Three-Fifths (3/5) Human

(updated: 8/25/19)


3/5 Human Clause...United States Constitution (1787)


The Three-Fifths Human Compromise is found in Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution. The Confederation Congress three-fifths ratio originated with an amendment proposed to the Articles of Confederation on April 18, 1783.[2][3] The amendment was to have changed the basis for determining the wealth of each state, and hence its tax obligations, from real estate to population, as a measure of ability to produce wealth. Congress repeatedly reauthorized the special provisions in recognition of continuing voting discrimination.[14]:209�210[29]:6�8

Impact before the Civil War

The Three-Fifths (3/5) Human Compromise gave a disproportionate representation of slave states in the House of Representatives relative to the voters in free states until the American Civil War. In 1793, for example, Southern slave states had 47 of the 105 members but would have had 33, had seats been assigned based on free populations. In 1812, slave states had 76 out of 143 instead of the 59 they would have had; in 1833, 98 out of 240 instead of 73. As a result, Southern states had disproportionate influence on the presidency, the speakership of the House, and the Supreme Court in the period prior to the Civil War.[17] Along with this must be considered the number of slave and free states, which remained mostly equal until 1850, safeguarding the Southern bloc in the Senate as well as Electoral College votes.

Historian Garry Wills has speculated that without the additional slave state votes, Jefferson would have lost the presidential election of 1800. Also, "slavery would have been excluded from Missouri ... Jackson's Indian removal policy would have failed ... the Wilmot Proviso would have banned slavery in territories won from Mexico ... the Kansas-Nebraska bill would have failed."[17] While the Three-Fifths Human Compromise could be seen to favor Southern states because of their large slave populations, for example, the Connecticut Compromise tended to favor the Northern states (which were generally smaller). Support for the new Constitution rested on the balance of these sectional interests.[18]


After the Civil War

Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment (1868) later superseded Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 and explicitly repealed the compromise. It provides that "representatives shall be apportioned ... counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed." A later provision of the same clause reduced the Congressional representation of states who denied the right to vote to adult male citizens, but this provision was never effectively enforced.[19] (The Thirteenth Amendment, passed in 1865, had already eliminated almost all persons from the original clause's jurisdiction by banning slavery; the only remaining persons subject to it were those sentenced for a crime to penal servitude, which the amendment excluded from the ban.) After the Reconstruction Era came to an end in 1877, however, the former slave states subverted the objective of these changes by using various strategies to disenfranchise their black citizens, while obtaining the benefit of apportionment of representatives on the basis of the total populations.

Click here for additional information

These measures effectively gave white Southerners even greater voting power than they had in the antebellum era, inflating the number of Southern Democrats in the House of Representatives as well as the number of votes they could exercise in the Electoral College in the election of the president. The disenfranchisement of black citizens eventually attracted the attention of Congress, and in 1900 some members proposed stripping the South of seats, related to the number of people who were barred from voting.[20] In the end, Congress did not act to change apportionment, largely because of the power of the Southern bloc. The Southern bloc comprised Southern Democrats voted into office by white voters and constituted a powerful voting bloc in Congress until the 1960s. Their representatives, re-elected repeatedly by one-party states, controlled numerous chairmanships of important committees in both houses on the basis of seniority, giving them control over rules, budgets and important patronage projects, among other issues. Their power allowed them to defeat federal legislation against racial violence and abuses in the South.[21]


Article 1, Section 2 of the United States Constitution

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature. No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen. Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to choose three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three. When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies. The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

The three-fifths human clause remained in force until the post-Civil War 13th Amendment freed all enslaved people in the United States, the 14th amendment gave them full citizenship, and the 15th Amendment granted black men the right to vote. The population of slaves would be counted as three-fifths in total when apportioning Representatives, as well as Presidential electors and taxes. The Three-Fifths Human Compromise was proposed by James Wilson and Roger Sherman, who were both delegates for the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Of all the compromises on which the Constitution rested, perhaps the most controversial was the Three-Fifths Human Compromise, an agreement to count three-fifths of a state's slaves in apportioning Representatives, Presidential electors, and direct taxes. ... Finally, James Madison suggested a compromise: a 5-to-3 ratio... The Three-Fifths Human Compromise, which outlined the process for states to count slaves as part of the population in order to determine representation and taxation for the federal government. One of the main reasons why representation was such a difficult issue to resolve was because the South had a large number of slaves, whom they wanted to count towards representation in Congress. 1787- The 3/5 Human Compromise stated that a slave would count as 3/5 of a person in terms of both taxation and representation. This was a compromise because it settled the constant arguing between the North and South for regional power. The South wanted their slaves to be used for the purpose of the counting of taxes.


Confederation Congress

The three-fifths ratio originated with an amendment proposed to the Articles of Confederation on April 18, 1783.[2][3] The amendment was to have changed the basis for determining the wealth of each state, and hence its tax obligations, from real estate to population, as a measure of ability to produce wealth. The proposal by a committee of the Congress had suggested that taxes "shall be supplied by the several colonies in proportion to the number of inhabitants of every age, sex, and quality, except Indians not paying taxes".[4][5] The South immediately objected to this formula since it would include slaves, who were viewed primarily as property, in calculating the amount of taxes to be paid. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in his notes on the debates, the southern states would be taxed "according to their numbers and their wealth conjunctly, while the northern would be taxed on numbers only".[6]

Three-Fifths Human Compromise

A compromise by the Founding Fathers between the Northern and Southern states. It was related to how the population of slaves in a state would be counted towards the state's taxation and representation in Congress. The Northern states didn't like the idea of the Southern states gaining so many delegates, so the three fifths human compromise was struck - each slave will only count as three fifths a person, as to give the Southerners delegates that reflect higher populations, but a proportion that isn't skewed because the Southerners. The compromise solution was to count three out of every five slaves as a person for this purpose.

The Three-Fifths Human Compromise was a compromise reached among state delegates during the 1787 United States Constitutional Convention. Whether and, if so, how slaves would be counted when determining a state's total population for legislative representation and taxing purposes was important, as this population number would then be used to determine the number of seats that the state would have in the United States House of Representatives for the next ten years. The compromise solution was to count three out of every five slaves as people for this purpose. Its effect 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 people had been counted equally. The compromise was proposed by delegate James Wilson and seconded by Charles Pinckney on June 11, 1787.[1]


Constitutional Convention

The Convention had unanimously accepted the principle that representation in the House of Representatives would be in proportion to the relative state populations. However, since slaves could not vote, leaders in slave states would thus have the benefit of increased representation in the House and the Electoral College. Delegates opposed to slavery proposed that only free inhabitants of each state be counted for apportionment purposes, while delegates supportive of slavery, on the other hand, opposed the proposal, wanting slaves to count in their actual numbers.

The proposal to count slaves by a three-fifths ratio was first proposed on June 11, and agreed to by nine states to two with only a brief debate.[8] It was debated at length between July 9 and 13, inclusive, when it was initially voted down by the members present at the Convention.[9][10] A few southern delegates, seeing an opportunity, then proposed full representation for their slave population.[11][12] Seeing that the states could not remain united without some sort of compromise measure, the ratio of three fifths was brought back to the table and agreed to by eight states to two.[13]


Compromise and Enactment

After a contentious debate, the compromise that was finally agreed upon�of counting "all other persons" as only three-fifths of their actual numbers � reduced the representation of the slave states relative to the original proposals, but improved it over the Northern position.[14] An inducement for slave states to accept the Compromise was its tie to taxation in the same ratio, so that the burden of taxation on the slave states was also reduced.