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Facts about three-fifths

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Monday, December 4, 2017

A recent letter to the editor stated that the "Three-fifths clause reduced the number of legislators from slave states, thereby reducing the political power of those states and eventually leading to the increased influence of abolitionists and election of Lincoln." Not so.

The Three-Fifths Compromise was between delegates from Southern and Northern states during the 1787 U.S. Constitutional Convention. The debate was over whether slaves would be counted when determining a state's total population for legislative representation and taxing purposes.

The issue was important, as this population number would be used to determine the number of seats that the state would have in the U.S. House of Representatives. The effect of the compromise was to give the Southern states a third more seats in Congress and a third more electoral votes than if slaves had been ignored, but fewer than if slaves and free persons had been counted equally, allowing the slaveholder interests to largely dominate the U.S. government until 1861.

In other words, all free (white) persons plus a bonus of three-fifths of the slaves were counted toward the Southern states representation in the House of Representatives, Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution.

This was settled at a time when southerners wanted all slaves to be considered as human, toward the total count for the House of Representatives but when most southerners didn't even consider slaves as human in the first place. Over 600,000 Americans died in a war to decide that human bondage (slavery) was wrong and that one man did not have either the political right or the Biblical right to own the body and soul of another man. Take your own advice, learn from history.

Robert Kenneth

Greenville

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