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1787 - The New Jersey Plan

When the Convention, in Committee of the Whole was evidently coming to a favorable conclusion in its consideration of the Virginia Plan, various representatives of the opposition — mainly from the smaller states — met together and drafted a series of resolutions, which was presented to the Convention on June 15. Paterson of New Jersey had apparently taken the lead in this movement and he was chosen to present the resolutions to the Convention. These resolutions have accordingly been known as the New Jersey Plan, or the Paterson Resolutions.1

Several copies of the New Jersey Plan are in existence, containing the usual minor differences in wording, spelling, and punctuation. But they also differ in more important particulars: — The Madison and Washington copies are practically identical, but the other copies contain two additional resolutions: a sixth, "that the legislative, executive, and judiciary powers within the several States ought to be bound by oath to support the Articles of Union;" and a ninth, "that provision ought to be made for hearing and deciding upon all disputes arising between the United States and an individual State respecting territory." Also in the fourth resolution, the Madison and Washington copies read, that the Executive shall be "removable by Congress on application by a majority of the executives of the several States," while the Brearley and Paterson copies read "removable on impeachment and conviction for malpractice or neglect of duty by Congress on application by a majority of the executives of the several States."2

As already stated, the presentation of the New Jersey Plan resulted from a conference of several delegates, in which Paterson seemed to have been a leading spirit. Among the Paterson Papers, each in Paterson's handwriting on a separate sheet of foolscap, are found the following documents: —


1. Resolved, That a union of the States merely federal ought to be the sole Object of the Exercise of the Powers vested in this Convention.3

2. Resolved, That the Articles of the Confederation ought to be so revised, corrected, and enlarged as to render the federal Constitution adequate to the Exigencies of Government, and the Preservation of the Union —

3. Resolved, That the federal Government of the United States ought to consist of a Supreme Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary —

4. Resolved, That the Powers of Legislation ought to be vested in Congress.

5. Resolved, That in Addition to the Powers vested in the United States in Congress by the present existing Articles of Confederation, they be authorized to pass Acts for levying a Duty or Duties on all Goods and Merchandize of foreign Growth or Manufacture imported into any Part of the United States not exceeding NA per Cent. ad Valorem to be applied to such federal Purposes as they shall deem proper and expedient, and to make Rules and Regulations for the Collection thereof; and the same from Time to Time to alter and amend in such Manner as they shall think proper. Provided, That all Punishments, Fines, Forfeitures, and Penalties to be incurred for contravening such Rules and Regulations shall be adjudged and decided upon by the Judiciaries of the State in which any Offence contrary to the true Intent and Meaning of such Rules and Regulations shall be committed or perpetrated; subject nevertheless to an Appeal for the Correction of any Errors in rendering Judgment to the Judiciary of the United States.

That the United States in Congress be also authorized to pass Acts for the Regulation of Trade as well with foreign Nations as with each other, and for laying such Prohibitions, [In margin: "Imposts Excise — Stamps — Post-Office — Poll-Tax — "] and such Imposts and Duties upon Imports as may be necessary for the Purpose; Provided, That the Legislatures of the several States shall not be restrained from laying Embargoes in Times of Scarcity; and provided further that such Imposts and Duties so far forth as the same shall exceed . . . per Centum ad Valorem on the Imports shall accrue to the Use of the State in which the same may be collected


1. Resolved, That the Articles of the confederation ought4 to be so revised, corrected, and enlarged as to render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of government, and the preservation of the union —

2. Resolved, That the alterations, additions, and provisions made in and to the articles of the confederation shall be reported to the united states in congress and to the individual states composing the union, agreeably to the 13th 5 article of the confederation —

3. Resolved, That the federal government of the united states ought to consist of a supreme 6 legislative, executive, and judiciary —

4. Resolved, That the powers of legislation be vested in Congress —

5. [In margin: "See Mr. Lansing—"]

6. [In margin: "See Governor Randolph's. 7th Prop."]

7. [In margin: "Same — 9th."]

