Small States vs Large

There was a lot of tension between the small and large states when the framers were drafting the Constitution. When the framers drafted Article 1, they intended that an elected legislature would decide the laws of the land.  However, resistance quickly arose to the initial proposal to assign each state seats in proportion to their populations.  Leaders of the less populated states feared the larger states would dominate them.  Some sort of protection for small states would be necessary to gain support from small state leaders for the new Constitution.

Their solution was to create a Congress composed of a Senate and a House of Representatives. 

  • Each state would have equal representation in the Senate, with two senators each (Article 1, Section 3). 
  • The House of Representatives would have seats in proportion to the population of each state (Article 1, Section 2).[1]
  • No legislation could be made law without the agreement of the House, the Senate, and the President (Article 1, Section 7). 

In this way, the smaller states could gain leverage in the Senate over the larger states in the House.  The decision to create this bicameral (two-house) Congress is referred to as The Great Compromise.

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[1] The apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives by state population requires a regular census.

Image: Map of the United States, 1789, Library of Congress.

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