Who Are Americans? Interactive Exercises

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Who Benefits from the Great Compromise?

The Great Compromise attempted to balance power between large and small states in the new Congress. The charts show the difference in representation for states in the House and Senate in the first Congress (1789–1791). In the Senate, each state has equal representation, which in the first Congress meant each had one-thirteenth of all seats. In the House, the number of seats apportioned to each state is based on population; thus, the larger states may have more representation.

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1.
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How many seats did Pennsylvania have in the House of Representatives after the ratification of the Constitution? New Jersey? New Hampshire?
2.
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Which state had the most seats in the House of Representatives after the ratification of the Constitution? Which state(s) had the fewest seats?
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3.
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What was the population of Virginia in 1790? How does this compare to the other states at that time?
4.
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At the Constitutional Convention, large states supported a plan—the Virginia Plan—to make the whole Congress look like the House. Small states supported a plan—the New Jersey Plan—to make the whole Congress look like the Senate. How would each have benefited from their favored plans?
5.
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How has the population of the states changed from 1790 to today? You can find population by state here. Scroll down to the section called “Redistricting Data” to find a map of the United States. Mouse over each state to see how its population has changed. Look up the populations of Virginia and New Jersey, the two plans for which the competing representation plans were named. How do the populations of these two states compare today? Do you think each state would advocate for the same representation plan today that they favored during the drafting of the Constitution? Why or why not?
6.
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What are the advantages of equal representation by states? What are the drawbacks? In your opinion, do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?

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