New Jersey and the Making of The Constitution

At the Convention...

    The delegates from New Jersey played an absolutely critical role at the Constitutional Convention in 1787.  New Jersey and its delegates were the leaders of the small-state contingent attending the convention.   With strong reservations about the purpose of the convention the delegates lead the fight to preserve the power of the smaller states and prevent a usurpation of power by the larger states of the union.
    Before the convention had even met, James Madison and the other Virginia delegates developed what was called the Virginia Plan. This plan of government went way beyond the stated goals of the convention to revise the national government.  It created an entirely new government which coincidentally, gave tremendous power to the larger states because voting was proportional to the number of inhabitants.  Representatives from the smaller states had only hoped to revise the existing government under the Articles which gave each state an equal vote.  All the delegates debated the Virginia Plan for over a week, when William Paterson introduced the New Jersey Plan.  The ideas Paterson were a direct attack on the Virginia delegates plan.  It preserved the structure of the current national government under the Articles but did allow for greater power to be rested in the national government.  However, it did create an executive and judicial branch and enhance the power of Congress.

New Jersey Plan
Virginia Plan
The one house congress should continue to exist.  The members will elect an executive(s) who may only serve one term.  A separate judicial branch consisting of one supreme court. The central government should consist of three branches, legislative(consisting of two houses), executive(elected by legislature one-term), and a judicial branch. 
Each State has one vote in Congress Voting in both houses will be proportional to the number of free inhabitants of a state or the taxes paid by the state.
The legislature should be given the power to collect taxes from the states.
Powers of the legislature should include the power to force states to meet their obligations.

At the end of the summer of 1787 the smaller states lead by New Jersey helped craft a constitution that protected the rights of the smaller states.  This probably explains why The Constitution was ratified by New Jersey so quickly and was much harder to pass through larger state ratification conventions. The delegates debated, argued, threatened, and some left, but in the end a combination of the plans was created and became The Constitution.

To read a copy of the original Constitution (Click Here)

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