Constitutional Law

Legislative Branch

With what plan did the Virginia Plan compete?

The other major plan for the structure of the new Constitution was the so-called New Jersey Plan, proposed by William Paterson of New Jersey. This plan called for a weaker national government, only one house of Congress, and equal representation in the legislative branch. It also called for an executive and judicial branch, but those branches would clearly be less powerful than the one-house legislature.

On June 15, 1787, Paterson introduced his plan. “Can we, as representatives of independent states, annihilate the essential powers of independency?” Paterson said when introducing his proposal. He wanted a weaker central government.

Under the New Jersey Plan, Congress could only act on certain matters. Congress would elect the members of the federal executive. Congress could remove the persons of the federal executive if a majority of state leaders voted such action necessary.

Interestingly, the New Jersey Plan proposed that the laws of the U.S. Congress “shall be the supreme law of the respective States.” This formed the basis for the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution. The supremacy clause provides that the laws of the national, or federal, government are the supreme law of the land and trump the laws of the various states.


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