What Was the New Jersey Plan?

The New Jersey Plan was a proposed government for the United States developed by William Paterson in 1787. The smaller states opposed the Virginia Plan presented by James Madison because they feared that it would allow the more populous states to dominate the government. The New Jersey Plan was rejected by the Constitutional Convention, though some of its ideas were incorporated into the Constitution.

Under the New Jersey Plan, the federal government had a unicameral legislature, rather than the bicameral legislature proposed by Madison. Each state had a single vote in the Congress to prevent larger states from gaining too much power. Congress was given the power to raise taxes and levy tariffs, and federal laws were supreme over state laws.

Instead of electing a single person to serve as head of the executive branch, Congress elected an executive council to a single four-year term. The governors of the states could petition Congress to recall members of the council. Judges were appointed to lifetime terms by the executive council.

The Constitutional Convention rejected the New Jersey Plan but used some of its ideas in the final draft of the Constitution. While the members of the House of Representatives were allocated by population, each state had equal representation in the Senate.