Balkinization  

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Election of 1800

Mark Graber

Americans might tell two stories about the election of 1800. The first story is the one most commonly told, particularly in the law reviews. According to this story, popular reaction to the Alien and Sedition Acts played a crucial role in the Jeffersonian victory and eventual demise of the Federalist Party. One virtue of this story is that early Americans are portrayed as freedom loving people committed to protecting political dissenters (and immigrants). The other story is less commonly told and appears briefly in a few history books. According to this story, the Jeffersonian victory and eventual demise of the Federalist Party is best explained by the three-fifths clause which provided Jefferson (and Burr) with the extra votes needed to defeat the incumbent John Adams. The only virtue of this story, which depicts slavery and race at the heart of early American partisan competition, is the evidentiary support. Take away the extra southern representation provided by the three-fifths clause and John Adams wins the election of 1800.

The influence of the Alien and Sedition Acts on the election of 1800 has become academic folk wisdom, passed down from one law professor to another without much review of the original evidence. Perhaps the voting data provide support for this claim, although I am skeptical. More to the point, I am reasonably certain that contemporary scholars who make this claim are not very familiar with the actual data. It's just a good story that portrays the ratification generation in the best possible light. The only problem is that slavery and race cast a broad shadow on that generation and by not being aware of just how pervasive slavery was in early American politics, we may fundamentally misconstrue the nature of that political regime and our own. Perhaps instead of blithely apologizing for slavery, states and universities ought to look more deeply at the myriad ways in which white supremacy and human bondage structured American political developments that, at first sight, seem to have little to do with the peculiar institution.

Comments:

"the three-fifths clause which provided Jefferson (and Burr) with the extra votes needed "

Why is it so obvious that the 3/5ths clause provided Jefferson with extra votes, rather than denying him votes? It seems strange to take as a given that the alternative to the 3/5ths clause was a 0/5ths clause, rather than 5/5ths, when women, minors, and so forth, who were denied the vote, still counted fully towards apportionment.
 

Maybe Garry Wills should write a book about the topic of this post?
 

I'm curious about why you think the evidence is so definitive regarding the impact of the 3/5 clause. I'm going off memory, but I believe Wills acknowledges that the evidence is not determinative. It's likely, but not certain.

It seems strange to take as a given that the alternative to the 3/5ths clause was a 0/5ths clause, rather than 5/5ths, when women, minors, and so forth, who were denied the vote, still counted fully towards apportionment.

Because women and minors were distributed evenly across the nation, while slaves were disproportionately concentrated in the South.
 

Why is it so obvious that the 3/5ths clause provided Jefferson with extra votes, rather than denying him votes? It seems strange to take as a given that the alternative to the 3/5ths clause was a 0/5ths clause, rather than 5/5ths, when women, minors, and so forth, who were denied the vote, still counted fully towards apportionment.

The difference is that women and children were approximately equally distributed throughout the states, so they wouldn't affect the proportion of electoral votes each state received. Therefore, it doesn't matter geographically whether or not women and children counted. In contrast, the 3/5 rule did not do so, since the slave were concentrated in the South (In 1800 a majority of Northern states still had slavery, but the number of slaves in the North was still relatively small). That means that assigning some percentage to the slaves skewed the number in favor of the South, which Jefferson swept.
 

== zathras

Isn't it reasonable to hypothesize that the 1800 result depended both on the 3/5 rule and to the reaction to the Acts, among other factors?

After all, Jefferson had to make it to the House for the 3/5 rule to come into play as a (possibly) deciding factor in the election.
 

jlundell:

Jefferson didn't have to make it to the house for the 3/5 rule to come into play, since the electoral college is equal to a states congressional representation (house plus senate) and thus an advantage gained by states due to the 3/5 clause in the house carries over to the electoral college, though watered down by the two seats for every senator in every state.
 

You misunderstand my point. I'm not claiming that the election would have turned out differently if women hadn't counted towards apportionment. I'm pointing out that women counted fully towards apportionment, despite the fact that they couldn't vote. And that, without the Clause, the same would have been the case with slaves.

