Importance of the Connecticut Compromise (Great Compromise) in the Creation of the American Constitution
After America was recognized as an independent country from England, the new republic went through almost twenty years worth of trial and error to find a government that would satisfy the needs of the citizens, the states, and the central national government. The most memorable, and influential, action of this time would have to be the Connecticut
Compromise, proposed Roger Sherman, following the proposal of the Large and Small State plans at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. This Compromise directly affected the amount of representation from each state, and created the government system
we are familiar with today.
In Tindall and Shi’s “America,” the reader is denied the opportunity to have a complete understanding of both the Virginia Plan (representing the large states) and the New Jersey plan (representing the small states.) In order for the people of today to comprehend their government, a detailed historical account of how our government came to be is an important factor. Given a brief explanation, the reader is only vaguely introduced to the concepts that there were disagreements in how our country should be run in the beginning. More emphasis is given to the outcomes and effects of the Connecticut Compromise than why the Compromise was needed in the first place.
The Virginia Plan, introduced by James Madison, suggested for the need of representation based upon a states population, including a states African American slavery population. Thus, it was deemed the Large State plan, since it obviously favored states with heavy population. Tindall and Shi explore this, but leave many questions unanswered. The questions that arise include, why was it important for these states to include their slavery population at a time for numbers, but it was all right to ignore them in everyday life? Tindall and Shi do not fully explore this idea, and just explain that large, mostly southern plantation states supported the idea of counting a slave as a person when it came to numbers. The only logical reason for this being left out of the reading selection is due to the fact that slavery was such a sensitive issue of the time, and wanted to direct the readers attention to the fact that James Madison wished to count a slaves population, and not the fact that in real life, slaves were not viewed as “real people.” Tindall and Shi also leave out that Edmund Randolph was a "major architect of the Virginia Plan of Union" (Ohline).
The New Jersey Plan, presented by William Paterson, supported the small, less populated states vision for a government that favored equality. Issued as rebuttal to James Madison’s plan, the Small State plan asked for an equal amount of representatives in each state as opposed to representation based on population. Once again, Tindall and Shi do not fully elaborate on the details of this plan, but instead barely scrape the surface of what is really lying beneath. It is also pointed out that "the notes of William Paterson of New Jersey were taken solely for his own use" and "are of great assistance of in following Paterson's own mind of reasoning" (Ferrand). The smaller states, many who had a small slavery population, if any at all, were by far outnumbered by the more populous southern states when incorporating their slave population. These smaller states, most located in New England, were afraid to be left out of political decisions and policy makings of the new country and the in the future.
The compromise that eventually ended the great debates at the Convention was presented by Roger Sherman, and this plan was named appropriately the "Great Compromise
," yet also referred to as the Connecticut Compromise, as Sherman was a Connecticut delegate. The explanation given in the Tindell and Shi textbook deals mostly with the issue of slavery, and how the delegates dealt with the issues. In fact, the Compromise gives responses to questions from "everything from heavy-handed threats and poker-faced bluffs to heartfelt pleas for accommodation, from candid avowals of interest to abstract appeals for justice" (Rakove). The Tindell and Shi obviously felt the need to leave this out of the textbook because the main issue hanging over the delegates head was the issue of slavery.
The new government was tested by its own strengths and weaknesses before a Constitution was ever written at the Convention. The young country could have been torn apart over issues such as representation and slavery during the summer of 1787 in the city limits of Philadelphia. Instead, the delegates were able to work together to form a government that would appeal to the people of our past, and the people of our future. For over 225 years, this has worked, with only few minor details needing rearranging.