Three-Fifths Compromise

Last updated

The Three-Fifths Compromise was a compromise reached among state delegates during the 1787 United States Constitutional Convention. Whether and, if so, how slaves would be counted when determining a state's total population for legislative representation and taxing purposes was important, as this population number would then be used to determine the number of seats that the state would have in the United States House of Representatives for the next ten years. The compromise solution was to count three out of every five slaves as people for this purpose. Its effect was to give the Southern states a third more seats in Congress and a third more electoral votes than if slaves had been ignored, but fewer than if slaves and free people had been counted equally. The compromise was proposed by delegate James Wilson and seconded by Charles Pinckney on June 11, 1787. [1] :143

Contents

Background

Confederation Congress

The three-fifths ratio originated with an amendment proposed to the Articles of Confederation on April 18, 1783. [2] [3] The amendment was to have changed the basis for determining the wealth of each state, and hence its tax obligations, from real estate to population, as a measure of ability to produce wealth. The proposal by a committee of the Congress had suggested that taxes "shall be supplied by the several colonies in proportion to the number of inhabitants of every age, sex, and quality, except Indians not paying taxes". [4] :51 [5] The South immediately objected to this formula since it would include slaves, who were viewed primarily as property, in calculating the amount of taxes to be paid. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in his notes on the debates, the Southern states would be taxed "according to their numbers and their wealth conjunctly, while the northern would be taxed on numbers only". [4] :51–52

After proposed compromises of one half by Benjamin Harrison of Virginia and three fourths by several New Englanders failed to gain sufficient support, Congress finally settled on the three-fifths ratio proposed by James Madison. [4] :53 But this amendment ultimately failed, falling two states short of the unanimous approval required for amending the Articles of Confederation (only New Hampshire and New York were opposed).

Constitutional Convention

When he presented his plan for the frame of government to the Convention on its first day, Charles Pinckney of South Carolina proposed that for the purposes of apportionment, a "House of Delegates" be determined through the apportionment of "one Member for every thousand Inhabitants 3/5 of Blacks included." [6] [7] The Convention unanimously accepted the principle that representation in the House of Representatives would be in proportion to the relative state populations, but it initially rejected his proposal regarding apportionment of the black population along with the rest of his plan. However, since slaves could not vote, leaders in slave states would thus have the benefit of increased representation in the House and the Electoral College. Delegates opposed to slavery proposed that only free inhabitants of each state be counted for apportionment purposes, while delegates supportive of slavery, on the other hand, opposed the proposal, wanting slaves to count in their actual numbers.

The proposal to count slaves by a three-fifths ratio was first proposed on June 11, and agreed to by nine states to two with only a brief debate. [1] :143–4 It was debated at length between July 9 and 13 (inclusive) when it was initially voted down by the members present at the Convention six to four. [8] [9] A few Southern delegates, seeing an opportunity, then proposed full representation for their slave population; most states voted no. [10] [11] Seeing that the states could not remain united about counting the slaves as five fifths [12] without some sort of compromise measure, the ratio of three fifths was brought back to the table and agreed to by eight states to two. [1] :416

Compromise and enactment

After a contentious debate, the compromise that was finally agreed upon—of counting "all other persons" as only three-fifths of their actual numbers—reduced the representation of the slave states relative to the original proposals, but improved it over the Northern position. [13] An inducement for slave states to accept the Compromise was its tie to taxation in the same ratio, so that the burden of taxation on the slave states was also reduced.

The Three-Fifths Compromise is found in Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution, which reads:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

A contentious issue at the 1787 Constitutional Convention was whether slaves would be counted as part of the population in determining representation of the states in the Congress or would instead be considered property and, as such, not be considered for purposes of representation. Delegates from states with a large population of slaves argued that slaves should be considered persons in determining representation, but as property if the new government were to levy taxes on the states on the basis of population. Delegates from states where slavery had become rare argued that slaves should be included in taxation, but not in determining representation.