The 3/5ths clause reduced slave state representation. It did not increase it.
 

You misunderstand my point. I'm not claiming that the election would have turned out differently if women hadn't counted towards apportionment. I'm pointing out that women counted fully towards apportionment, despite the fact that they couldn't vote. And that, without the Clause, the same would have been the case with slaves.

The 3/5ths clause reduced slave state representation. It did not increase it.


I agree that the only way to affect the power of slaveowners was to have a 0/5 clause. That doesn't mean the 3/5 "reduced" the influence of slavery. Everyone at the time recognized that it increased it, because 0/5 was the proposed alternative.

The reason women weren't included in the discussion about counting was precisely that they were evenly distributed. It didn't make any difference how they were counted (could have been 5/5, could have been 0/5).
 

seanicus: just so, thanks.

That changes the shape of my argument, but the point is still the same: TJ needed both the passion that the Federalist-Republican wars (included the A&S Acts) generated and the slave-state advantage to win the presidency.
 

Perhaps the reason the Alien & Sedition Act gets so much credit is that the press was very much against it.

In that election, and indeed throughout his term, Adams was accused of being a Royalist and secretly sympathetic to creating a monarchical president. The Alien and Sedition Act was used primarily to silence newspapers.

The historical record thus abundantly documents unhappiness with Adams over this. However, I think Mark is correct that the importance of a "weighted" southern vote was important in Jefferson's election.
 

If memory serves, didn't this election come down to a vote in the New York delegation which some suggested involved a payoff by Jefferson backers?
 

Brett's challenge is an interesting one. As a prologue, I think that that the standard reaction of the average (i.e., non-historian, non-constitutional-law-expert) American to the concept of the 3/5ths clause is something along the lines of "gosh, how horribly racist to only treat blacks as 3/5ths of a person -- good thing we fought the Civil War and ended slavery and that we're so much more enlightened today" (as if the bidding in Philadelphia, 1787, was along the lines of slaveholding southerners wanting NOT to count slaves at all, and New Englanders insisting that they're people just like you and me and should be counted as a full person -- and they decided to Solomonically split the difference and count them as 3/5 of a person). (I should add that I've lived virtually my whole life in northern parts of the U.S., so I don't know if the reaction of the "average" southerner would differ -- at the very least they probably wouldn't say the "good thing we fought that civil war" part.)

But of course that instinctive reaction gets it completely backwards, as Professor Graber's post suggests: the 3/5ths clause was instead a compromise between northerners who argued that slaveholders shouldn't get additional representation on account of their ownership of other human beings (hence there should be zero census credit for slaves), and southerners who essentially wanted to have their cake and eat it too, to treat their slaves as chattel animals in virtually every respect except in the single instance where acknowledging their status as human beings would redound to slaveowners' benefit.

If one starts from the convenient lofty moral vantage-point of the early 21st century, where the is unanimous agreement on the multiple notions that (i) slavery is wrong, (ii) universal adult suffrage is good, and (iii) one-person-one-vote is good, then a variety of types of arguments can be brought to bear which support the idea that 3/5ths was "too high," rather than "too low:"

Taking as a given that slavery exists in the southern states (and moreover that the slave population is substantial in relation to the free white population) and of course that slaves don't get to vote, then counting slaves at all in the census for apportionment purposes deviates from the principal of one-person (or at the time, truly one-property-owning]-man) one-vote, since a single vote cast in South Carolina will, ceteris paribus, count over twice as much as a single vote cast in massachussetts. Moreover, there's a perverse incentive effect: the MORE slaves a state has, the MORE voting power is put into the hands of slaveholding southern voters, a powerful positive feedback mechanism tending to ensure (again, all else equal) that political support for slavery might actually grow over time rather than fading gently away as the young Republic matures morally.

And Brett is pointing out, I think, that that's no different than the situation regarding women (who count for apportionment purposes even though they don't get to vote), or even I suppose for non-property-holding white men in the earliest days.

