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–by Joanna Hallac

I was researching for our Facebook and Twitter fact-a-day earlier today and settled upon the fact that on July 16, 1787, the Connecticut Compromise (also called the Great Compromise) was adopted by the Constitutional Convention. Being a native of Connecticut, how could I possibly resist this one?

The compromise was proposed and crafted by none other than Roger Sherman, also of Connecticut, hence the name of the compromise. For those of you who have forgotten your early American history, the Connecticut or Great Compromise came about from a deadlock in the Constitutional Convention over the issue of representation. Having already advocated for the idea once before while a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1776, Sherman again put forth his plan for a bicameral legislature, composed of a House of Representatives that would represent the people based on population, and a Senate that would represent each state equally. The plan was adopted by a vote of five states to four, ending the deadlock and injecting newfound spirit and life into the convention.

Portrait of Roger Sherman (courtesy of Congressional Bioguide)

In the weeks leading up to the adoption of the compromise, the framers of the Constitution put a number of other distinctive qualities into the Senate versus the House. Term lengths, minimum age required to serve, and how the members would be elected were all to vary from chamber to chamber. James Madison described the virtues of making the senators older, not popularly elected, and with longer term lengths by saying: “the nature of the senatorial trust, which requires greater extent of information and stability of character” would allow those in the Senate “to proceed with more coolness, with more system, and with more wisdom than the popular[ly elected] branch.” While the manner of electing our senators has since changed, the other requirements remain intact.

“Connecticut Compromise,” by Bradley Stevens (U.S. Senate)

There were many compromises and deals necessary for our Constitution to be written and our federalist government formed, a critical one coming 225 years ago to the day. Perhaps it would behoove our current elected officials to reread their American history and look to the words and actions of the constitutional framers they so often quote in daily speeches for a little inspiration about the wisdom and virtue in reaching compromise. Just a thought.

Sources consulted:

Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Library website

U.S. Senate Art & History website

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