution, or to the number of free inhabitants

Resolution 3: The national legislature ought to consist of two branches (bicameral)

Resolution 4: The people of each State should elect the First Branch of the National Legislature.

Resolution 5: The Second Branch of the National Legislature should be elected by the first

Resolution 6: The national legislature shall have power "to legislate in all cases to which the separate States are incompetent" and to void any state laws that contravene the [Constitution]

Resolution 7: The National Legislature shall elect a National Executive with the authority to execute the national laws and taxes

Resolution 8: A Council of Revision should be formed by the Executive and members of the judiciary with the authority to examine, and reject, every act of the national legislature

Resolution 9: A national judiciary should be established consisting of one or more supreme tribunals and inferior tribunals. Judges will be appointed for life

Resolution 10: Provision should be made for admission of States to the union

Resolution 11: The territory and government of each state ought to be guaranteed by the United States

Resolution 12: Provision should be made for Congress to continue until the new articles of union are adopted

Resolution 13: Provision should be made for amendments of the articles of union

Resolution 14: State Legislatures, Executives, and the judiciary should be bound by oath to support the Articles of Union

Resolution 15: The new plan for government should be ratified (approved) by the people, through assemblies of representatives chosen by the people

Who Supported the Virginia Plan?
The Virginia Plan was supported by the larger states because of the resolution for proportional representation. This meant that the more people a state has, the more representatives it gets in the legislature.

Who Opposed the Virginia Plan?
The smaller states opposed the Virginia Plan because the resolution for proportional representation would mean that smaller states would have less say in government than the larger states. If the Virginia Plan was agreed each state would have a different number of representatives based on the state's population. The small states therefore proposed the New Jersey Plan.

The Significance of the Virginia Plan
The Significance of the Virginia Plan was:

  • The Virginia Plan played an important role in setting the overall agenda for the convention

  • The Virginia Plan called for a strong national government

  • The Virginia Plan was the first document to suggest a separation of powers into executive, legislative, and judicial branches

  • The Virginia Plan called for a bicameral legislature settling some of the disputes between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists

  • The Virginia Plan prompted different proposals by the small states in the New Jersey Plan which led to the Great Compromise

  • Many elements of the Virginia Plan were adopted by the Convention and written into the Constitution

The Virginia Plan: Names of the Virginia Delegates
The names of all the Virginia delegates who attended the Constitutional Congress are detailed below together with those who signed the Constitution.

Virginia Delegates who signed the Constitution
John Blair
James Madison
George Washington

Virginia Delegates who did not sign the Constitution
George Mason
James McClurg
Edmund J. Randolph
George Wythe

President George Washington Video
The article on the Virginia Plan of the Constitution the facts and history of one of the major events that occurred prior to George Washington's presidential term in office. The following video will give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 1st American President whose presidency spanned from April 30, 1789 to March 4, 1797.

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