And zathras's response to that is, I think, entirely appropriate: to the extent women are evenly distributed, it makes no practical difference as to the voting and political power of any particular voter or any particular state whether you count women or not -- to suggest that excluding women from the census count for apportionment purposes would have reduced the representation of every American would be as absurd as saying that giving everybody 2 votes instead of 1 is doubling everybody's voting power.

"Voting power" is by definition a relative concept -- how much your vote is worth depends on how many other people are voting. And it is in that sense that the 3/5ths clause gave southern (generally pro-slavery) voters an OVERVOTE (and given them the full 5/5ths credit for their slaves would have only served to increase the overvote).

(Now perhaps a neo-confederate might make the argument that my analysis is wrong, because in fact southern voters' interests were generally aligned with the political interests of their slaves, and so giving slaveholders extra voting power was the only fair way to ensure that the interests of their poor slaves, whom of course they loved as if they were their own children, were politically represented, but I doubt that's what Brett is suggesting.)
 

In addition to the point that white women back then (who could not vote) were basically evenly distributed in the north and south, the fact that they could not vote does not mean that they lacked impact on how their men voted, especially their husbands, assuming that there was "pillow talk" back then. Now I am confident that the male slaves had no similar impact on their masters; and I also think that female slaves similarly had no impact on their masters, except perhaps Thomas Jefferson.
 

Another obvious fact: Counting slaves in representation was extremely controversial at the time the Constitution was adopted and met with strong opposition in the northern states. No one questioned including women and children (and men who did not meet the property limits to vote) in representation.
 

How women and children were distributed among the several states is utterly irrelevant to my point. I raised the issue of apportionment and non-voting non-slaves only to establish that the default rule was that, barring some specific clause singling you out for special treatment, you got counted.

That being the case, absent a special clause, slaves would have been counted for 5/5ths. The 3/5ths clause, then, reduced slave state representation with respect to the default outcome. And this is so regardless of whether a proposal was floated to reduce that representation still further.

The slave state counter-proposal, after all, was not a 5/5ths clause. It was no clause at all.

A more interesting question to my mind, if we're going to be discussing the 3/5ths clause, is, how did it apply to prisioners? It doesn't, after all, refer just to slaves, but to all unfree people.

It was never repealed; Are we violating the Constitution by fully counting inmates when apportioning?
 

Brett,

The 3/5ths clause was repealed by Section 2 of the 14th amendment, which says:

"Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed."

Cheers,

Adam
 

I stand corrected; It seems my swiss cheese like memory needs some refreshing...
 

Voting power is a different concept than apportionment. Women and children (and men under a certain age) were counted for purposes of apportionment b/c even though they could not vote, they were considered citizens. Neither slaves nor Indians were or could be citizens of the US. Thus, contrary to Brett's assertion, the "default" position was not to count slaves at all, just as Indians were not counted. Southerners bargained for a 3/5ths compromise to give themselves add'l political voice in Congress.
 

I read with genuine amusement DC Tax Wonk's comment: "I should add that I've lived virtually my whole life in northern parts of the U.S., so I don't know if the reaction of the "average" southerner would differ -- at the very least they probably wouldn't say the 'good thing we fought that civil war" part.'"

As a Georgian I am happy to report to "y'all" that we Southerners are indeed very happy slavery ended. Now I'd better finish this ole mint julep before all the ice melts...
 

That's a really great point that I should emphasize more in my survey courses.
 

The slave state counter-proposal, after all, was not a 5/5ths clause. It was no clause at all.

adams' point is well-taken. In addition, the above statement is not correct. Northerners argued that slaves should not be counted at all. Southerners wanted them counted in full. 3/5 was a "compromise" which benefited the South. Here's the most famous opposition to the clause (Aug. 8, 1787):

