What was the main issue that led to the Great Compromise?


Debates over the structure and composition of the federal legislature led to the Great Compromise at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787. When the delegates met and decided to get rid of the Articles of Confederation, the question of what a new federal government should look like came to the fore. The first coherent plan for a new government was the Virginia Plan, proposed by that state's delegates early in the convention. In terms of the legislature, this plan called for a bicameral (two house) body in which each state was represented proportional to its population. In other words, the more populous states would have more representatives in the legislature. On the other hand, a plan offered by delegates from New Jersey featured a unicameral (one house) body in which each state would be represented equally, irrespective of its size. This was basically the arrangement under the old Articles of Confederation, in which each state's delegation had one vote in the Congress.

After significant debate, a compromise was proposed by Roger Sherman from Connecticut. Sherman's Congress was bicameral, composed of an upper house, known as the Senate, and a lower house, known as the House of Representatives. In the upper house, each state would be represented equally, with two senators apiece. In the lower house, each state would receive a number of representatives proportionate to its population. This "Great Compromise" helped move the convention forward to the adoption of a new constitution by resolving the issue of the structure and the makeup of the federal legislature.

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