Virginia Plan (1787)
Drafted by James Madison, and presented by Edmund Randolph to the Constitutional Convention on May 29, 1787, the Virginia Plan proposed a strong central government composed of three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial.
At the Constitutional Convention on May 29, 1787, Virginia delegate Edmund Randolph proposed what became known as "The Virginia Plan." Written primarily by fellow Virginian James Madison, the plan traced the broad outlines of what would become the U.S. Constitution: a national government consisting of three branches, with checks and balances to prevent the abuse of power.
The Virginia Plan went through several revisions before it was finalized. The document shown here from June 13, 1787, is not the Virginia Plan as originally submitted by Randolph on May 29th (that original draft of the 15 resolutions has never been found). This document shows the resolutions "as Altered, Amended, and Agreed to in a Committee of the Whole House," a third of the way through the convention.
This page of the amended plan illustrates Madison's ideas for a legislature. It describes two houses: one with members elected by the people for three-year terms and the other composed of older leaders elected by the state legislatures for seven-year terms. Both would use population as a basis for dividing seats among the states.
Historians have debated the exact text of the original resolutions as submitted on May 29th, using existing manuscript copies to understand what was originally proposed. You can learn more about this process on Founders Online, a searchable archive of the correspondence and other writings of several of the Founders of the United States government.
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Note: This is not a transcription of the original Virginia Plan as submitted by Edmund Randolph on May 29, 1787. This is a transcription of the document from June 13,1787, showing the proposed resolutions "as Altered, Amended, and Agreed to in a Committee of the Whole House," a third of the way through the convention.
State of the resolutions submitted to the consideration of the House by the honorable Mr. Randolph, as altered, amended, and agreed to, in a Committee of the whole House.
1. Resolved that it is the opinion of this Committee that a national government ought to be established consisting of a Supreme Legislative, Judiciary, and Executive.
2. Resolved. that the national Legislature ought to consist of Two Branches.
3. Resolved that the members of the first branch of the national Legislature ought to be elected by the People of the several States for the term of Three years. to receive fixed stipends, by which they may be compensated for the devotion of their time to public service to be paid out of the National Treasury. to be ineligible to any Office established by a particular State or under the authority of the United-States (except those peculiarly belonging to the functions of the first branch) during the term of service, and under the national government for the space of one year after it's expiration.
4. Resolved. that the members of the second Branch of the national Legislature ought to be chosen by the individual Legislatures. to be of the age of thirty years at least. to hold their offices for a term sufficient to ensure their independency, namely seven years. to receive fixed stipends, by which they may be compensated for the devotion of their time to public service — to be paid out of the National Treasury to be ineligible to any office established by a particular State, or under the authority of the United States (except those peculiarly belonging to the functions of the second branch) during the term of service, and under the national government, for the space of one year after it's expiration.
5. Resolved that each branch ought to possess the right of originating acts.
6. Resolved. that the national Legislature ought to be empowered to enjoy the legislative rights vested in Congress by the confederation — and moreover to legislate in all cases to which the separate States are incompetent: or in which the harmony of the United States may be interrupted by the exercise of individual legislation. to negative all laws passed by the several States contravening, in the opinion of the national Legislature, the articles of union, or any treaties subsisting under the authority of the union.
7. Resolved. that the right of suffrage in the first branch of the national Legislature ought not to be according to the rule established in the articles of confederation: but according to some equitable ratio of representation — namely, in proportion to the whole number of white and other free citizens and inhabitants of every age, sex, and condition including those bound to servitude for a term of years, and three fifths of all other persons not comprehended in the foregoing description, except Indians, not paying taxes in each State.
8. Resolved. that the right of suffrage in the second branch of the national Legislature ought to be according to the rule established for the first.
9. Resolved. that a national Executive be instituted to consist of a single person. to be chosen by the National Legislature. for the term of seven years. with power to carry into execution the national Laws, to appoint to Offices in cases not otherwise provided for to be ineligible a second time, and to be removable on impeachment and conviction of mal practice or neglect of duty. to receive a fixed stipend, by which he may be compensated for the devotion of his time to public service to be paid out of the national Treasury.
10. Resolved. that the national executive shall have a right to negative any legislative act: which shall not be afterwards passed unless by two third parts of each branch of the national Legislature.
11. Resolved. that a national Judiciary be established to consist of One Supreme Tribunal. The Judges of which to be appointed by the second Branch of the National Legislature. to hold their offices during good behaviour to receive, punctually, at stated times, a fixed compensation for their services: in which no encrease or diminution shall be made so as to affect the persons actually in office at the time of such encrease or diminution.
12. Resolved. That the national Legislature be empowered to appoint inferior Tribunals.
13. Resolved. that the jurisdiction of the national Judiciary shall extend to cases which respect the collection of the national revenue: impeachments of any national officers: and questions which involve the national peace and harmony.
14. Resolved. that provision ought to be made for the admission of States, lawfully arising within the limits of the United States, whether from a voluntary junction of government and territory, or otherwise, with the consent of a number of voices in the national Legislature less than the whole.
15. Resolved. that provision ought to be made for the continuance of Congress and their authorities until a given day after the reform of the articles of Union shall be adopted; and for the completion of all their engagements.
16. Resolved that a republican constitution, and its existing laws, ought to be guaranteed to each State by the United States.
17. Resolved. that provision ought to be made for the amendment of the articles of Union, whensoever it shall seem necessary.
18. Resolved. that the Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary powers within the several States ought to be bound by oath to support the articles of Union.
19. Resolved. that the amendments which shall be offered to the confederation by the Convention, ought at a proper time or times, after the approbation of Congress to be submitted to an assembly or assemblies of representatives, recommended by the several Legislatures, to be expressly chosen by the People to consider and decide thereon.
Received this sheet from the President of the United States, with the journals of the general Convention, March 19th, 1796.
Secy of State
State of the Resolutions submitted by Mr. Randolph to the Consideration of the House, as altered, amended and agreed to in a committee of the whole House.
Received from the President of the U. States, March 19, 1796. by
Secy of State