Resolved, That every State in the Union as a State possesses an equal Right to, and Share of, Sovereignty, Freedom, and Independance —

Resolved, therefore, that the Representation in the supreme Legislature ought to be by States, otherwise some of the States in the Union will possess a greater Share of Sovereignty, Freedom, and Independance than others —

Whereas it is necessary in Order to form the People of the U. S. of America into a Nation, that the States should be consolidated, by which means all the Citizens thereof will become equally intitled to and will equally participate in the same Privileges and Rights, and in all waste, uncultivated, and back Territory and Lands; it is therefore resolved, that all the Lands contained within the Limits of each State individually, and of the U. S. generally be considered as constituting one Body or Mass, and be divided into thirteen or more integral Parts.

Resolved, That such Divisions or integral Parts shall be styled Districts.


[A fair copy of the first four resolutions of II, but not numbered, and in the second resolution "shall" is changed to "ought to".]

These documents evidently represent preliminary sketches of the New Jersey Plan, and a careful study of the probable origin of the various provisions shows clearly that the completed New Jersey Plan was doubtless a joint product.7

Paterson's copy of the plan is to be found in a little book into which he also copied the Virginia Plan, the Report of the Committee of the Whole, and Hamilton's Plan. The resolutions are written on the right-hand pages; certain phrases omitted in copying or changes in wording are written on the left-hand pages with marks to show the places of their insertion. For example, in the doubtful reading of the fourth article, the right-hand page has the words "and removeable on Impeachment and Conviction for Mal-Practice, or Neglect of Duty," and opposite them on the left-hand page "by Congress on Application by a Majority of the executives of the several States." In this instance there are no asterisks, and the two phrases probably represent alternative proposals upon which no conclusion was reached. In copying, some of the members doubtless ran the two phrases together.8 It is probable that most of the other variations could be accounted for in a similar way.

In his Genuine Information, Luther Martin states that a question was proposed and negatived "that a union of the States, merely federal, ought to be the sole object of the exercise of the powers vested in the convention."9 Mr. Jameson identifies this with the action of the Convention on June 19 in rejecting the first of the resolutions presented by Paterson. He therefore concludes that we have in this the correct reading of the first article of the New Jersey Plan.

Martin also stated in his Genuine Information that he had a copy of the New Jersey Plan, which he asked leave to read.10 Shortly afterward (February 15, 1788) there appeared in the Maryland Gazette and Baltimore Advertiser11 a copy of the "Resolves proposed to the Convention by the Honorable Mr. Paterson, and mentioned in Mr. Martin's Information to the House of Assembly." It is altogether probable that the printer obtained the document from Martin. This copy consists of sixteen articles. The first is identical with the resolution Martin stated was negatived in the Convention and which Mr. Jameson thinks was the first article of the New Jersey Plan. It is the same as the first resolution partially crossed out in Paterson's first preliminary draft. The others correspond to those of the Paterson and Brearley copies, except that they differ in order and subdivisions and there is an extra article ("Resolved, that it is necessary to define what offences, committed in any State, shall be deemed high treason against the United States."), which was included but crossed out in Paterson's little book.

Assuming that this is Martin's copy, it would seem to have been compiled like those made by others of the group which formulated the New Jersey Plan, embodying various suggested articles and phrases which appealed to him personally.

Instead of regarding Martin's statement to be conclusive as to the identity of the first resolution of the New Jersey Plan, it would seem to be more likely that Martin had noted or remembered simply that the first resolution had been rejected, and had then turned to his own copy for the exact wording of it.

The editor's final conclusion is that the Madison copy fairly reproduces the original, and is probably the most accurate copy in existence of the New Jersey Plan presented to the Convention. This conclusion is confirmed by Madison's line of argument when insisting upon the correctness of his text as compared with that in the Journal,12 and by King's summary13 which seems to have been taken down hastily as the plan was read in the Convention.

