The Great Compromise


In order to resolve this issue, as well as other regional issues, a series of "Great Compromises" were reached. The most famous compromise resulted in a bicameral (two houses) Congress, in which the size of the House of Representatives is determined by the population of a state, while every state elects two representatives to the Senate. Additional compromises included outlawing the taxation of exports and the "Three-Fifths Compromise," in which five slaves were counted as three citizens in determining a state's representation.

In order to resolve the issue of representation among the states, as well as other regional concerns, a series of agreements known as the "Great Compromises" were reached during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia. These compromises were crucial in shaping the United States Constitution and the federal government.

The most renowned among these was the "Connecticut Compromise," also known as the "Great Compromise." It was proposed by Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut. This compromise was a blend of the Virginia Plan, which favored large states, and the New Jersey Plan, which favored smaller states. The Virginia Plan, proposed by James Madison, advocated for a legislative structure based on population, which would naturally give more power to larger states. On the other hand, the New Jersey Plan, proposed by William Paterson, argued for equal representation for each state, regardless of size.

The Connecticut Compromise resulted in the establishment of a bicameral legislature, or two houses of Congress. The House of Representatives would have representation proportional to the population of each state, thereby pleasing larger states. Meanwhile, the Senate would have equal representation from each state, with two senators regardless of the state's size, thus satisfying smaller states. This system ensured a balance of power and addressed the concerns of both large and small states.

Another significant agreement was the "Three-Fifths Compromise." This compromise addressed the issue of how slaves would be counted for representation and taxation purposes. Southern states, where slavery was prevalent, wanted slaves to be counted as full persons to increase their representation in the House. Northern states, where slavery was less common, argued that slaves should not be counted at all since they were not treated as full citizens. The compromise determined that five slaves would be counted as three persons. This agreement was controversial as it essentially dehumanized a significant portion of the population and laid the groundwork for future conflicts over slavery.

Furthermore, the framers of the Constitution agreed to prohibit the taxation of exports. This compromise was primarily to appease Southern states, which were heavily reliant on agricultural exports. Northern states, with their growing industrial base, were less concerned about export taxes. This agreement prevented the federal government from imposing taxes on goods exported from any state, ensuring that the economic interests of the Southern states were protected.

These compromises were essential in facilitating the ratification of the Constitution. They represented a pragmatic approach to governance, balancing the diverse interests and concerns of different states. The Great Compromises underscore the importance of negotiation and concession in the formation of a stable and enduring political system. However, they also set the stage for future conflicts, particularly regarding the issue of slavery, which would eventually lead to the American Civil War. Despite their limitations, these compromises were instrumental in the creation of the United States as a unified nation, demonstrating the complexities and challenges of forming a government that could accommodate the vast and varied interests of its constituents.