The Virginia Plan
James Madison arrived early in Philadelphia in 1787, and while he was waiting for a quorum of delegates to assemble, wrote down a number of proposals that would become known as The Virginia Plan. It was introduced to the delegates by Virginia delegate Edmund Randolph. Ironically, although Randolph proposed the Virginia Plan, he was one of three delegates who refused to sign the Constitution.
The Virginia plan proposed a form of government that splits the legislature into to houses. This itself, is based off of England’s Parliament, which has the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
The plan consisted of 15 points, including legislative branch, an executive branch, and a judicial branch. One of the great criticisms of the Articles of Confederation was that there was no Federal justice system set up.
1. The Articles of Confederation need to be corrected and enlarged to include “common defense, security of liberty and general welfare.”
2. Legislatures should be apportioned according to the number of free people in the nation, or the “quotas of contribution”
3. Legislature needs to be split into two branches.
4. The legislatures of the first branch (the House) should be elected by the people for a set number of years (TBD), and receive a stipend. These people are not eligible for any state level office, or any government post except those related to the first branch.
5. The legislators of the second branch should be elected by the members of the first. In other words, members of the House choose the Senators. Same restrictions as #4.
6. Allows for the legislature to craft Acts for passage, the ability to negate any laws passed by the states that are bad laws, and to call forth the force of the Union against any state failing in its duties.
7. A National Executive chosen by the legislature, whose pay shall be fixed, not increasing nor decreasing. The executive could serve only a single term, and be ineligible after that.
8. A National Judiciary that reviews every law before it goes into effect and revises it as need be. A dissension amounts to a rejection of the law, unless it can again be passed by the legislature.
9. A National Judiciary to consist of one or more tribunals, set for times of good behavior, pay to be a fixed amount. Sets the jurisdiction of the tribunals.
10. Provision for allowing new states into the Union.
11. A Republican government for each State should be guaranteed by the Federal government.
12. Congress should continue as is until the new document takes affect, so they can finish their work.
13. The document should be able to be amended without the consent of the National Legislature.
14. The legislators and judiciary be bound by oath of office (something taken far more seriously then than it is now).
15. An amendment should be sent to the state legislators for consideration.
While still a far cry from the Constitution, it did help lay the groundwork for the delegates to consider. For the first time, checks and balances were suggested. Congress no longer had ultimate authority in the government, but balanced each other, and were held in check by the Executive and the Judiciary.
Most of the ideas in the plan were incorporated into the Constitution, but in a modified form.