The British Plan – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net

The British Plan


The Constitutional Convention was tasked
with proposing amendments to the Articles of
which would make it a more workable plan for national
government. The Convention began with the text of the Virginia Plan and Charles
Pinckney’s notes
. New Jersey and the smaller states of the union,
determined not to be overwhelmed by the larger states, offered their own
proposal, the New Jersey Plan. Alexander Hamilton,
frustrated that his vote was often overruled by those of his two fellow New
York delegates, had his own plan, offered to the Convention on June 18, 1787. The
Plan was far afield from anything previously discussed, proposing a system
similar to that of Britain, and hence called the British Plan.

Hamilton went on to become one of the staunchest defenders of the
Constitution during the ratification process. His support of a
President-for-life was a definite departure from the eventual plan, and it has
been theorized that he offered his plan as a worst-case scenario to the

The following text was taken from the Avalon Project’s reproduction of
Madison’s notes from the Convention. The text is largely unaltered as presented
here, but spelling has been corrected and abbreviations have been expanded.

1. The Supreme Legislative power of the United States of America to be
vested in two different bodies of men; the one to be called the Assembly, the
other the Senate who together shall form the Legislature of the United States
with power to pass all laws whatsoever subject to the Negative hereafter
mentioned. [1]

2. The Assembly to consist of persons elected by the people to serve for
three years. [2]

3. The Senate to consist of persons elected to serve during good behavior;
their election to be made by electors chosen for that purpose by the people: in
order to this the States to be divided into election districts. On the death,
removal or resignation of any Senator his place to be filled out of the
district from which he came. [3]

4. The supreme Executive authority of the United States to be vested in a
Governor to be elected to serve during good behavior – the election to be made
by Electors chosen by the people in the Election Districts aforesaid. The
authorities and functions of the Executive to be as follows: to have a negative
on all laws about to be passed, and the execution of all laws passed, to have
the direction of war when authorized or begun; to have with the advice and
approbation of the Senate the power of making all treaties; to have the sole
appointment of the heads or chief officers of the departments of Finance, War
and Foreign Affairs; to have the nomination of all other officers (Ambassadors
to foreign Nations included) subject to the approbation or rejection of the
Senate; to have the power of pardoning all offenses except Treason; which he
shall not pardon without the approbation of the Senate. [4]

5. On the death, resignation or removal of the Governor his authorities to
be exercised by the President of the Senate till a Successor be appointed.

6. The Senate to have the sole power of declaring war, the power of advising
and approving all Treaties, the power of approving or rejecting all
appointments of officers except the heads or chiefs of the departments of
Finance, War, and foreign affairs. [6]

7. The supreme Judicial authority to be vested in Judges to hold their
offices during good behavior with adequate and permanent salaries. This Court
to have original jurisdiction in all causes of capture, and an appellative
jurisdiction in all causes in which the revenues of the general Government or
the Citizens of foreign Nations are concerned. [7]

8. The Legislature of the United States to have power to institute Courts in
each State for the determination of all matters of general concern. [8]

9. The Governor, Senators, and all officers of the United States to be
liable to impeachment for mal- and corrupt conduct; and upon conviction to be
removed from office, and disqualified for holding any place of trust or profit.
All impeachments to be tried by a Court to consist of the Chief or Judge of the
superior Court of Law of each State, provided such Judge shall hold his place
during good behavior, and have a permanent salary. [9]

10. All laws of the particular States contrary to the Constitution or laws
of the United States to be utterly void; and the better to prevent such laws
being passed, the Governor or president of each State shall be appointed by
the General Government and shall have a negative upon the laws about to be
passed in the State of which he is Governor or President. [10]

11. No State to have any forces land or Naval; and the Militia of all the
States to be under the sole and exclusive direction of the United States, the
officers of which to be appointed and commissioned by them. [11]


1. Like the final draft, as found at Article 1, Section 1, Hamilton’s plan included a
bicameral legislature. Hamilton envisioned that each house would have an active
“negative” on each other, while the system in the final draft is more

2. Similar to the final draft’s Article 1, Section 2, Hamilton’s Assembly was
elected by the people, though for three year terms.

3. Hamilton’s Senate was elected for life from districts
rather than from the states. The method of indirect election is similar to the
Electoral College defined in Article 2, Section 1 of the final draft.

4. Again predicting the Electoral College, Hamilton’s
executive, the Governor, was elected for life, by the Senatorial electoral
districts. He had a veto, as found at Article 1,
Section 7
. He also would have been commander-in-chief of the military,
would have negotiated treaties, appointed his own cabinet officers, and had the
pardon power, powers vested in the President by Article 2, Section 2.

5. Instead of a fixed line of succession, as found at
Article 2, Section 1, Hamilton’s Governor
would be replaced by a temporary Governor appointed by the Senate until a new
Governor was elected.

6. Except for the power to declare war, which was granted
to the Congress as a whole in Article 1, Section
, Hamilton’s Senate had some of the same powers as that of the final

7. Hamilton’s unnamed judicial branch had a dearth of
original jurisdiction, but shared the life term of the final draft’s justices
as found at Article 3, Section 1.

8. Hamilton’s draft gave his legislature the power to
constitute lower courts within the states, just as the final draft does in Article 3, Section 1.

9. Hamilton’s plan includes a lengthy section about
impeachment, and includes most of the details found in the final draft at
Article 1, Section 2 and Section 3 and Article 2, Section 4.

10. Hamilton’s plan took the supremacy concept a few steps
further than the Supremacy Clause, at Article 6,
by allowing the national government to veto any state law and by mandating the
veto power and appointment method of state governors.

11. Hamilton’s plan again went beyond the final draft by
not only mandating that the states not keep armies or navies, as at Article 1, Section 10, but also gave the
national government power over the state militias.