The Virginia Plan, May 29, 1787
The Virginia Plan was a set of fifteen proposals that the governor of Virginia Edmund Randolph presented to the delegates of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, on May 29, 1787. These resolutions, drafted by James Madison, essentially outlined a new form of government. The Virginia delegates proposed a strong national government that could make and enforce laws and collect taxes. The plan would establish a federal system of government under which the people would be governed by both the state and national governments. Another feature of this proposal was a bicameral legislature, in which representation would be proportional to a state's population. Larger states favored this element of the plan.
The delegates from the smaller states devised their own set of propositions, which William Paterson of New Jersey presented to the convention on June 15, 1787. The New Jersey Plan was intended to amend the Articles of Confederation and to prevent the larger states from dominating the national government. Under the New Jersey Plan, the legislative branch would be made up of a unicameral legislature, in which each state would be afforded equal representation. Elements of the New Jersey Plan were incorporated into the proposal that emerged from the Virginia Plan.
The Virginia Plan provided the framework, and after much debate, expansion, development, and compromise by the framers, became the Constitution of the United States.
Neither the Virginia nor the New Jersey Plans were immediately printed for the delegates. Since the proposals were the subject of debate, many of the delegates made handwritten copies. These are the copies of each proposal as written by George Washington.
1. Why are these resolves known as the Virginia Plan?
2. Why did George Washington write this plan down?
1. What parts of the Virginia Plan ultimately made it into the United States Constitution? What parts of the plan did not make it?
Farrand, Max, ed. The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911.
Rutland, Robert A., et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Vol. 10: 27 May 1787–3 March 1788. Edited by Robert A. Rutland et al., 3–19. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.
The Papers of George Washington, Digital Edition. Edited by Theodore J. Crackel. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, Rotunda, 2007 (subscription required).