Mr. Govr. MORRIS moved to insert "free" before the word inhabitants. Much he said would depend on this point. He never would concur in upholding domestic slavery. It was a nefarious institution. It was the curse of heaven on the States where it prevailed. Compare the free regions of the Middle States, where a rich & noble cultivation marks the prosperity & happiness of the people, with the misery & poverty which overspread the barren wastes of Va. Maryd. & the other States having slaves. Travel thro' ye. whole Continent & you behold the prospect continually varying with the appearance & disappearance of slavery. The moment you leave ye. E. Sts. & enter N. York, the effects of the institution become visible, passing thro' the Jerseys & entering Pa. every criterion of superior improvement witnesses the change. Proceed south wdly & every step you take thro' ye. great region of slaves presents a desert increasing, with ye. increasing proportion of these wretched beings. Upon what principle is it that the slaves shall be computed in the representation? Are they men? Then make them Citizens and let them vote. Are they property? Why then is no other property included? The Houses in this city [Philada.] are worth more than all the wretched slaves which cover the rice swamps of South Carolina. The admission of slaves into the Representation when fairly explained comes to this: that the inhabitant of Georgia and S. C. who goes to the Coast of Africa, and in defiance of the most sacred laws of humanity tears away his fellow creatures from their dearest connections & damns them to the most cruel bondages, shall have more votes in a Govt. instituted for protection of the rights of mankind, than the Citizen of Pa. or N. Jersey who views with a laudable horror, so nefarious a practice. He would add that Domestic slavery is the most prominent feature in the aristocratic countenance of the proposed Constitution. The vassalage of the poor has ever been the favorite offspring of Aristocracy. And What is the proposed compensation to the Northern States for a sacrifice of every principle of right, of every impulse of humanity. They are to bind themselves to march their militia for the defence of the S. States; for their defence agst. those very slaves of whom they complain. They must supply vessels & seamen in case of foreign Attack. The Legislature will have indefinite power to tax them by excises, and duties on imports: both of which will fall heavier on them than on the Southern inhabitants; for the bohea tea used by a Northern freeman, will pay more tax than the whole consumption of the miserable slave, which consists of nothing more than his physical subsistence and the rag that covers his nakedness. On the other side the Southern States are not to be restrained from importing fresh supplies of wretched Africans, at once to increase the danger of attack, and the difficulty of defence; nay they are to be encouraged to it by an assurance of having their votes in the Natl. Govt. increased in proportion, and are at the same time to have their exports & their slaves exempt from all contributions for the public service. Let it not be said that direct taxation is to be proportioned to representation. It is idle to suppose that the Genl. Govt. can stretch its hand directly into the pockets of the people scattered over so vast a Country. They can only do it through the medium of exports imports & excises. For what then are all these sacrifices to be made? He would sooner submit himself to a tax for paying for all the negroes in the U. States, than saddle posterity with such a Constitution.
 

"either slaves nor Indians were or could be citizens of the US."

Swiss cheese memory or not, I'm fairly certain that this claim is incorrect. At least, it was prior to the Dred Scott decision.

Yes, Mark, southerners wanted slaves counted in full. Nothing in your quote contradicts my position that they could have accomplished that simply by having the Constitution not address the subject. In fact, your quote seems to underscore this, since Morris thought the word "free" had to be added to prevent slaves from being counted.

This whole argument has the same feel as arguments over baseline budgeting or income redistribution, where people insist that if they don't get a whole loaf, half a loaf is being taken from them.

The 3/5ths clause reduced slave state representation. Not as much as it should have been reduced, but reduce it did.
 

Brett, I'm sorry but your position makes no sense in light of the debates and the votes. It only makes sense if the default position was "count all inhabitants". Nobody thought that was the default; everybody knew that the issue had to be faced one way or the other. On July 11, for example, the Convention voted as follows:

"On Mr. Butlers [SC] motion for considering blacks as equal to Whites in the apportionmt. of Representation.

Massts. no. Cont. no. [N. Y. not on floor.] N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. ay. Md. no. Va. no N. C. no. S. C. ay. Geo. ay."

Later on the same day, the 3/5 clause itself was voted down:

"On Question for agreeing to include 3/5 of the blacks Massts. no. Cont. ay. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. no. Mard. no. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. no. Geo. ay"

This vote got reversed later on, of course.

Just to correct one of my earlier posts, I skimmed through Wills' book and he is firm on the argument that the 3/5 affected the result. The basic arithmetic is that Jefferson won the EC by 8 votes, while the South got 12 extra due to the 3/5 clause. It wasn't quite that simple, but Wills is right.
 

