Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Three Fifths Compromise

"Why should I trade one tyrant 3000 miles away for three thousand tyrants one mile away? An elected legislature can trample a man's rights as easily as a king can."
--Benjamin Martin (The Patriot)

In a previous missive we modeled the impact of freedom under persistent conditions of political compromise. The Constitution itself was a document of compromise. While the overall framework is consistent with the workings of natural law, its was political compromise that contributed to many of the Constitution's imperfections.

By far the most glaring imperfection is evident right away in Article 1, Section 2. This is the infamous Three Fifths clause, which declared that slaves were property rather than people, thus denying these individuals of their natural rights. This passage is so far off the rails from the ideas in Jefferson's Declaration that even casual observers have to wonder how it ever made it into the Constitution.

In short, compromise.

The Three Fifths clause resulted from a battle for political power between representatives of Northern and Southern states. It is commonly inferred that Southern states did not want slaves to 'count' wholly. In reality, it was Northerners who fought for having slaves count for less than a entire person. That way, Congressional votes would be weighted in favor of Northern states.

To get a deal done, those who were adamant about abolishing slavery, such as Benjamin Franklin, compromised. Imagine how the history of the United States would have been altered had those people on the side of freedom stuck to their guns. Imagine no slavery in the US beginning in 1787. Imagine no Civil War nearly 100 years labor that claimed more than a half a million lives and destroyed over 1/3 of US property. Imagine no Reconstruction period that embittered the South and inflamed Jim Crow behavior.

When freedom is given up as part of political compromise, natural forces build distortions into society that are ultimately straightened later at considerable cost.

When freedom is compromised, it is never good.

1 comment:

dgeorge12358 said...

The Constitution of the United States was made by white men, the citizens and representatives of twelve slaveholding and one non-slaveholding State; and it was made for white men.
~John H Reagan