What was "The Great Compromise"? (2023)

Table of Contents (click to enlarge)
  • Overview and background
  • What did the Great Compromise do?
  • What was the result of the great compromise?

The Great Compromise, also known as the Connecticut Compromise or the Sherman Compromise, was an agreement between major and minor U.S. states that defined, in part, each state's representation in the legislature under the United States Constitution.

This compromise took place in 1787. It remains a pivotal moment in American history, as it was a crucial convention amending the Articles of Confederation that required adjustments to address the crisis the United States was facing at the time.

Let's begin by briefly examining the background to the Great Compromise.

The Connecticut Compromise created a crucial debate among state delegates about how each state would be represented in Congress. This caused Congress to split into a bicameral system. This created the Chamber of Deputies, which is determined by the population of a state. The agreement retained the bicameral legislature, but the upper house had to be amended to include two senators from each state. The treaty reformulated the structure of American government, balancing the most populous states and their demands while also taking into account the less populous states and their legitimate interests.

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Overview and background

The United States experienced some turbulent years in the 1780s. The ratification of the Articles of Confederation in 1781 made for an inadequate governmental structure. It had serious shortcomings related to the regulation of critical economic activities such as trade, tax collection, and the recruitment of soldiers. It also failed to resolve the slavery problem that had become polarized in the Northwest Territory. After the Anglo-American Revolution, the economy collapsed and struggled on.

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What was "The Great Compromise"? (1)

American Revolution (Photo credit: Good Free Photos)

Many citizens found it extremely difficult to earn a living, let alone pay taxes too! As a result, many people turned to the state for help, but to their dismay there were no concrete plans for help. Other controversial political tactics led to significant conflict and discord among the people. This instability necessitated a delegation proposed by Alexander Hamilton in 1785 to tackle the idea of ​​national reform. James Madison responded with support, urging other states to send their delegates to a conference in Annapolis, Maryland. However, only representatives from five states attended, but they nevertheless agreed to a plan in which each state would send delegates to the 1787 Philadelphia Convention.

In May 1787, 55 delegates from 12 states (Rhode Island was absent) met in Philadelphia to discuss the limitations of the Articles of Confederation. The constitutional convention began later when Madison proposed the Virginia plan, to which Patterson opposed the New Jersey plan.

Also read:Why did the statutes of the confederacy fail?

What did the Great Compromise do?

Prior to 1787, larger states such as Virginia preferred representation in Congress based on the state's population. On the other hand, however, the smaller states wanted equal representation of all states. This led to a massive debate and significant tension between the Main and Secondary Staff. It was Edmund Rudolph and James Peterson who finally found a solution to this with the Virginia Plan on May 29, 1787.

This plan stipulated that the government should consist of three branches: the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. The three branches would serve a bicameral legislature. The populace would elect the members of the House of Commons, who in turn would elect representatives to the House of Lords. In other words, both houses contained proportional representation of the population. Madison also proposed that Congress should have veto power over all state legislation. The New Jersey Plan, instituted by William Patterson on June 15, 1787, called for equal representation for all states, as was the case in the Articles of Confederation, but Patterson also attempted to increase the power of Congress. He called for a unicameral legislature, fair representation of each state and popular elections.

Patterson also proposed a life-long Supreme Court appointed by law enforcement officials. It focused on the possibility of national government violating countries' sovereignty, so there had to be a body that could keep the federal government in check. At this point, representatives of the less populous states feared that the agreement would result in the larger states drowning out their voices and interests and making the small states useless at the national level. Madison, on the other hand, argued that the major states were very different from each other. Hamilton pointed out that every state is an artificial entity. So both sides, one side representing the big states and the other side representing the smaller states, rejected each other's plans. The disagreements required reflection, leading to intense negotiations about the future of the United States government.

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What was "The Great Compromise"? (2)

US Supreme Court (Image credit: Pixabay)

Roger Sherman, a delegate from Connecticut, made a proposal that eventually became the Great Compromise. His idea implied a form of government with two legislatures in the United States: the Senate and the House of Representatives. For every 300,000 people, a state could send one representative to the House of Representatives, along with two senators (regardless of the size of the state). On July 16, 1787, the proposal passed by one vote, despite Benjamin Franklin's efforts to block equal voting rights for smaller states. Thus, the compromise was averted, paving the way for final approval of the Constitution and an important step in the founding and development of the United States.

What was the result of the great compromise?

The most significant impact of the Great Compromise was the major change in the structure of government in the United States. The agreement focused on serving the interests of large states such as Virginia and New York, and smaller states such as New Hampshire and Rhode Island, and striking a balance between proportional and general influence. The most visible change brought about by the agreement was that congressional delegates were split between representatives, who were then elected by the district to serve in the lower house, and senators, who represent individual states in the upper house.

