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The battle between the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan is usually viewed through the prism of the large-state/small-state rivalry that ultimately produced a U.S. Senate in which each state has equal representation. But there was an underlying struggle as well over governmental power.
Like the Articles of the Confederation and various state constitutions, the Virginia Plan accorded primacy in every area to the legislative branch. The New Jersey delegation had a different vision. Made up of a Supreme Court chief justice, a former state attorney general, and a governor who had chafed under a New Jersey Constitution that made them subservient to the Legislature, the New Jerseyans fought to strengthen the independence of both the executive and judicial branches.
The New Jerseyans and their allies lost virtually every early vote. But by late August, when Brearley was chosen to chair the crucial Committee on Postponed Matters, the original small-state coalition of New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and Delaware had been joined by Massachusetts, Georgia, and newly arrived New Hampshire to create a new majority voting bloc committed to a strong national government within a federal system that would protect the rights of individual states. Virginia and Pennsylvania were suddenly in the minority.
The Brearley Committee developed an Electoral College that gave extra voting weight to smaller states; gave the president, not Congress, the power to appoint judges, cabinet officers and ambassadors; invented the vice-presidency; and gave the president the right to run for reelection, strengthening the political power of the office.
The view that Brearley and the federalists from the smaller states had won the critical batters within the Constitutional Convention was underscored in the results of the state ratification conventions that followed. New Jersey, Delaware, Georgia, Connecticut, and Maryland quickly and overwhelmingly approved the new Constitution, while Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts ratified only after tumultuous, bitterly divided conventions. Brearly personally steered New Jerseys unanimous ratification vote.
A wonderful education on one of America's forgotten Founding Fathers. After reading Mr. Scarinci's excellent book, it is shocking to me how someone so pivotal could have slipped... Read morePublished 9 months ago by bsnizek
The book is great; it was way over priced; we looked on the book jacket & the person we got it from charged twice as much as its retail price!!!Published 13 months ago by Bonnie J Wilson
As I was reading this book, I could almost hear the arguments back and forth between our founding fathers. Thank you to Donald Scarinci for bringing these characters to life.Published on May 18, 2012 by Emma F.