"Neither slaves nor Indians were or could be citizens of the US."

Swiss cheese memory or not, I'm fairly certain that this claim is incorrect. At least, it was prior to the Dred Scott decision.


The original language excluded Indians not taxed:

"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 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 three-fifths clause alone cannot explain Jefferson's victory. There was a three-fifths clause when Adams won the previous election. True, the clause gave an unbalanced playing field, but something still had to tip on that playing field.
 

Brett: The 3/5ths clause reduced slave state representation. Not as much as it should have been reduced, but reduce it did.

Perhaps this dead horse has now been well and truly beaten, but just to add to what both Adam and Mark have said, I would just highlight out the internal inconsistency of your hypothetical position.

One the one hand, the very foundation of slavery in the American South was the premise that black slaves were livestock, truly "sub-human" -- really not different in substance (in this ideological framework)from an especially smart cow or horse or ox. Slaves were property, not people.

So (even setting aside Mark's valid point that nobody ever thought the default to count all inhabitants, but rather to count all citizens -- and if slaves, in the southern mind, were not human beings then they were a fortiori not citizens of the young Republic) to then turn around and argue that -- as long as we're counting people to determine congressional apportionment that the default should be to count all the slaves too -- goes too far for the southern ideological framework to bear: remember, the whole system (and presumably what allowed southern slaveholders to sleep soundly at night) depends on the essential lie that slaves aren't people at all, they're livestock.

And while it wouldn't have been so radical a notion in the late 18th century to say that one's voting power should be proportional to the value of one's property (and indeed a weak version of this concept is inherent in the property-ownership requirement to vote at all in pre-Jacksonian America), that was decidedly not what anybody was arguing, least of all the south.

But Governeur Morris, in the excerpt Mark Field posted above, put it much more succinctly than I just did:

Upon what principle is it that the slaves shall be computed in the representation? Are they men? Then make them Citizens and let them vote. Are they property? Why then is no other property included? The Houses in this city [Philada.] are worth more than all the wretched slaves which cover the rice swamps of South Carolina.
 

The three-fifths clause alone cannot explain Jefferson's victory. There was a three-fifths clause when Adams won the previous election. True, the clause gave an unbalanced playing field, but something still had to tip on that playing field.

This is true enough up to a point, and it's in part why I qualified my statement above to say that the issue is not simple.

What Wills says, in essence, is that without the extra votes, Jefferson would have lost worse in 1796. It was only those extra votes which made it possible for him to compete again in 1800.

In addition, there were events in PA and NY which contributed to his victory. Those events, however, wouldn't have been enough if it hadn't been for the 3/5 clause.
 

I agree it's somewhat of a dead horse, but one more blow: Morris thought that slaves, as property, should not be counted. If he'd thought that they would not be counted, he wouldn't have needed to add that word, "free".

Moreover, I think there's some conflation of attitudes towards slavery at the time of the drafting, when slavery was not an exclusively racial phenonmenon, and the rationale which grew to be adopted as a result of it becoming an exclusively racial institution by the Civil war. It would be rather strange for whites to think that slaves were non-people at a time when whites were also slaves, and blacks also slave owners.
 

I agree it's somewhat of a dead horse, but one more blow: Morris thought that slaves, as property, should not be counted. If he'd thought that they would not be counted, he wouldn't have needed to add that word, "free".

If they were free, they wouldn't be property. It was only because they were slaves that slave holders could claim a property right. Two sides of the same coin. Plus, there was Butler's proposed language.

This debate actually originated in 1777. The two sides had been arguing about the right way to deal with slaves for 10 years. Given that background, there wasn't any "default position" of counting all inhabitants.

Moreover, I think there's some conflation of attitudes towards slavery at the time of the drafting, when slavery was not an exclusively racial phenonmenon, and the rationale which grew to be adopted as a result of it becoming an exclusively racial institution by the Civil war. It would be rather strange for whites to think that slaves were non-people at a time when whites were also slaves, and blacks also slave owners.

