Three-Fifths of a Person

A friend who happens to be an historian, Episcopal priest and proud son of Virginia emailed in response to The United States According to Pat:

Along these same lines, whenever I hear someone talking about the original US constitution or the “founding fathers,” I try to remind myself that the constitution and those men and their families were, for the most part, happy to live with “other Persons” as three-fifth’s of a person.

He is referring to the three-fifths compromise is found in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution:

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 the Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

Wikipedia explains:

The Three-Fifths Compromise was a compromise between Southern and Northern States reached during the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 in which three-fifths of the population of slaves would be counted for enumeration purposes regarding both the distribution of taxes and the appointment of the members of the United States House of Representatives … Delegates opposed to slavery generally wished to count only the free inhabitants of each state. Delegates supportive of slavery, on the other hand, generally wanted to count slaves in their actual numbers. Since slaves could not vote, slaveholders would thus have the benefit of increased representation in the House and the Electoral College; taxation was only a secondary issue. The final compromise of counting “all other persons” as only three-fifths of their actual numbers reduced the power of the slave states relative to the original southern proposals, but increased it over the northern position.

Image from The Slave Heritage Resource Center. Picture of slaves in Cumberland Landing, Virginia, May 1862.
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