The proposed ratio was, however, a ready solution to the impasse that arose during the Constitutional Convention. In that situation, the alignment of the contending forces was the reverse of what had been obtained under the Articles of Confederation in 1783. In amending the Articles, the North wanted slaves to count for more than the South did because the objective was to determine taxes paid by the states to the federal government. In the Constitutional Convention, the more important issue was representation in Congress, so the South wanted slaves to count for more than the North did. [1] :397

Much has been said of the impropriety of representing men who have no will of their own.... They are men, though degraded to the condition of slavery. They are persons known to the municipal laws of the states which they inhabit, as well as to the laws of nature. But representation and taxation go together.... Would it be just to impose a singular burden, without conferring some adequate advantage?

Impact before the Civil War

The Three-Fifths Compromise led to additional representation of slave states in the House of Representatives relative to the voters in free states until the American Civil War. In 1793, for example, Southern slave states had 47 of the 105 members but would have had 33, had seats been assigned based on free populations. In 1812, slave states had 76 out of 143 instead of the 59 they would have had; in 1833, 98 out of 240 instead of 73. As a result, Southern states had additional influence on the presidency, the speakership of the House, and the Supreme Court in the period prior to the Civil War. [15] Along with this must be considered the number of slave and free states, which remained mostly equal until 1850, safeguarding the Southern bloc in the Senate as well as Electoral College votes.

Historian Garry Wills has speculated that without the additional slave state votes, Jefferson would have lost the presidential election of 1800. Also, "slavery would have been excluded from Missouri ... Jackson's Indian removal policy would have failed ... the Wilmot Proviso would have banned slavery in territories won from Mexico ... the Kansas-Nebraska bill would have failed." [4] :5–6 While the Three-Fifths Compromise could be seen to favor Southern states because of their large slave populations, for example, the Connecticut Compromise tended to favor the Northern states (which were generally smaller). Support for the new Constitution rested on the balance of these sectional interests. [16]

After the Civil War

Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment (1868) later superseded Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 and explicitly repealed the compromise. It provides that "representatives shall be apportioned ... counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed." A later provision of the same clause reduced the Congressional representation of states who denied the right to vote to adult male citizens, but this provision was never effectively enforced. [17] (The Thirteenth Amendment, passed in 1865, had already eliminated almost all persons from the original clause's jurisdiction by banning slavery; the only remaining persons subject to it were those sentenced for a crime to penal servitude, which the amendment excluded from the ban.)

After the Reconstruction Era came to an end in 1877, however, the former slave states subverted the objective of these changes by using various strategies to disenfranchise their black citizens, while obtaining the benefit of apportionment of representatives on the basis of the total populations. These measures effectively gave white Southerners even greater voting power than they had in the antebellum era, inflating the number of Southern Democrats in the House of Representatives as well as the number of votes they could exercise in the Electoral College in the election of the president.

The disenfranchisement of black citizens eventually attracted the attention of Congress, and in 1900 some members proposed stripping the South of seats, related to the number of people who were barred from voting. [18] In the end, Congress did not act to change apportionment, largely because of the power of the Southern bloc. The Southern bloc comprised Southern Democrats voted into office by white voters and constituted a powerful voting bloc in Congress until the 1960s. Their representatives, re-elected repeatedly by one-party states, controlled numerous chairmanships of important committees in both houses on the basis of seniority, giving them control over rules, budgets and important patronage projects, among other issues. Their power allowed them to defeat federal legislation against racial violence and abuses in the South, [19] until overcome by the civil rights movement.

See also

Related Research Articles

Constitution of the United States Supreme law of the United States of America

The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. The Constitution, originally comprising seven articles, delineates the national frame of government. Its first three articles embody the doctrine of the separation of powers, whereby the federal government is divided into three branches: the legislative, consisting of the bicameral Congress ; the executive, consisting of the president and subordinate officers ; and the judicial, consisting of the Supreme Court and other federal courts. Article IV, Article V and Article VI embody concepts of federalism, describing the rights and responsibilities of state governments, the states in relationship to the federal government, and the shared process of constitutional amendment. Article VII establishes the procedure subsequently used by the thirteen States to ratify it. It is regarded as the oldest written and codified national constitution in force.

