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Connecticut Compromise Mural

The Connecticut Compromise by Bradley Stevens

When the framers of the U.S. Constitution met at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on July 16, 1787, they reached a crucial agreement that provided for a dual system of congressional representation. Although this arrangement seems obvious today, it was a novel idea in the wilting-hot summer of 1787. This Great Compromise, or Connecticut Compromise, was named in honor of its architects, Connecticut delegates Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth.

In the preceding weeks, the framers had made several important decisions about Congress’s structure. The term for senators was set at six years, and for House members, two years.

The issue of representation, however, threatened to destroy the seven-week-old convention. Delegates from the large states believed that because their states contributed proportionally more to the nation’s treasury, they should enjoy proportionally greater representation in both the House and the Senate. Small-state delegates demanded, with comparable intensity, that all states be equally represented in both houses.

As the hot summer tightened its grip on the stalemated delegates, Sherman and Ellsworth offered a solution. Ellsworth explained that equal state representation was imperative in a Union ”partly national, partly federal.” Sherman proposed a specific agreement for a dual system of representation. In the House of Representatives, each state would be assigned a number of seats based on its population. In the Senate, all states would have the same number of seats.

On July 16, the convention adopted the Connecticut Compromise by a heart-stopping margin of one vote. Without that vote, there likely would have been no Constitution.

The Artist

Bradley Stevens has earned a reputation as one of America's leading realist painters during his 27-year career. He received his BFA and MFA from The George Washington University. To supplement his education, he spent five years copying paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

Stevens has painted numerous portraits of judges, senators, governors, philanthropists, and leaders in business and academia. His projects include the official portrait of Governor Mark Warner of Virginia, and his portrait of Vernon Jordan has recently been accepted into the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

Stevens has reproduced important historical portraits for the White House, U.S. Department of State, U.S. House of Representatives, National Portrait Gallery, and Monticello. In 2002 Stevens was asked to reproduce Gilbert Stuart's renowned Lansdowne portrait of George Washington for the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.

A native of Westport, Connecticut, Stevens currently resides and maintains a studio in the Virginia countryside outside of Washington, D.C.