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What was "The Great Compromise"? (3)

The US House of Representatives (Photo credit: House Speaker's Office/Wikimedia Commons)

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As such, the compromise balanced the needs of the smaller states, which wanted a unicameral legislature, and the larger states, which supported a bicameral legislature, and paved the way for constitutional development. Ultimately, the Connecticut Compromise held the convention together and resulted in a bicameral system of Congress, in which the lower house is based on proportional representation and each state has equal representation in the upper house. In summary, the Great Compromise helped establish a balance of power between large and small states in terms of their vote and representation in Congress.

References (click to enlarge)
  1. Great Commitment | Smithsonian History Explorer. The Smithsonian Institution
  2. About the Senate and the Constitution. United States Senate
  3. First Federal Congress: The Compromise of 1790. George Washington University
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What was the Great compromise short summary? ›

The Great Compromise promised the creation of a bicameral legislature composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House of Representatives would grant states a number of representatives proportionate to the population, while the Senate would grant two representatives for each state.

What was the great compromise in simple terms? ›

The Great Compromise proposed that each state would get two senators irrespective of the size of their population. In other words, larger states have more power in the House of Representatives, but the largest and the smallest states have the same power in the Senate.

What was the main purpose of the Great compromise? ›

Oliver Ellsworth and Roger Sherman, among others, in what is sometimes called the Connecticut, or Great, Compromise, proposed a bicameral legislature with proportional representation in the lower house and equal representation of the states in the upper house.

What is the Great compromise quizlet? ›

The Great Compromise was an agreement made among the delegates to the Constitutional Convention that the American government would have two houses in Congress: the Senate where each state has two Senators, and the House of Representatives where each state has a number of Representatives based on population.

Who created the Great Compromise? ›

Historians often credit Sherman and the Connecticut delegates as the architects of the Great Compromise.

What happened at the Compromise of 1850? ›

As part of the Compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was amended and the slave trade in Washington, D.C., was abolished. Furthermore, California entered the Union as a free state and a territorial government was created in Utah.

What are 3 facts about the Great Compromise? ›

Three branches of government were created with separate powers. The bicameral legislature was composed of the Upper House (Senate) and the Lower House (House of Representatives). The members of the Senate were based on equal representation, with two delegates per state.

What was the Great Compromise for kids? ›

Sherman recommended that each state would get one representative for every 30,000 people that lived in the state. Today there are 435 seats in the House of Representatives that get divided between the states based on population. This plan was called the Great Compromise.

What conflict did the Great Compromise solve? ›

Answer and Explanation: The Great Compromise of 1787 resolved a conflict regarding state representation under the new Constitution. The Articles of Confederation, America's first attempt at a constitution, had many issues and the Constitutional Convention was called to address these issues.

What was the Great Compromise and how did it establish the legislative body? ›

The Great Compromise, along with some other provisions, resulted in the creation of two houses, with representation based on population in one (the House of Representatives) and with equal representation in the other (the Senate).

What were the strengths of the Great Compromise? ›

Strengths The compromise meant that both big states and small states would get something that they wanted. Weaknesses No side got everything that it wanted. Opportunities Making the U.S. House and Senate work together would slow down the legislative process and allow time for reasoned deliberation and compromise.

Which of these was a result of the Great Compromise? ›

Answer and Explanation: The "Great Compromise" between larger and smaller population states is that the smaller states are given the opportunity of representing themselves fully.

What was the importance of the Great Compromise quizlet? ›

The Great compromise was important because it decided the government plan for the United States it was the compromise between the Virginia plan and the New Jersey Plan. The three fifths compromise was an agreement between the Northern and Southern states during the constitutional convention in 1787.

What was the primary topic of the Great Compromise quizlet? ›

The Great Compromise solved the problem of representation because it included both equal representation and proportional representation. The large states got the House which was proportional representation and the small states got the Senate which was equal representation.

What was the main issue that led to the three fifths compromise? ›

A contentious issue at the 1787 Constitutional Convention was whether slaves would be counted as part of the population in determining representation of the states in the Congress or would instead be considered property and, as such, not be considered for purposes of representation.

What was the legacy of the Great Compromise? ›

The Legacy of the Great Compromise

The agreement bridged the gap between the small states and the large states and allowed for the adoption of the Constitution. The two-chambered representative legislature, Congress, continued to be the American legislature to this day.

What is most characteristic of the Great Compromise of the Constitution? ›

The “Great Compromise of 1787” reconciled the demands of the large states with those of the small states by establishing proportional representation of states in the House of Representatives based on population, and equal representation in the Senate.