United States Electoral College Institution that officially elects the President and Vice President of the United States

The Electoral College is a body of electors established by the United States Constitution, which forms every four years for the sole purpose of electing the president and vice president of the United States. The Electoral College consists of 538 electors, and an absolute majority of at least 270 electoral votes is required to win the election. According to Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution, each state legislature determines the manner by which its state's electors are chosen. The number of each state's electors is equal to the sum of the state's membership in the Senate and House of Representatives; currently there are 100 senators and 435 representatives. Additionally, the Twenty-third Amendment, ratified in 1961, provides that the District established pursuant to Article I, Section 8 as the seat of the federal government is entitled to the number it would have if it were a state, but in no case more than that of the least populous state. U.S. territories are not entitled to any electors.

Charles Pinckney (governor) American politician (1757-1824)

Charles Pinckney was an American planter and politician who was a signer of the United States Constitution. He was elected and served as the 37th Governor of South Carolina, later serving two more non-consecutive terms. He also served as a US Senator and a member of the House of Representatives. He was first cousin once removed of fellow signer Charles Cotesworth Pinckney.

Virginia Plan Planned structure of the U.S. Constitution

The Virginia Plan was a proposal to the United States Constitutional Convention for the creation of a supreme national government with three branches and a bicameral legislature. The plan was drafted by James Madison while he waited for a quorum to assemble at the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney American politician (1746-1825)

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney was an early American statesman of South Carolina, Revolutionary War veteran, and delegate to the Constitutional Convention. He was twice nominated by the Federalist Party as its presidential candidate in 1804 and 1808, losing both elections.

The Connecticut Compromise was an agreement that large and small states reached during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 that in part defined the legislative structure and representation that each state would have under the United States Constitution. It retained the bicameral legislature as proposed by Roger Sherman, along with proportional representation of the states in the lower house or House of Representatives, but required the upper house or Senate to be weighted equally among the states. Each state would have two representatives in the upper house.

History of the United States Constitution aspect of history

The United States Constitution has served as the supreme law of the United States since taking effect in 1789. The document was written at the 1787 Philadelphia Convention and was ratified through a series of state conventions held in 1787 and 1788. Since 1789, the Constitution has been amended twenty-seven times; particularly important amendments include the ten amendments of the United States Bill of Rights and the three Reconstruction Amendments.

Corwin Amendment Proposed United States constitutional amendment

The Corwin Amendment is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution that would shield "domestic institutions" of the states from the federal constitutional amendment process and from abolition or interference by Congress. Although the Corwin Amendment does not explicitly mention slavery, it is designed specifically to protect slavery from federal power. Congress proposed the Corwin Amendment on March 2, 1861, shortly before the outbreak of the American Civil War. It has not been ratified by the requisite number of states.

Luther Martin American politician and leading Anti-Federalist (1748-1826)

Luther Martin was a politician and one of the United States' Founding Fathers, who left the Constitutional Convention early because he felt the Constitution violated states' rights. He was a leading Anti-Federalist, along with Patrick Henry and George Mason, whose actions helped passage of the Bill of Rights.

The New Jersey Plan was a proposal for the structure of the United States Government presented by William Paterson at the Constitutional Convention on June 15, 1787. The plan was created in response to the Virginia Plan, which called for two houses of Congress, both elected with apportionment according to population. The less populous states were adamantly opposed to giving most of the control of the national government to the more populous states, and so proposed an alternative plan that would have kept the one-vote-per-state representation under one legislative body from the Articles of Confederation.

