What Are the Differences Between the Virginia and New Jersey Plans?

The difference between the New Jersey Plan and the Virginia Plan is the former proposed equal state representation in Congress and the latter proposed state representation be determined by population. These plans were proposed when a group of state delegates gathered at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Although it took several months, delegates eventually agreed on what is known as the Great Compromise.

The Virginia Plan was proposed by James Madison, a delegate representing Virginia. This plan favored a strong government with three expressed powers: legislative, executive and judicial. Madison argued for the creation of two separate legislative houses and representation of all states by members elected to 3-year and 7-year terms; however, the Virginia Plan called for state representation to be determined by the number of citizens in a state.

Smaller states objected to this plan because it limited their control in Congress. The New Jersey Plan called for only one legislative house with equal representation by all states. In the end, both plans were rejected.

Roger Sherman, a delegate present at the Constitutional Convention, proposed a two-chamber Congress, which led to the formation of the House of Representatives. Ultimately, the delegates decided on representation of each state by two senators with state representation in the House of Representatives dependent on the population of each state.