WI: No 3/5th Compromise

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by FillyofDelphi, Mar 15, 2019.

  1. FillyofDelphi Banned

    Mar 7, 2017
    Few aspects of the US Constitutional negotiations carry as much modern controversy as how "other persons" (Read; Slaves) would be counted in term of allotting a state's representation in the House. The question as just what a slave should be in the eyes of the federal government: weather as property they should be treated just like any livestock, or if as human beings they qualified just as much as a resident, was eventually settled with the principal of treating the slave population of a state as 3/5ths of its total number so both regions of the nation would at least tolerate it. However, what if instead a more legally-definitive classification was selected: either declaring slaves "Full persons" who just happened to in bondage, or "non-persons" in a legal sense and so not being counted in the population. What impact would this have on future American politics and legal theory? Obviously, both sides are a double-edged sword: increasing the elected political influence of the South and North respectively but laying the groundwork for future political precidents in favor of the opposite part through the courts.
  2. EWHM Well-Known Member

    Jul 26, 2009
    Without the 3/5 compromise its not all that unlikely that the North and South might separate before they really formed a Union. The North wouldn't appreciate the South having all the extra representatives (and electoral votes) that counting slaves as 1 would grant, and the South couldn't enter into a Union where they felt they would be so outrageously outvoted with a zero count. So its not too unlikely that they'd form two nations.
  3. FillyofDelphi Banned

    Mar 7, 2017
    I was trying to make the assumption that the agreement happened and was accepted; including other concessions if need be. For the context of this thread, the US has formed else there is nothing to discuss
    Odinson likes this.
  4. EWHM Well-Known Member

    Jul 26, 2009
    I don't know if that's a tractable agreement. Back in those days the political elites could do math. Lots of them even understood exponential functions (read, the reason why the British were no way, no how going to give the colonists proportional representation in Parliament). There's no way the North would accept 1---particularly when the South can not only import more, but is also experiencing natural population increase in its slave population. And there's no way the South would accept 0, not when they'd be heavily outvoted by the North.
    Questions of representative power more or less can't be finessed away, unless the political elites can't do math, and in those days, well, they could. Any concession you get, if you don't have the representative power post said concession, can eventually be taken from you by said representative power.
  5. PuffyClouds Well-Known Member

    Aug 1, 2014
    The South wanted full counting of slaves for representation purposes.
    The South wanted no counting of slaves for taxation purposes.
    What side of that proposition do you want to give in to?
    Landmass Wave likes this.
  6. DTF955Baseballfan 12-time All-Star in some TL

    Oct 19, 2005
    10 miles north of 10 miles south
    Virginia at least have the population where if they had no counting for congressional representation they might accept if they had no counting for taxation. The colonies south of Virginia of course would almost surely leave. Washington and Madison both figured that slavery was on the way out so they could probably persuade enough to go along with it. However, the small state large state divided would play into things also. Virginia was one of the largest states anyway if memory serves in 1787. Even without the compromise they're still among the tops.
    Odinson likes this.
  7. Agra Well-Known Member

    Jun 8, 2018
    Too big of a divide between the North and the South, if full representation or zero representation somehow gets ratified either we see an earlier Civil War, the Constitution doesn't survive much longer than the Articles of Confederation, or both. Maybe if the Federal government was made significantly weaker one side or the other could stomach it, but at that point it kind of defeats the purpose of replacing the Articles.
    Skallagrim likes this.
  8. Analytical Engine Monarchist Collectivist Federalist

    Mar 12, 2007
    UK, EU (for the moment), Earth
    Maybe a 1/2 compromise instead?
    Skallagrim likes this.
  9. David T Well-Known Member

    Nov 8, 2007
    If somehow slaves were not counted at all for purposes of representation--and I don't see how you could get the South to agree to that--it would be much easier to get popular election of the President. As I noted at https://www.alternatehistory.com/fo...ectoral-college-in-1804.449107/#post-17413092 a fact that is insufficiently recognized is that at the Constitutional Convention, the big issue in electing the president was not between direct popular vote and the Electoral College, but between popular vote (whether directly or through an electoral college ) and election by Congress. The obvious problem with direct popular election is that it would put the southern states at a disadvantage--even one as large as Virginia, for as Hugh Williamson of North Carolina remarked, "Her slaves will have no suffrage."
    http://books.google.com/books?id=n0oWAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA32 The Electoral College was the closest you could get to popular election while taking this obvious difficulty into account.
  10. Skallagrim Not the one from YouTube. Different other fellow.

    Feb 5, 2014
    Taxation was almost exclusively state-based (not relevant to this discussion) or the federal tarriff (counting of slaves doesn't matter; it's about trade volume).

