by eldin raigmore
Today I Found Out That;
The 3/5 Compromise was a thing under the Articles of Confederation; and the states completely swapped sides between the Articles and the Constitution!
The Confederation Congress was debating an amendment to tax the states proportional to their populations rather than their property.
The Northern States wanted every person in every state to be counted for that purpose.
The Southern States objected that slaves were property not population; and it was unfair that the Northern states would be taxed just on their population, but the Southern states would be taxed BOTH on their population AND their property.
The Articles could only be amended unanimously.
So the amendment wouldn’t go anywhere without a compromise.
A couple of Southern states proposed the compromise of counting in half the Blacks, while a couple of Northern states proposed the compromise of counting in 3/4 of the Blacks.
It turns out “dueling compromises” doesn’t count as a “compromise” when you need unanimity.
A couple of Middle States proposed the “compromise compromise” of counting 3/5 of the Blacks. (5/8 would have been exactly halfway between at 62.5%; 3/5 is pretty close, it’s 60%, but it’s a little more on the Southerners’ side than 5/8 would have been.)
They still needed unanimity to pass the amendment, though, and two states still hadn’t ratified it by the time they convened the Constitutional Convention.
When the Constitutional Convention was considering how to apportion the seats in the lower House, everyone already agreed that it should be by population. But now getting more seats in the HR was perceived as entirely worth the burden of paying more taxes! Now the Northern states didn’t want to count Blacks at all, but the Southern states wanted to count them all at full strength!
Well, everybody had heard this tune before. They already knew that they’d settle on 3/5 if they’d settle on anything. And the Convention didn’t require unanimity; I don’t know if they required 3/4 or 2/3 or 3/5, but they got what they required.
Part of the reason was that the less-populous states, whether Northern or Southern, wanted to rescue the Great Compromise that kept their representation in the Senate the same as any other state. Or something like that; anyway they thought they’d be represented better if there was a compromise like the 3/5 compromise than if there weren’t one.
So when the Constitution was proposed for ratification, it had the 3/5 compromise in it.
One thing that’s remarkable to me (YMMV); although the Constitution says amendments to it have to be ratified by 3/4 of the states, the clause that says when it goes into effect says, it goes into effect among the states ratifying it as soon as nine states ratify it.
2/3 would have been 10 states, and 3/4 would have been 12 states. (Well, 11.25 states, but you have to round up!)
But it was IMO a smart move to say it would take effect, among the states ratifying it, even if not every state ratified it. Who would want to be left out?