History of the United States Senate aspect of history

The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress, which along with the United States House of Representatives—the lower chamber—comprises the legislative branch of the federal government of the United States. Like its counterpart, the Senate was established by the United States Constitution and convened for its first meeting on March 4, 1789 at Federal Hall in New York City. The history of the institution begins prior to that date, at the 1787 Constitutional Convention, in James Madison's Virginia Plan, which proposed a bicameral national legislature, and in the Connecticut Compromise, an agreement reached between delegates from small-population states and those from large-population states that in part defined the structure and representation that each state would have in the new Congress.

Constitutional Convention (United States) Event in 1787 in Philadelphia creating the United States Constitution

The Constitutional Convention took place from May 25 to September 17, 1787, in the old Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia. Although the convention was intended to revise the league of states and first system of government under the Articles of Confederation, the intention from the outset of many of its proponents, chief among them James Madison of Virginia and Alexander Hamilton of New York, was to create a new government rather than fix the existing one. The delegates elected George Washington of Virginia, former commanding general of the Continental Army in the late American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and proponent of a stronger national government, to become President of the convention. The result of the convention was the creation of the Constitution of the United States, placing the Convention among the most significant events in American history.

Federalist No. 54 Federalist Paper by James Madison on Apportionment of Representatives

Federalist Paper No. 54 is an essay by James Madison, the fifty-fourth of The Federalist Papers. It was published on February 12, 1788 under the pseudonym Publius, the name under which all The Federalist papers were published. This paper discusses the way in which the seats in the United States House of Representatives are apportioned among the states. It is titled "The Apportionment of Members Among the States". The essay was erroneously attributed to John Jay in Alexander Hamilton's enumeration of the authors of the various Federalist Papers.

Virginia Conventions

The Virginia Conventions have been the assemblies of delegates elected for the purpose of establishing constitutions of fundamental law for the Commonwealth of Virginia superior to General Assembly legislation. Their constitutions and subsequent amendments span four centuries across the territory of modern-day Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky.

Reconstruction Amendments Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments to the United States Constitution

The Reconstruction Amendments are the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments to the United States Constitution, adopted between 1865 and 1870, the five years immediately following the Civil War. The last time the Constitution had been amended was with the Twelfth Amendment more than 60 years earlier in 1804. The Reconstruction amendments were a part of implementing the Reconstruction of the American South after the war. Their proponents saw them as transforming the United States from a country that was "half slave and half free" to one in which the constitutionally guaranteed "blessings of liberty" would be extended to the entire populace, including the former slaves and their descendants.

Missouri Compromise Legislative compromise between pro- and anti-slavery parties in the run-up to the American Civil War

The Missouri Compromise was United States federal legislation that admitted Maine to the United States as a free state, simultaneously with Missouri as a slave state, thus maintaining the balance of power between North and South in the US Senate. As part of the compromise, the legislation prohibited slavery north of the 36°30′ parallel except for Missouri. The 16th United States Congress passed the legislation on March 3, 1820, and President James Monroe signed it on March 6, 1820.

Timeline of drafting and ratification of the United States Constitution timeline

The drafting of the Constitution of the United States began on May 25, 1787, when the Constitutional Convention met for the first time with a quorum at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to revise the Articles of Confederation, and ended on September 17, 1787, the day the Constitution drafted by the convention's delegates to replace the Articles was adopted and signed. The ratification process for the Constitution began that day, and ended when the final state, Rhode Island, ratified it on May 29, 1790. In addition to key events during the Constitutional Convention and afterward while the Constitution was before the states for their ratification, this timeline includes important events that occurred during the run-up to the convention and during the nation's transition from government under the Articles of Confederation to government under the Constitution, and concludes with the unique ratification vote of Vermont, which at the time was a sovereign state outside the Union. The time span covered is 5 years, 9 months, from March 25, 1785 to January 10, 1791.

The Fugitive Slave Clause of the United States Constitution, also known as either the Slave Clause or the Fugitives From Labor Clause, is Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3, which requires a "person held to service or labor" who flees to another state to be returned to his or her master in the state from which that person escaped. The passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolished slavery except as a punishment for criminal acts, made the clause mostly irrelevant.

