Virginia and New Jersey Plans

Both Virginia and the New Jersey Plans aimed at improving the administrative organs, both at the national and state level, even though several differences existed between the two proposals. The Virginia Plan advocated for a stronger national government, meaning that the federal government had to have more powers as opposed to the devolved systems. On the other hand, the New Jersey plan wanted to empower each state through equal representation in the house. The Virginia plan suggested a stronger nationwide administration with sufficient powers to create and implement the laws, as well as assemble taxes. Madison observed that the country would be governed by two levels of government, one at the state level while the other would administer the law at the national level.

The system was referred to as the Federal System of government, as it would enable equality in the sense that the state with many people will have many representatives. Unfortunately, smaller states never favored the plan because it gave bigger states undue advantage implying that developing states would not have a say in government. This strained smaller states to the extent of presenting an analogous plan under the name New Jersey Plan, which recommended a single house with the assertion that it would facilitate equal distribution of power among states. Under the Article of Confederation, each state, irrespective of the size, had one vote and the New Jersey plan was not any different from this, leading to its rejection. However, a few ideas were borrowed from the plan.

As far as branches of government were concerned, the New Jersey Plan proposed three arms, including the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. The main role of the legislative branch was to appoint individuals to serve in the executive branch while the executive was charged with appointing individuals to work in the judiciary, including members of the Supreme Court. In terms of the structure of the legislature, the New Jersey plan campaigned for a unicameral house and each state had to have only a single representative, as this would distribute power equally among all states, irrespective of the size. The plan was intended to give the federal government the power to charge taxes and control trade. It further suggested that state laws had to be applied concomitantly with the national laws.

On the other hand, the Virginia plan had a similar proposal as regards to the branches of government, but it gave the legislature more powers. Its legislature would have two houses meaning that it would be bicameral as opposed to the New Jersey plan, which suggested a unicameral house. The people would choose by ballot members of the House of Representatives openly while state parliament would be charged with the role of voting for members of the governing body (senate). The judiciary had a different role in the Virginia plan since it was expected to arbitrate on the conflicts between states, eliminate unconstitutional laws, and employ all tactics in enforcing laws, including the use of the military personnel.

Indeed, there was a structural difference between the two plans, which was mainly in terms of governmental operation. Both had three branches of government, but with separate selection criteria, powers, and composition. The Virginia plan presented a stronger national government with two stronger houses while the New Jersey wanted to give states many powers. Legislators would be chosen directly by people in the New Jersey plan, and only one person would represent the state, irrespective of its size. The Virginia Plan would have two chambers of Congress, with the national assembly having members chosen directly by the people while the governing body would have members chosen by state parliament. Each plan proposed that a member would represent his state for four years, but the powers of such representatives were different because the Virginia plan wanted the representatives to have many powers while the New Jersey plan was of the view that power had to be retained at the state level.

The New Jersey plan denied the legislature the power to act while the Virginia plan wanted to cut the powers of the executive by making the legislature stronger. Both plans suggested that the executive would be composed of the president, the vice-president, and the cabinet, but the mode of selection was different. The Virginia plan wanted the legislature to elect the president, but the New Jersey plan was of a different view, as it wanted the head of state to be elected directly through popular vote. Both plans gave the president the power to appoint the judicial members, but the Virginia plan demanded that any appointment that the president does has to be approved by the legislature. The president would appoint members of the Supreme Court and the role of the congress was to approve the names.

It is observed that the Virginia plan wanted a stronger national government that would facilitate unity and development. Based on this, the plan aimed at empowering the federal government since it explained the powers of each arm of government, as well as the level of government. For instance, it promoted the division of powers since it would help in the establishment of the principle of checks and balances. No arm of government was to be given more powers, even though the legislature had the power to discuss any government policy in detail, irrespective of whether it was foreign or public.