The US Constitution is often held aloft as a hallowed document to which everyone else in the universe should strive to copy and emulate. Nobody holds this document higher than the American people themselves, who often speak in hushed tones of reverence about it. Is it a holy document?
Perhaps few people have actually read the document, or perhaps even fewer people understand it fully. It is written after all, in language and phrases over two hundred years old. More than that, the language is quite technically “legalese” and possibly obfuscative. Deliberately misleading. Its writers were clever people, perhaps weary of how their hallowed document would be viewed by future generations.
For example, the very first article out of the original seven reads,
Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3:
“(Congressional) Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers (population), 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.”
Sounds harmless enough huh? I’m not sure I would have thrown up my hands in horror after first reading this, if I hadn’t already known what it means. A deadly idea was hiding in plain site.
A contentious issue at the 1787 American 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 as property and, as such, not be considered for purposes of political representation, but would be for paying taxes. Counting slaves or not, were diametrically opposing positions.
The federal taxes each state would pay to Washington were determined by each states population. Higher populations meant higher tax bills. This meant that counting slaves as a whole person was detrimental to the financial situation of the southern states, as higher populations would mean more tax would go to Washington.
Delegates from (mostly southern) states with a large population of slaves argued that slaves should be considered as whole persons in determining political representation in Washington, but not counted as people when the federal government levied taxes on all the states on the basis of population.
Southern states wanted it both ways. To use their high slave population as whole persons to gain more political clout in Washington but they also wanted to pay less tax to Washington, not wanting their slaves to be counted as people at all on that question. This was clearly not possible from a logical point of view.
Delegates from states where slavery had become more rare argued the opposite view – that slaves should be included in taxation, but not in determining political representation. This would be to their own states’ advantage and a disadvantage to the Southerners.
(Note that even the more morally “advanced” American states, where slavery was less prevalent, still argued that black people should not have any political representation at all.)
This quandry was critical to the interests of all of the elites everywhere in America for it involved both money and political power. It would determine not only the number of seats in the House of Representatives but also how much tax states’ would pay.
Arguments flowed back and forth between the various groups, with several compromise positions being forwarded and rejected.
Eventually, agreement was reached over how the slaves would be counted in determining an American state’s total population. This was called “The 3/5th Compromise”. It is written into the VERY FIRST ARTICLE of the American Constitution.
Do many Americans know of its existence?
The “3/5th Compromise” deemed slaves to be worth 3/5th of a Person.Article 1, USA Constitution
The compromise counted three-fifths of each state’s slave population towards that state’s total population for the purpose of apportioning the House of Representatives and for apportioning that States’ federal tax bill.
In other words, slaves were deemed to be 3/5th of a person.
Free Blacks were not subject to the compromise and each was counted as one full person for representation.
Even though slaves were denied voting rights, this gave Southern states a third more Representatives and a third more presidential electoral college votes than if slaves had not been counted at all, as probably would have happened had this been simply a moral question. Slaves were bought and sold as property, and not considered people at all, so this extra representation, even at 3/5th per black person, was to the advantage of the Southerners.
On the other hand, by counting black slaves as only 60% of a human, the tax burdens of the southern states was reduced by 30%, if slaves were considered as people.
And because the south had so many slaves, getting tax revenue from at least 60% of them satisfied the northerners.
Everyone (the elites from north and south) was satisfied with this compromise and it still stands front and centre of Article 1 of the hallowed American Constitution, in Black and White (pun intended) for the world to see.
In brilliant acts of verbal trickery, and as undoubtedly harbingers of the modern propaganda industry (also created in America) nowhere in the original un-ammended US Constitution do the words, “enslaved”, “slave” or “slavery” appear. Words like “service” are used instead. How lovely.
(That is just like today right? Terrible things are happening in broad daylight, in front of our eyes, but actually, they are not happening at all. Today, young Americans are not called “global killers” – they’re employed in the “service” of the “defence” of the United States. In other words, they’re killing other innocent people around the world. Again for the profits of the western elites.)
Americans I have spoken to have been unaware that of any of this is in their Constitution. It might come as shock to many. They probably aren’t taught this in the American education system.
The 3/5th Compromise stood for almost a century until Constitutional ammendments effectively abolished it. However, the ideas and prejuidices and thoughts of the society that created the idea that slaves were counted as only 60% people clearly haven’t been eradicated from American society.
No amount of legislation can do that. The pains and scars of this type of thinking are still painfully obvious today.