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Virginia Plan

In the month before The Constitutional Convention was to meet in Philadelphia, James Madison wrote to Edmund Randolph, laying out his concerns and objectives for the new constitution. Regarding the division of power between the central government and the states, he wrote:

I hold it for a fundamental point that an individual independence of the States, is utterly irreconcileable with the idea of an aggregate sovereignty. I think at the same time that a consolidation of the States into one simple republic is not less unattainable than it would be inexpedient. Let it be tried then whether any middle ground can be taken which will at once support a due supremacy of the national authority, and leave in force the local authorities so far as they can be subordinately useful.
He considered whether to revise the Articles of Confederation or begin anew, and decided that the latter was the better course. Soon after the Constitutional Convention began its deliberations, a series of proposals, written by Madison and presented by Randolph, were presented. In many ways, it reflected the ideas put forward in April in Madison's letter. The proposals, known variously as the Virginia Plan, the Randolph Plan, and the Big State Plan, included the following features:
  • The legislature was to be bicameral (two houses) and representation was to be proportional (based upon population)
  • The chief executive was to be chosen by the legislature
  • The judiciary was to be chosen by the legislature.
A competing proposal was put forward in the New Jersey Plan.