Now I'm getting a little pedantic, but there were important differences between indentured servitude (which did affect whites) and slavery (which did not). The Southerners in the Convention and in Congress before that never hesitated to refer to slaves as "property" when it benefited them. You are correct, though, that slavery became more racialized as time went on.
 

Mark, it is a matter of historical record that there were indeed white slaves at the time. Not just white indentured servants. See, for instance,

http://www.hartford-hwp.com/HBHP/exhibit/03/index.html
 

I assume you're referring to this passage: "most slaves in history up that that time had not been Black, but white or yellow. Being Black was therefore not the cause of one's being a slave."

I believe that, in context, the time frame referenced was the 1600s and previously. For such a time frame, and indeed thereafter, the statement was true in other countries. I'm not aware of any significant number of white slaves, at any time, in the US, and certainly not by 1787. I'll check some sources when I get home.
 

Thought had been given to white slaves and to Indian slaves. The problem with while slaves was the dificulty in controlling them readily by identitty. The problem with Indian slaves was that with their knowledge of the terrain, it would be difficult for the authorities to keep and control them
 

Ok, I just checked David Brion Davis, Inhuman Bondage, and can find no reference to white slavery. His whole book makes the point that anti-black prejudice and slavery were intertwined.
 

Brett, I normally know you as a libertarian, seeking to limit the government's power in all possible contexts. That does not appear to be at issue here, so I am puzzled. Why is it so important to you to establish the 3/5 rule as a reduction of southern voting power, rather than a bonus?
 

Just because the tendency to treat getting half a loaf as having been robbed of half a loaf is a pet peeve of mine. Subtracting less than we might want is not addition. But pretending otherwise is a common, and extremely annoying, rhetorical tactic, often seen in discussions of taxes or income redistribution.

Nothing I've said in this thread should be interpreted as meaning I thought it wouldn't have been better if 3/5ths had instead been 2/5ths, or even 0/5ths.
 

Just to clarify about Davis, he says plenty about white slavery in Europe and the Middle East. It's in the New World where slavery was racial.
 

The historian Sean Wilentz
[The New Republic, 03.21.04] disputes Wills thesis. In part:

"He also confidently reports as an outrageous fact the Federalist claim (which many professional historians have fallen for as well) that the Federalists remained the majority party in 1800 and that except for the three-fifths rule John Adams would have defeated Jefferson. Based on a quick look at the numbers, this would appear to be true. But Wills, like others, slights the Federalists' partisan shenanigans in heavily Jeffersonian Pennsylvania, which led to Adams getting as many as seven more electoral votes, and Jefferson getting seven less, than they respectively deserved. (Jefferson swept Pennsylvania in 1796 and 1804, as did every other Democratic-Republican presidential hopeful through 1816, and in 1800, Democratic-Republicans swept the state's congressional elections.) Without the pro-Adams manipulation, and without the three-fifths rule, Jefferson still would have defeated Adams by anywhere from six to ten electoral votes. Without the three-fifths rule but with the chicanery, the Jeffersonians could have charged that the Federalists had stolen the election, and they would have been correct."

Likewise, he notes the Senate (with two votes for all, appointd by legislators) was of particular benefit to slavery promotion.

As to the 3/5 clause, it apparently grew out of an earlier proposal trying to figure a way to determine economic value for taxation purposes -- a free person deemed likely to be more productive.

There was more than one fraction possible. [Don Fehrenbacher discussed the matter in his books, including his last one.] Not 3/5 or none. None would arguably be a problem. The C. talks of 'other persons,' namely slaves. This slave = person thing was a potential timebomb. If not counted at all, the 'personhood' of slaves might be challenged.

(A legislator would have thousands of individuals that even Southern law in some fashion treated as persons, but no federal recognition of the fact would be factored in re taxation etc. This would be unlikely to be accepted, even if it would be workable.]

Given they are counted, less so given their different productivity (a slam against slavery really), it arguably reinforced their personhood. At any rate, the fraction is usually deemed as a sign of stigma for black slaves ... this isn't really true. It is a stigma of slavery.
 