What were the compromises of the Constitution? ›

The three major compromises were the Great Compromise, the Three-Fifths Compromise, and the Electoral College.

What was the Compromise of 1850 for dummies? ›

Main Points of The Compromise of 1850

Permitted slavery in Washington, D.C., but outlawed the slave trade. Added California to the Union as a “free state” Established Utah and New Mexico as territories that could decide via popular sovereignty if they would permit slavery.

How did the Compromise of 1850 fail? ›

The Compromise of 1850 failed to settle the tensions that continued to divide the nation during the next decade and did not establish a principle that could be applied unequivocally to territories outside the Mexican Cession. Extremists in both sections were displeased with the Compromise.

Why did the Compromise of 1850 lead to civil war? ›

The ten-year armistice established by the compromise only pushed the nation further against slavery, making many in the South fear the end of slavery, and many in the North crave the end of slavery, the very issue which would push the South to secede after Abraham Lincoln's election as president.

What did the three compromises do? ›

The Three-Fifths Compromise was reached among state delegates during the 1787 Constitutional Convention. It determined that three out of every five slaves was counted when determining a state's total population for legislative representation and taxation.

Which problem was solved by the Great Compromise at the Constitutional Convention of 1787? ›

Large states favored representation by population, while small states argued for equal representation by State. The "Great Compromise" allowed for both by establishing the House of Representatives, which was apportioned by populations, and the Senate which represented the states equally.

How did the Great Compromise cause the 3 5 compromise? ›

Under the compromise, every enslaved American would be counted as three-fifths of a person for taxation and representation purposes. This agreement gave the Southern states more electoral power than they would have had if the enslaved population had been ignored entirely.

When did the Great Compromise happen? ›

The Connecticut Compromise (also known as the Great Compromise of 1787 or Sherman Compromise) was an agreement reached during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 that in part defined the legislative structure and representation each state would have under the United States Constitution.

Was the Bill of Rights part of the Great Compromise? ›

The compromise that created the Bill of Rights also defined what Americans would come to cherish above almost all else. Together with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the Bill of Rights helps to define the American political system and the government's relationship to its citizens.

Who didn t like the Virginia Plan? ›

Who Opposed the Virginia Plan? The smaller states opposed the Virginia Plan because the resolution for proportional representation would mean that smaller states would have less say in government than the larger states.

How did the Great Compromise satisfy both small and large states? ›

Each state would be equally represented in the Senate, with two delegates, while representation in the House of Representatives would be based upon population. The delegates finally agreed to this "Great Compromise," which is also known as the Connecticut Compromise.

Which of the following was a characteristic of the Great Compromise? ›

The Great Compromise gave both sides what they wanted. The Senate gave the small states what they wanted. In the Senate the small states have equal representation. The House of Representatives gave the large states want they wanted.

Who is the father of the Constitution? ›

James Madison, America's fourth President (1809-1817), made a major contribution to the ratification of the Constitution by writing The Federalist Papers, along with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay. In later years, he was referred to as the “Father of the Constitution.”

Which statement about the Great Compromise is accurate? ›

Which statement about the Great Compromise is accurate? It merged the ideas of multiple delegates' plans.

What was one effect of the Great Compromise quizlet? ›

The Great Compromise resolved that there would be representation by population in the House of Representatives, and equal representation would exist in the Senate. Each state, regardless of size, would have 2 senators. All tax bills and revenues would originate in the House.

Which two men favored the Constitution? ›

For example the only two national-level celebrities of the period, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, favored the Constitution. In addition to these impressive superstars, the Federalists were well organized, well funded, and made especially careful use of the printed word.

When did slavery end? ›

Passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States.

What did the Federalists want? ›

Federalists battled for adoption of the Constitution

They favored weaker state governments, a strong centralized government, the indirect election of government officials, longer term limits for officeholders, and representative, rather than direct, democracy.

What was the Great Compromise summarized and what else it was known as? ›

The Great Compromise created two legislative bodies in Congress. Also known as the Sherman Compromise or the Connecticut Compromise, the deal combined proposals from the Virginia (large state) plan and the New Jersey (small state) plan.

How did the Great Compromise draw from those plans? ›

The Great Compromise combined the best attributes of the Virginia and New Jersey plans. The House of Representatives was established based upon population which made the big states happy and the Senate was established by giving all states 2 Senators which made the small states happy.

How did the Great Compromise strengthen the Constitution? ›

Under the Great Compromise, each state would get two representatives in the Senate and a variable number of representatives in the House in proportion to its population according to the decennial U.S. census.

What were the three major compromises of the Constitution? ›

The three major compromises were the Great Compromise, the Three-Fifths Compromise, and the Electoral College.


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