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The Great Compromise and the Constitution, Essay Example

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The significance of Connecticut delegate Roger Sherman’s “Great Compromise” to the development of the Constitution was that it directly resolved the political rivalry (not necessarily any commercial rivalries) between states with significantly larger and smaller populations, such as New Jersey and Virginia.[1] If both parts of the proposed bicameral national legislature were based on population, then states like Virginia (which, like other Southern states, had a large slave population) and New York (which, like Boston and Philadelphia, had a rapidly growing immigrant and commercial population) could or would dominate the smaller states (Schultz, 2012). However, it may be that the term Great Compromise is misapplied. Arguably, the Great Compromise was the Constitutional Convention itself. After all, there were a series of great compromises that resulted in: the Three Fifths Clause, which the Southern states favored, ironically giving slaves some kind of constitutional presence; an agreement between eastern commercial economies and anticipated western agricultural ones, giving eastern states effective precedence; and the Constitution itself. It in turn required compromises regarding powers given to Congress (legislative branch) and those given the President (executive branch) and those given the courts (judicial branch). Yet Sherman’s compromise was key: most people still favored legislatures over a strong central power  — which is why the Articles of Confederation failed.

But could the Constitution have been written without Sherman’s compromise? Probably, but under someone else’s name. That’s because the idea behind it was not new: the Iroquois Nation’s tribes had long had equal representation when they met (Weatherford, 1985). Someone would have thought of it. The question is whether the Constitution could have been written without the greater Great Compromise of the Constitutional Convention itself. That’s easy: No.

References

Schultz, K. (2012). HIST2. Stamford: Wadsworth.

Weatherford, J. M. (1985). Tribes on the Hill. Westport: Praeger.

 

[1] Each had a constitutional Plan named after it, i.e., the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan.

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