Sunday, May 25, 2008

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Plan

James Madison is known as the father of the U. S. Constitution primarily because he is credited as the principal author of the so-called Virginia Plan. This plan consisted of 15 resolves and was presented on May 29, 1787, the fifth day of the Constitutional Convention. Most of the delegates in Philadelphia that summer had only a loose idea of what they were to accomplish, and were willing to structure the debate on the points laid out by Madison. As a result, the plan became the framework around which the final document approved the following September was formed.

What does this have to do with negotiation or mediation? If one studies the Constitutional Convention, it quickly becomes apparent that, from beginning to end, the event was a high-stakes negotiation among many distinct interest groups. Without Madison’s "first draft," it is uncertain whether there would have been a United States Constitution — or a United States. As it was, the final result certainly carried his stamp.

The lesson to be learned: In negotiation, whether mediated or not, those who write the first draft usually get most of what they want.

The photo shown was downloaded from; taken by OZinOH.

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