Sat Feb 16, 2013, 06:03 PM
Redfairen (1,276 posts)
Emory Univ. president praises the US Constitution's 3/5th compromise on slavery
One instance of constitutional compromise was the agreement to count three-fifths of the slave population for purposes of state representation in Congress. Southern delegates wanted to count the whole slave population, which would have given the South greater influence over national policy. Northern delegates argued that slaves should not be counted at all, because they had no vote. As the price for achieving the ultimate aim of the Constitution—“to form a more perfect union”—the two sides compromised on this immediate issue of how to count slaves in the new nation. Pragmatic half-victories kept in view the higher aspiration of drawing the country more closely together.
Some might suggest that the constitutional compromise reached for the lowest common denominator—for the barest minimum value on which both sides could agree. I rather think something different happened. Both sides found a way to temper ideology and continue working toward the highest aspiration they both shared—the aspiration to form a more perfect union. They set their sights higher, not lower, in order to identify their common goal and keep moving toward it.
As I write this, our country’s fiscal conundrums invite our leaders to wrestle with whether they will compromise or hold fast to certain of their pledges and ideologies about the future of our nation’s economic framework. Whatever the outcome of this fiscal debate over the next months or years, the polarization of our day and the lessons of our forebears point to a truth closer to our university.
A university by its inclusiveness insists on holding opposing views in nonviolent dialogue long enough for common aspirations to be identified and for compromise to be engaged—compromise not understood as defeat, but as a tool for more noble achievement. The constitutional compromise about slavery, for instance, facilitated the achievement of what both sides of the debate really aspired to—a new nation.
4 replies, 1263 views
Emory Univ. president praises the US Constitution's 3/5th compromise on slavery (Original post)
|The Velveteen Ocelot||Feb 2013||#1|
Response to Redfairen (Original post)
Sat Feb 16, 2013, 06:14 PM
The Velveteen Ocelot (46,230 posts)
1. Some interesting history -
Southern legislators wanted to count all of their slave population for purposes of determining state representation in Congress, even though the slaves couldn't vote, and the northern legislators didn't want them counted at all because they couldn't vote. So the south was trying to strengthen its influence in Congress by counting as a "represented" population a whole bunch of people who had no vote, and who therefore weren't really being represented at all.
I think there is very widespread misunderstanding about the meaning and intent of the so-called 3/5 compromise. Here's some information from an article on the PBS web site - please read before going off on the Emory article.
The compromise that settled the issue of how to count slaves for purposes of representation in the House came to be known as the Three-fifths Compromise. It is sometimes wrongly said that the compromise meant the founders considered slaves as only partial human beings. In fact, the compromise had nothing to do with the human worth of the individual slave. States with slaves wanted to count all of their slaves in the state’s population because that would yield more representatives in Congress. The opponents of slavery, noting that slaves had no rights of citizenship including the vote, argued that slaves should not be counted at all for purposes of representation. In the end, the compromise was to count three-fifths of the state’s slaves in the total population. In another words, for every five slaves, three of would be added to the population count used to determine representation in the House of Representatives.http://www.pbs.org/georgewashington/classroom/index3.html
Response to Redfairen (Original post)
Sat Feb 16, 2013, 06:26 PM
patrice (47,992 posts)
3. Thank you for this perspective! It clarifies that debate, but it does raise another question for me.
The South's perspective can be understood up to the point that they were claiming a full vote for those whom they also claimed were their PROPERTY.
It is understandable how the North would resist that, but I am unsure of the grounds upon which the North resisted it.
I know that slavery was not un-common in the North too, but I assume that it was, as it was also in the south, more strongly associated with those who were wealthy enough to own slaves, so was Northern opposition to Southern slaves voting due to the fact that the political advantage that it would be possible for slave owners to order their property how to vote? Or was the Northern objection more due to the influence of Abolitionists, so it was an objection to the fact that the African Americans were property in the first place?
Kind of a chicken-or-the-egg question, I realize: the North, "End Slavery first in exchange for full Enfranchisement" vs. the South, "Full Enfranchisement first in exchange for an End of Slavery"???