The Confederation Period was the era of United States history in the 1780s after the American Revolution and prior to the ratification of the United States Constitution. In 1781, the United States ratified the Articles of Confederation and prevailed in the Battle of Yorktown, the last major land battle between British and American forces in the American Revolutionary War. American independence was confirmed with the 1783 signing of the Treaty of Paris. The fledgling United States faced several challenges, many of which stemmed from the lack of a strong national government and unified political culture. The period ended in 1789 following the ratification of the United States Constitution, which established a new, more powerful, national government.

Oliver Ellsworth Former Chief Justice of the United States

Oliver Ellsworth was an American lawyer, judge, politician, and diplomat. He was a framer of the United States Constitution, a United States Senator from Connecticut, and the third Chief Justice of the United States. Additionally, Ellsworth received 11 electoral votes in the 1796 presidential election.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 James, Madison (1787). Hunt, Gaillard (ed.). 1787: The Journal of the Constitutional Convention, Part I. oll.libertyfund.org. The Writings of James Madison. 3. G. P. Putnam's Sons (published 1902).
  2. Story, Joseph L. (1833). "Book 3, Chapter 9 §641". Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States. lonang.com. Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts: Hilliard, Gray, and Company; Brown, Shattuck and Co.
  3. Woodburn, James Albert (1916). American Politics: The American Republic and Its Government. Google Books (2nd ed.). G. P. Putnam's Sons. p. 190.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Wills, Garry (2003). "Negro President": Jefferson and the Slave Power . Houghton Mifflin. ISBN   0-618-34398-9.
  5. Taylor, Hannis (1911). The Origin and Growth of the American Constitution: An Historical Treatise. Internet Archive . Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin. p. 131. shall be supplied by the several colonies in proportion to the number of inhabitants of every age.
  6. Williams, Francis Leigh (1978). A Founding Family: The Pinckneys of South Carolina . Internet Archive . New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich. p. 222. ISBN   0151315035.
  7. Pinckney, Charles (1787). "The Plan of Charles Pinckney (South Carolina), Presented to the Federal Convention". Avalon Project (published 2008). Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  8. Feldman, Noah (2017). The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President. Google Books . Random House. ISBN   9780812992755.
  9. "Madison Debates, July 11". Avalon Project (published 2008). July 11, 1787. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  10. "Madison Debates, July 12". Avalon Project (published 2008). July 12, 1787. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  11. Finkelman, Paul (1996). Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson . Internet Archive . Armonk, New York: M. E. Sharpe. p. 14–15. ISBN   1-56324-590-6.
  12. Guyatt, Nicholas (June 6, 2019). "No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation's Founding". PressReader . The New York Review of Books.
  13. Finkelman, Paul (2013). "How The Proslavery Constitution Led To The Civil War". Rutgers Law Journal . 43 (3): 405. SSRN   2243060 .
  14. Elliot, John, ed. (1866). The Debates In The Several State Conventions On The Adoption Of The Federal Constitution, As Recommended By The General Convention At Philadelphia, In 1787. Google Books . 2. Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.: J.B. Lippincott & Co.; Taylor & Maury. p. 237.
  15. Richards, Leonard L. (2000). The Slave Power. Google Books . LSU Press. pp. 56–57. ISBN   9780807126004.
  16. Banning, Lance (August 31, 2004). "Three-Fifths Historian". Claremont Review of Books (Fall 2004). The Claremont Institute. Archived from the original on July 5, 2008. Retrieved January 21, 2008.
  17. Friedman, Walter (January 1, 2006). "Fourteenth Amendment". Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. HighBeam Research. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  18. "Committee At Odds on Reapportionment" (PDF). The New York Times. December 20, 1900. Retrieved March 10, 2008.
  19. Pildes, Richard H. (October 18, 2013) [2000]. "Democracy, Anti-Democracy, and the Canon". Constitutional Commentary. 17: 10. SSRN   224731 .

Bibliography