Sherman's Proposals

Among the Sherman papers was found a document containing a series of propositions,14 which has been variously interpreted: The members of the Connecticut delegation to the Federal Convention had served upon several different committees of Congress that had proposed amendments to the Articles of Confederation, and this document embodies some of the amendments thus proposed.15 L. H. Boutell, in his Life of Roger Sherman, treats it as having been prepared in the latter part of Sherman's service in Congress and "as embodying the amendments which he deemed necessary to be made to the existing government."16 Bancroft, on the other hand, regards it as a plan of government presented to the Federal Convention "which in importance stands next to that of Virginia."17

Neither of these interpretations is acceptable to the editor, who is inclined to consider this document as more probably presenting the ideas of the Connecticut delegation in forming the New Jersey Plan.18 It is accordingly reprinted here, and is as follows: —

"That, in addition to the legislative powers vested in congress by the articles of confederation, the legislature of the United States be authorised to make laws to regulate the commerce of the United States with foreign nations, and among the several states in the union; to impose duties on foreign goods and commodities imported into the United States, and on papers passing through the post office, for raising a revenue, and to regulate the collection thereof, and apply the same to the payment of the debts due from the United States, and for supporting the government, and other necessary charges of the Union.

To make laws binding on the people of the United States, and on the courts of law, and other magistrates and officers, civil and military, within the several states, in all cases which concern the common interests of the United States: but not to interfere with the government of the individual states, in matters of internal police which respect the government of such states only, and wherein the general welfare of the United States is not affected.

That the laws of the United States ought, as far as may be consistent with the common interests of the Union, to be carried into execution by the judiciary and executive officers of the respective states, wherein the execution thereof is required.

That the legislature of the United States be authorised to institute one supreme tribunal, and such other tribunals as they may judge necessary for the purpose aforesaid, and ascertain their respective powers and jurisdictions.

That the legislatures of the individual states ought not to possess a right to emit bills of credit for a currency, or to make any tender laws for the payment or discharge of debts or contracts, in any manner different from the agreement of the parties, unless for payment of the value of the thing contracted for, in current money, agreeable to the standard that shall be allowed by the legislature of the United States, or in any manner to obstruct or impede the recovery of debts, whereby the interests of foreigners, or the citizens of any other state, may be affected.

That the eighth article of the confederation ought to be amended agreeably to the recommendation of congress of the NA day of NA .19

That, if any state shall refuse or neglect to furnish its quota of supplies, upon requisition made by the legislature of the United States, agreeably to the articles of the Union, that the said legislature be authorised to order the same to be levied and collected of the inhabitants of such state, and to make such rules and orders as may be necessary for that purpose.

That the legislature of the United States have power to make laws calling forth such aid from the people, from time to time, as may be necessary to assist the civil officers in the execution of the laws of the United States; and annex suitable penalties to be inflicted in case of disobedience.

That no person shall be liable to be tried for any criminal offence, committed within any of the United States, in any other state than that wherein the offence shall be committed, nor be deprived of the privilege of trial by a jury, by virtue of any law of the United States."

[Footnotes as included or written by Farrand]

•1 See Records, June 14-15, and Appendix A, CLVIII (5) and (10), CCXXXIII, CCCLXXVI.
•2 See Madison's note at the end of his copy (Records, June 15).
•3 This resolution is partly crossed out in the original.
•4 Added in different ink.
•5 Added in different ink.
•6 Added in different ink.
•7 Jameson, Studies, 140-143.
•8 Jameson, Studies, 136-137.
•9 Appendix A, CLVIII (35).
•10 Appendix A, CLVIII (35).
•11 In which the Genuine Information had been printed, December 28, 1787-February 8, 1788. At the point where Martin referred to the New Jersey plan, the printer added a note: "these will be inserted in a future number."
•12 Note at end of his copy, Records, June 15.
•13 See above, Records, June 15.
•14 Printed in Sanderson, Biography of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (1823), III, 269-274, and reprinted in Boutell, Life of Roger Sherman (1896), 132-134.
•15 Bancroft, History of the Formation of the Constitution II, 37-38, note.
•16 Boutell, loc. cit., p. 132.
•17 Bancroft, loc. cit., p. 37.
•18 See Jameson, Studies, p. 150.
•19 These blanks should evidently be filled with "18th of April, 1783."


 Paterson, William. "The New Jersey Plan or Paterson Resolutions." The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Vol. 3. Ed. Max Farrand. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911.