Bryan Fischer
Slaves were persons, not property -- original Constitution says so
By Bryan Fischer
January 8, 2011

The Democrats have been in full howl over how the Republicans read the Constitution on the House floor on Thursday. Here's the odd thing: they criticized the Republicans not because of what they read, but because of what they didn't read. And what they didn't read is stuff that's no longer in the Constitution, because it's been amended and is no longer valid or applicable.

So the Democrats are so eye-crossingly enraged at the loss of power, so mind-numbingly confused about the Constitution, that they wanted stuff read that's not even in it. But to the credit of the Republicans, they read the Constitution, the whole Constitution, and nothing but the Constitution.

The only parts of the Constitution the GOP read are the parts that are still in force, that have never been amended. If a part of the Constitution has been amended, then the amended part is no longer valid. (For instance, the 18th amendment, the Prohibition amendment, was repealed in 1933 and consequently was not read.) An amended part is no longer a part of the Constitution. It's no longer part of the supreme law of the land. It's part of the history of the Constitution, but no longer a part of the Constitution itself.

You'd think that the Democrats, with all their bloviation about how the Constitution is a living and breathing document that must change with the times, would be ecstatic at Republican recognition of legitimate changes to our founding document.

But no. The grievance industry, represented by Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. and other plantation politicians, is royally hacked off that the original part of the Constitution that dealt with representation in the slave-holding states wasn't read. News flash for Rep. Jackson: the Civil War ended 146 years ago. Wake up and smell the freedom! Get over yourself and get on up into the 21st century while you're at it.

Rep. Jackson is acting as if the Civil War never happened, as if the Emancipation Proclamation was never issued — thank you, Republican president Abe Lincoln — as if the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments — thank you, Republican Party — were never ratified and never became a part of our ultimate governing document. He's acting as if the Civil Rights Act — passed by Republicans over strenuous Democrat opposition — was not and never has been the law of the land.

So the grievance industry, still stuck woefully in the past, desperately wanted the Republicans to read the "three-fifths" clause. The Republicans didn't, for one simple reason. It's no longer part of the Constitution.

And here's the kicker: while the Democrats wanted that read because they erroneously believe that it says that slaves were three-fifths of a person, the Constitution itself says exactly the opposite. The "three-fifths" clause clearly affirms the personhood of slaves.

Check it out. Here is the relevant portion, with emphasis added:

"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."

Note how the original Constitution referred to slaves: not as "three-fifths" of a person, but as "other Persons," period. It's as plain and unambiguous as it can possibly be. Slaves, according to the original Constitution, were full-fledged persons. It says it right there.

As you can see by reading the clause in full, this portion of the original Constitution dealt with representation in Congress, not with the definition of personhood. In fact, the "three-fifths" clause was inserted at the insistence of the free states to limit the power of the slave-holding states. The Southern states were hoping for full counting, full numbering, because the number of slaves would have given them a huge advantage over the North in the House of Representatives.

(The South wanted to treat slaves as property until it came to the issue of representation; then Southerners wanted them counted fully, even though they could not vote or hold office. The North politely said, well, if you're going to count your property for the purpose of representation, we are too. We'll apportion representation based on our houses, horses, and factories. That put a stopper in it right quick.)

The opponents of slavery in the North — and yes, Virginia, there were plenty of Founders who found the institution of slavery odious even in their day — were not about to permit that. They knew slavery as practiced by the South was a grave moral injustice and could not last in a nation dedicated to freedom.

By the way, you'll note that because this clause dealt not just with representation but with the apportionment of "direct Taxes," it entailed a loss of revenue to the federal government. Abolitionists were willing to forego the extra revenue to federal coffers in order to keep the South from maintaining enough clout to protect forever the institution of slavery.

In passing, it's worthy of note that he importation of slaves was prohibited by the original Constitution after the year 1808.

Bottom line: the three-fifths clause is not a pro-slavery clause, it is an anti-slavery clause.

And the same clause affirms the personhood of all slaves. You could look it up.

(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)

© Bryan Fischer


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)


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