Orientation and Getting Started
The Creation of the Constitution
The Road to Philadelphia
Slavery and the Constitution
The Presidency
The Federal Judiciary
Some Other Important Details
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Scrapping the Confederation

The New Jersey Plan

On June 15, however, William Paterson and some other delegates, principally from New Jersey, threw a wrench into the works, and the nationalist juggernaut momentarily ground to a halt. They laid before the Convention a rival plan of government, which came to be known as the New Jersey Plan or “Mr. Paterson’s Plan.” Once again, the language of “national” was dropped from their proposals, and frequent references to the “confederation” or the “federal” parts of the system were reinstated. Over the course of the next few days, the two plans were compared and discussed. John Lansing pointed out what he saw as the principal difference: The New Jersey Plan “sustains the sovereignty of the respective states, that of Mr. Randolph destroys it.” Paterson agreed, and emphasized that, since each of the 13 states met as equal sovereigns, it was on that basis that they had to confederate. Edmund Randolph agreed with them about where the crux of the issue lay—“the true question is, whether we shall adhere to the federal plan, or introduce the national plan”—but he differed with them regarding the best answer that could be given to that question. Only a national government would meet their needs. In addition, a merely federal arrangement, like that of Mr. Paterson’s, would require the central government to resort to military coercion every time a state failed to meet its obligation. That would be impracticable and cruel. They needed a government that could extend “a national legislation over individuals,” not just states.