Delegates agreed upon the Three-Fifths Compromise during the 1787 U.S. Constitutional Convention. The Convention decided that three out of every five enslaved persons would be counted to determine a state’s total population for legislative representation and taxation before the Civil War. This gave disproportionate representation to southern slave-holding states in the House of Representatives.
The issue of how to calculate population totals was of significant concern. The United States was deeply divided on the abolishment of slavery, with some delegates from Northern states seeking to have representation determined based on the size of a state’s free population. Southern delegates demanded that enslaved individuals be counted as part of the population. The constitutional framers agreed upon a compromise resulting in representation in the House of Representatives being calculated based upon a state’s free population plus three-fifths of its enslaved population. This agreement was referred to as the Three-Fifths Compromise:
“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” (United States Constitutional Convention 1787)
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