Great Compromises Essay, Research Paper
Would the United States of America ever be united if it were not for compromises? I would say the chances are slim. During the early years of the new nation, there was a lot of conflict and turmoil. During the Constitutional Convention of 1786, one of the most essential compromises of the early United States was the Great Compromise. Another compromise that arose at the Constitutional Convention was the Three Fifths Compromise. These two compromises helped to establish the early government issues of the nation. Another compromise that was crucial to the survival of this great nation is the Missouri Compromise. Together these three compromises enabled America to become united.
In 1786, fifty-five delegates from twelve of the thirteen states attended the Constitutional Convention. These delegates were there to make changes to the Articles of Confederation, what they did not know was that they would compromise to form a constitution. James Madison from Virginia proposed a plan that called for a three branch government; legislative, judicial, and executive (Notes 2/16/01). This was intended to separate the powers, ensuring that no one group or individual could have too much authority. In this plan was also a system that allowed each branch to check the other. This was instated to protect the interest of the citizen. Much of the controversy surrounding the plan centered on legislation. The plan called for membership in the legislature to be based on population (Tindall & Shi pp.313). This would favor the larger states. The plan was referred to as the Virginia Plan or the Large States Plan. Since the small states disagreed, they formed their own plan. Some fifteen delegates came together and submitted the New Jersey Plan. This plan called for a unicameral legislature that had equal representation. It called for each state to have one representative. This legislative branch would have the power to levy taxes, regulate trade, and appoint a plural executive. The plan also called for a Supreme Court (Tindall & Shi pp.313). This plan would favor smaller states in which would not receive much representation through the Virginia Plan. After long debates and numerous proposals, they could not decide on a specific plan. Roger Serman resolved this dispute with the help of Ben Franklin when they proposed the Great Compromise. The Compromise gave both what they wanted. It called for a bicameral legislature that had a House of Representatives and a Senate. Population would determine representation in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, each state was guaranteed two representatives (Notes 2/19/01).
Although the Great Compromise settled the issue of the legislature disagreement continued into how each state s population would be counted. Southern States that had a large slave population wanted the slaves to be counted for representation, but not for taxation (Notes 2/19/01). This would allow them to have more power in the legislature. On the other side, the Northern states thought that the slaves should count as a share of the states taxation, but not as population because they were considered property of the farmers (Tindall & Shi pp.314). The Three Fifths Compromise would eventually settle the issue. It stated that every five slaves would count as three people. This would serve for both representation and taxation (Notes 2/19/01). With these two very important compromises the Constitutional Convention turned out to be a success with each side satisfied with the outcome.
Once the Constitutional convention was over the battle of the legislature was over until 1819 when Missouri wanted to enter the union as a free state. At the time, there were eleven slave states and eleven free states. The legislature was balanced and the admission of a free state would favor the North. The legislature voted down the attempt of Missouri to enter the union. At the same time however Maine was trying to establish its statehood (Tindall & Shi pp.422). This would allow for another compromise. This allowed the legislature to vote in Maine as a free state and Missouri as a slave state, enabling the legislature to be balanced (Notes 3/14/01). This compromise was not established without a catch. In return for the admittance of Missouri as a slave state, the south would have to agree that the rest of the unsettled Louisiana Territory could not be admitted as a slave state. The southern states thought that this was a good deal because explorers reported that the western lands were desert that was unlikely to be settled (Tindall & Shi pp.422). In contrast, the deal did not turn out so good, but at the time the Missouri Compromise kept the legislature balanced and everyone remained happy.
The livelihood of the present day United States is only possible because of the compromises made in the past. If is was not for the willingness of our forefathers to compromise and solve the problems in the early stages the United States of America would not be what it is today.