The Sherman Compromise

(United Readers) – America’s government hasn’t always been the way it is today. In fact, before the US Constitution, the US government was constructed under the Articles of the Confederation, which turned out to create a weak union. However, before the Constitution could be ratified, the states had to come to an agreement, one known as the “Sherman Compromise.”


There were two main plans for government introduced before our modern-day government was created. The first, known as the Virginia Plan, was favored by larger states because it called for the number of representatives from each state based on their population. However, this worried smaller states, as they would have less say in our government. Naturally, the smaller states favored the New Jersey Plan, which called for all states to have an equal number of representatives regardless of their size.

Of course, the smaller states believed they were entitled to the same legal representation as the larger states, and they were right. Unfortunately, the states could not come to an agreement between the two proposed plans.

The Great Compromise

Eventually, a delegate from Connecticut by the name of Roger Sherman came up with an alternative, later known as the “Great Compromise,” or the “Sherman Compromise.” Under Sherman’s plan, Congress would be composed of two chambers: the Senate and the House. Each state, regardless of its size or population, would only have two representatives in the Senate. However, the number of representatives in the House would vary depending on the state’s population.

The compromise ended the debate, leading to the formation of our current system of government. While we often credit the action to Roger Sherman for coming up with the plan, if not for the states’ agreement, compromise may have never occurred, and our government could be built with a very different structure than it has now.

Modern Politics

The Founding Fathers likely never imagined the population disparity between states would grow to what it has today. However, due to the differences in population, smaller states now hold more political power in the Senate. Thanks to this power imbalance, smaller states’ interests are more likely to be federally funded through tax breaks and government subsidies.

The protection of the smaller states’ representation is also found in the Electoral College, where the number of representatives from both the House and the Senate are combined to determine the number of electors in each state. For example, California is the most populous state and has 55 electoral votes, two from the Senate and 53 from the House. In contrast, a state like Indiana only has 11 electoral votes, two from the Senate and nine from the House.

Our government may not be perfect; no government is. However, our Founding Fathers did their best to protect the rights of the citizens of the United States as well as the rights of the states within its union. Our country may not even exist if it were not for this compromise. We should be thankful an agreement was made and the Constitution was forged to frame our government and protect us and our rights.

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