Slavery, the US Constitution, and the 3/5ths Compromise
What it Was Really All About
By Scott Rohter, February 2011 (Updated February 2013)
"Our Constitution never said that any black man or woman was only 3/5th of a person."
“It’s time to hammer a stake through the heart of the thinly disguised racism of some members of the NAACP”
It would be nice if the NAACP had a few better leaders in charge of their local chapters who were more professional in their demeanor and more responsible in their behavior. It might also be nice if they had some leaders who could actually help to unite our fractured communities instead of intimidating them and further dividing us. Oh I’m sure they are there for every black athlete at the university who gets into trouble for decking someone on the football field, or for trying to strangle their girlfriend, or for stealing personal computers from a fraternity house, or for otherwise acting out their rage, but the NAACP's Chicago style thug type tactics aren't conducive to promoting racial harmony. I can think of several people right here in my own community who could better lead us to a place of mutual understanding than their current leader.
I remember when I had a recent run in with a bad cop and I asked the NAACP's local leader if we could both work together to get this dangerous guy off the streets. He told me that the NAACP couldn’t help me because I “wasn’t a brother.” I told him that we were all brothers. He repeated, “No. You’re not a brother.” Well I definitely got the message, and I never asked him for another thing again, but in our ensuing conversation he demonstrated such a profound lack of knowledge about our nation’s history, and he exhibited such a distorted view of government and the U.S. Constitution that it was simply staggering. I remember when he told me in a very dismissive way that the Constitution was written by a bunch of white slave owners. With contempt in his voice and obvious hatred in his heart he further went on to say that the U.S. Constitution stated that Blacks were only 3/5ths of a person. Lets stop right there!
The U.S. Constitution says absolutely no such thing. That is a gross misunderstanding of what it actually does say. What it says is this: For the purposes of determining representation in Congress, only 3/5ths of all of the slaves that were then in the country in 1787, would actually be counted. That was a delicate compromise that was worked out between Northern non-slave owning States and Southern slave-owning States in order to create our country. It kept the balance of power in the North rather than just handing it over to the South. All African-Americans today should be very glad that only 3/5ths of the slaves were actually counted back in 1787 to determine the real number of representatives that Southern States had in the newly elected Congress because if the actual number of slaves had been counted, then the Southern States would have had many more representatives in Congress than the Northern States. If that had been the case, then there might still exist slavery in the United States today. The first United States census was completed in the year 1790.
Simply counting three-fifths of all of the slaves did not mean that intelligent white people ever thought that blacks were three-fifths of a person. By the same token counting all of the slaves for the purposes of determining representation in Congress would not have given any African-American one more right because as I have already indicated they were still slaves.We hadn’t fought the Civil War yet. Blacks were not free. They had no rights, including the right to vote. I am not condoning this. I am simply stating the way that it was. Any honest assesment of history must first begin with the facts. The Southern plantation owners were not going to let all of their slaves vote, any more than they were were willing to let the 3/5ths of them who were eventually counted, vote. For the most part they were not willing to do that. They were just going to use their increased representation in Congress to keep the institution of slavery alive and well in “the South."
The NAACP and their members should all be very thankful that our Founding Fathers in their wisdom, thought to establish the 3/5ths Compromise, because without it some of them might still be picking cotton for a white Southern plantation owner in Mississippi. I for one am grateful for the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, and I am very glad that they saw fit to insist upon the 3/5ths Compromise. Our Founding Fathers weren’t all slave owners, nor were they all lovers of the institution of slavery! Furthermore our Constitution never said that any black man or woman was only 3/5ths of a person. That is an absolutely absurd statement, and it demonstrates a profound lack of knowledge and misunderstanding of history. To think that the NAACP would be propagating such a staggering level of ignorance and misinformation around the country and that it is now being echoed by some of the faculty and staff at Emory College in Atlanta after their President's recent column praising the 3/5ths Compromise is just completely incomprehensible to me. Maybe they should all try using the other 2/5ths of their brain, and learn the truth behind the 3/5ths Compromise, if they could only stop hating white people long enough with 5/5ths of their heart.
And they don’t have to keep taking those rusty old chains out of their closets anymore and dangling them in front of every white person with whom they have an honest disagreement. It’s not the way to get over the past. First of all, none of the white people they meet ever had any slaves or benefitted in any way from anyone who ever did have any slaves. Secondly, 95% of all white people alive today are truly sorry for all of the wrongs that were done to past generations of African Americans who were brought here against their will and forced to work as slaves for free in what sometimes amounted to inhumane conditions. But it is time to get over the past. It’s time to stop showing us your rusty old chains. It’s time to bury those chains once and for all. And it’s time to hammer a stake right through the heart of the thinly disguised reverse racism exhibited by some members of the NAACP.
"A journalist has no better friend than the truth." - Scott Rohter