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HomeIllinois NewsWhy the 3/5ths Compromise Was Anti-Slavery

Why the 3/5ths Compromise Was Anti-Slavery



Is racism enshrined in the United States Constitution? How could the same Founding Fathers who endorsed the idea that all men are created equal also endorse the idea that some men are not? The answer provided in this video by, Carol Swain, professor emeritus of political science and law at Vanderbilt University, may surprise you.


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  1. There are some questionable elements in this video.
    First, the Abolitionist movement was NEVER really strong in the North. It had little political power ans was opposed by the majority of white citizens, as they feared that free blacks would be competitors for their jobs. Also, they
    agreed that slave labor should be confined to the South, because slave labor, if brought north, would almost GUARANTEE the loss of jobs for fee white men.
    Second: the North opposed expansion of slavery into the new Western territories, but not for humanitarian reasons. Such expansion would enlarge both the population of slave OWNERS, and of the numbers of SLAVES themselves. By this time, the white population of the North had been increased bu European immigration, and the North had a majority of voters. The North was thus in a position to call the shots in the House of Representatives. an expansion of slave-holding into the western territories would, under the 3/5 rule also enlarge the South’s representation in Congress, and reduce the North’s growing influence in legislation, including TARIFF legislation, an issue which the South deeply resented (South Carolina attempted to secede in 1828 over this.)

  2. The Three-Fifths Compromise was a compromise reached among the state delegates during the 1787 United States Constitutional Convention. The South considered slaves property but still wanted them counted for representation purposes. The North didn’t want to allow the power grab(increase of representatives) by the South, so they agreed to the 3/5th compromise. You have to remember the south could have and would have walked away from the convention. It wasn’t just about the North being able to call the shots. The delegates at the convention wanted consensus not just a simple majority. They wanted people to be happy with the constitution.

  3. You have it correct. The consensus was necessary, though today it is considered regrettable.
    But it was a necessity in it’s own time to get the states unified in a federated form of government.
    At that time, the goal was to form a “union” of independent, self-governing states for inter-related trade, and common defense.against foreign powers. This was “Jeffersonian Democracy.”
    The great fear was of a centralized government of such power that it could over-rule and control the internal affairs of individual states. Thanks to Lincoln and his desire to invade the South in 1861, that is what we ended up with: a bureaucratic national government not answerable to either the public, or to Congress itself.
    It is debatable whether the Civil War was necessary at all. Several other slave-holding nations had already discontinued it because it had proved not to be economically efficient.
    Lincoln had been a Whig, then a Republican. Both parties favored a strong “National” government which could dispense big-money contracts to political favorites for “civic improvements” across state lines (many of which, like canal systems, were bankrupt failures.)