Tuesday, December 18, 2007


THREE-FIFTHS COMPROMISE The Constitution of the United States often has been referred to as a bundle of compromises. Given the socioeconomic differences between northern and south­ern interests at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, this is not at all surprising. Similarly, it is not surprising that the institution of slavery in the United .States was one of the major factors accounting for the Constitution's "compromising" nature. Northern delegates to the Convention argued that slaves should be counted in determining each state's share of direct federal taxes, which, of course, was to be based on total population statistics. Conversely, southern delegates wanted to exclude slaves from the count. The southerners, however, wanted to include slaves in the total population count when determining each state's numerical representation in the House of Repre­sentatives. To satisfy both northern and southern interests, the so-called "Three-Fifths Compromise" was agreed upon.

It was decided that five slaves should be counted as three persons in the determination of both representation and direct taxation. The actual terminology of the Compromise [Art I, Sec. 2, Par. 3] reads as follows: "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."

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