Three-Fifths of a Question

Douglas Laycock DLaycock at
Tue Jan 10 13:10:18 PST 2006

My recollection is the south wanted slaves counted for representation
but not taxes.  The north wanted them counted for taxes but not
representation.  Treating both taxes and representation the same was the
obvious compromise, and 3/5 was also a compromise.  The south got far
the better of the deal, because apportioned taxes were so unworkable
that very few of them were ever enacted.
Douglas Laycock
University of Texas Law School
727 E. Dean Keeton St.
Austin, TX  78705
   512-232-1341 (phone)
   512-471-6988 (fax)


From: conlawprof-bounces at
[mailto:conlawprof-bounces at] On Behalf Of
DavidEBernstein at
Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2006 3:02 PM
To: Conlawprof at
Subject: Three-Fifths of a Question

Why were the southern states so eager to have slaves counted for
population purposes?  Obviously, they wanted more representation in the
House and electoral college, but the Constitution also provided that
"direct Taxes shall be apportioned" among the several States by
population.  Why weren't the southern delegates concerned that their
states would get socked with disproportionate taxation? Did they expect
limited direct taxes? Or is this a case where the interests of the
political class (more political power) diverged from the public's
interest (less taxes)? 
David E. Bernstein
Visiting Professor
University of Michigan School of Law
George Mason University School of Law
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