The three-fifths compromise means that three-fifths of a state`s slave population will count in its total population when deciding how many representatives a state would have in the House of Representatives. The South wanted slaves to be counted as a „whole“ people so that they could have a higher population, which would lead to more members of the House of Representatives. However, the North did not want them to have more representation, arguing that if they treated slaves as if they were cattle, then they should count the same for the population – which is not the case. An agreement added to the Constitution would count any slave person as three-fifths of a white person for the purposes of representation in the House of Representatives. Part of this compromise was an issue that divided the convention on north-south lines. The question was: should slaves count in the population? Under the proposed constitution, the people would ultimately decide three things: there was a dispute over the legislature. States with large populations wanted representation in both houses of the legislature to be based on population. States with small populations wanted each state to have the same number of representatives as under the statutes of the confederation. This dispute lasted two months. In the end, the delegates accepted the „Grand Compromise“. One branch, the House of Representatives, would be based on population.
The other, the Senate, would have two members from each state. The northern states did not place too much emphasis on slavery issues. Their main objective was to obtain a new government. They feared upsetting the South. Most of them saw slavery as a dying institution with no economic future. Within five years, however, cotton gin had to be invented, which made growing cotton on plantations immensely profitable, as well as slavery. When the American colonies separated from England, the Continental Congress asked Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence. In the statement, Jefferson voiced American grievances and explained why the settlers separated. His words proclaimed America`s ideals of freedom and equality that still resonate around the world. Yet at the time these words were written, more than 500,000 black Americans were slaves.
Jefferson himself owned more than 100, and slaves made up about one-fifth of the population of the American colonies. Most of them lived in the southern colonies, where slaves made up 40% of the population. One last major issue of slavery was confronted with the delegates. The southern states wanted other states to bring back the runaway slaves. Federal articles did not guarantee this. But when Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, it was a clause that promised that slaves who had fled to the Northwest Territories would be returned to their owners. Delegates put a similar clause on fugitive slaves in the constitution. It was part of an agreement with the New England states.
In exchange for the fugitive slave clause, the New England states received concessions on navigation and trade. With little power to enforce its laws or raise taxes, the new government has proven ineffective. In May 1787, 55 delegates from 12 states met in Philadelphia. (Rhode Island refused to send a delegation.) Their purpose was to revise the articles of Confederation. When they met in secret meetings, they quickly changed their destination. They would draft a new constitution. The broad outlines of the new government were quickly agreed. It would have three branches – the executive, the judiciary, and a two-chamber legislature. Only the southern states had large numbers of slaves. Counting them as part of the population would greatly increase the political power of the South, but it would also mean paying higher taxes. It was a price that the southern states were willing to pay. They advocated counting slaves.
The northern states disagreed. Delegates made compromises. Each slave would count for three-fifths of a person. .