    As such, your argument doesn't hold. The South wanted full counting of slaves, and was evidently willing to compromise, but would never accept a zero count. The only way to make that happen, as @FillyofDelphi wishes, is to make the whole thing irrelevant... which could be done by retaining the pre-Constitution system of "one state, one vote in Congress". That would mean the USA would by definition have to remain a confederation. (@Agra raises this point as well, and is right to do so.)

    Anyway, that is really the only way that you can get the South not to care. If you want a federal system with some sort of proportionality... a deal will have to be made. @Analytical Engine offers the only realistic way you can avoid 3/5ths and still have things largely as OTL: by introducing a different compromise.

    No compromise, no federal union. It's as simple as that.
    Laqueesha likes this.
  11. PuffyClouds Well-Known Member

    Aug 1, 2014
    "No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken."

    "The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative"

    "Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers"

    Regardless of the OTL post 1789 tax systems, the South will not ratify an ATL pre 1789 constitution which tells them they can get taxed for the full population, yet will only get representation for the free population unless the constitution gives them a large bribe.

    There was ample middle ground between the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.

    Admission of new states was not guaranteed to be on equal footing. States formed from the original western territories could be required to be a tax to the parent state as a bribe to get Southern states to not count slaves for Representation, but to count them for taxation.
  12. DougM Well-Known Member

    Feb 18, 2015
    I tend to agree that the two extremes are not acceptable.
    But assuming you did get either accepted you get one of the following
    An even more extreme domination of the Presidents Office by the south. Or less dominance.
    With. More dominance and more representation you will see more pro slavery laws passed and assuming the south is anything like otl the north may very well get upset sooner and may be the states to rebel.
    The other way the south will leave sooner.

    The reality is that the South took advantage of the system it had for years to set laws and policy that it liked that it otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do. It is blatantly unfair to give extra representation to a state that only allows a percentage of the population to vote. In effect the southern mans vote was worth more then the northern mans vote. And it was inevitable that this would blow up eventually.
    So this only ends in one of two ways. Slavery just basically goes away for economic reasons or the two sides fight. And the drastic the laws favor one side or the other the sooner the fight happens.
    It is ironic that the South used protecting states rights as an excuse to leave the union and protect its slavery when for a number of years they had been taking advantage of this extra representation that the south had in order to ram various laws and rules down the north’s throat. But once the north got fed up and voted against the south taking the Presidency the south takes it toys and leaves. I can’t see this being any different in earlier times.
    The South has a long history of threatening to leave in order to get its own way. And between that and the extra representation they had basically gotten thier way for decades. So i think history seams to indicate that as soon as the south feels it is getting the short end they will leave.
    Thus I don’t think you are changing the 3/5 very much. To 1/2 or maybe to 3/4 but that would be it and even thatcmay not be acceptable
  13. Chungus Maximus Well-Known Member

    Mar 12, 2019
    it’s a continuum


    The further left on that continuum you go, the more representation the south has. The more representation they have, the less they will be bothered by new free states.

    So the more that slaves are counted on the census, the more the civil war gets delayed.
  14. DougM Well-Known Member

    Feb 18, 2015
    Not really. If the south throws its weight around the way it did in OTL you will see the north voting more and more as a block to try and resist. This results in one of two things an earlier version of Lincoln in the Whitehouse and thus the south goes nuts. Or if the north feels it is being pushed to much and out voted by people whose vote counts more because they vote for themselves and thier slaves effectively then you may very well see the North kick off the civil war.

    Of course your real problem is that move to far (or frankly much at all) either way from 3/5 and one side or the other won’t accept it tostart with.
    Yes if you go (for example) full 1/1 the south probably does not get nervous and start the war. But A) the North would never accept that the start with and B) would join together much sooner and more effectively to resist the south and C) May start the war on its own.
    The opposite holds true on the other end but obviously in reverse
  15. Scott Washburn Well-Known Member

    Mar 11, 2018
    If slaves are not counted as people for representation at a the Federal level, might it also be abolished at the state level? If so that could make a huge difference. Virginia came very close to abolishing slavery in the 1820s and the measure only failed because the tidewater regions of the state also got 3/5th representation in the state legislature. If Virginia abolishes slavery, it's a fair bet that Maryland, Delaware, and possibly Kentucky would, too. Maybe even North Carolina. That changes the whole dynamic of the slave state-vs-free state struggle.
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  16. FillyofDelphi Banned

    Mar 7, 2017
    Would it be politically viable to change the Constiution draft to change the dynamic of the Federal government being funded almost exclusive by customs dues, and include a carry over from the Articles to mandate the former voluntary contributions from the States and peg it to populatation? This would create a divided incentive on the slave representation question, as while it may benefit the Southern states in the House it would also hamper them with a larger tax burden to count the slaves, and vice versa. Especially in the former case, the smaller Northern states could be drawn in to accepting by the South making it a condition for the Federal government assuming state debts