What's the difference between a libertarian and a libertine?
 

The historian Sean Wilentz
[The New Republic, 03.21.04] disputes Wills thesis.


Thank you! I knew I had seen a dispute of Wills' argument somewhere. That's it.

Having said that, I'm not convinced Wilentz is right. Yes, there were shennanigans in PA. OTOH, Jefferson benefited when Burr caught the Federalists off guard in NY and gained Jefferson extra votes there (hard to say how many). In addition, most states used districts to choose electors in 1796, but many switched to statewide for 1800.

All these changes make it somewhat difficult to judge the hypothetical. However, the fact remains that the South had those 12 excess votes. All the other changes at least left the parties in a competition where two could play. The 3/5 clause only allowed one to play.

As to the 3/5 clause, it apparently grew out of an earlier proposal trying to figure a way to determine economic value for taxation purposes -- a free person deemed likely to be more productive.

That's right. As I mentioned above, the dispute started in 1777, when Congress tried to allocate each state's share of contribution to the war effort. Some argued for proportions based on population, others for proportions based on wealth. It was hard to categorize slaves in this context, so they compromised on 3/5. You're right that it didn't have to be 3/5 -- because it was "only" money at stake, the ratio could have been any number.

That dispute didn't affect voting rights, though. Under the Articles of Confederation, each state had one vote. Southern insistence in the Convention on a 3/5 clause for representation was new. It changed the dynamics in a fundamental way.

All the delegates clearly understood that it benefited the South. The North just thought it got a fair equivalent (federal power to regulate commerce). Whether that's true or not depends on what you value more and on what you think the result might have been in the absence of compromise.
 

I agree with MF that even if SW (who also wrote a Rolling Stone piece on Bush) is right, the matter was important. But, the article is useful as a general reply to the other argument.

As to the other matter, the novelty arose because previously each state had one vote. Apportionment therefore would not be an issue. My source suggests the old proposal serves as a compromise among the various fractions suggested.

I think for some combo of the reasons I suggested a 0/0 policy would have various problems, besides being simply unlikely at that time.

Overall my comments was not really in reply/correction of MF per se. As usual, he supplies great commentary on the subject of discussion.
 

Overall my comments was not really in reply/correction of MF per se. As usual, he supplies great commentary on the subject of discussion.

That was very nice. Thanks.
 

I'm very late in the day with this, and I'm not sure anyone will read it, but might as well post it anyway...

I went back and recalculated the electoral college in 1800 based upon the assumptions that (a) there was no 3/5 clause, and (b) the EC votes were fairly distributed rather than being subject to the distortions caused by the Senate. I then took the same results as actually occurred, including splits.

Somewhat to my surprise, Jefferson still won. The keys were Burr's capture of the NY votes and the split in PA. This does cast doubt on Wills' thesis and my previous assurance that he was right.
 

Realizing my last post was ambiguous...

When I say I assumed no 3/5 clause, that means I used white population only. I used the 1790 census for all states except TN, which did not exist in 1790, for which I used the 1800 census.
 

Now I have to confess that I'm mathematically challenged. I mis-added the totals the first time. The correct answer is that Jefferson and Adams split 69-69. The election would have been thrown into the House. I presume Jefferson would have won there, but we'll never know that with certainty.

Bottom line is, Wills may be right, but he may not be. It all depends on which assumptions you make.
 

Ok, just for fun I went back and redistributed the 103 representatives in the House according to white population percentages only. This requires some assumptions about rounding, but most of the delegations remained unchanged.

Bottom line? Adams clearly would have won 7 states, Jefferson clearly would have won 7 states. DE and GA would each have gained a representative, moving them from 1 to 2. That means it's impossible to know how they would have voted -- the new member might have canceled the other's vote. Nevertheless, if we make the reasonable assumption that DE would have voted for Adams and GA for Jefferson, then each would've won 8 states. That leaves it all up to MD. In the actual case, the MD delegation split 4-4. In my reconstruction, however, MD lost a representative. Thus, it would have split 4-3, but there is no way to know which way it would have gone. It clearly would have been the closest election in US history.
 

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