A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Monday, September 17, 2007

Constitution Day Question

Well, now that we've all channelled James Madison all day long, let's ponder:

Was the three-fifths compromise the biggest deal with the devil, or what?

And now I'm sure that we will all go back to teaching absolutely NOTHING about the Constitution for the other 179 days of the school year. I mean, that's why we have to mandate the teaching of it on September 17, right?

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At 9/18/07, 6:38 AM, Blogger Eric Turner said...

I don't believe the 3/5 compromise was a "deal with the devil." If one believes the Constitution was some sort of text brought down from Mt. Sinai, I could perhaps see the compromise being a deal with the devil.

However, it was a political document and under the circumstances the 3/5 compromise was the best they could do. I'm simply glad I wasn't there. They had to make hard choices to ensure the greater goal of a unified nation was ensured.

In effect, they tabled the issue and placed it on the back burner till a later date. Unfortunately, that later date never came and instead the pot boiled over and resulted in the Civil War.

However, by ensuring the freedom and rights of a few (white males), the Constitution made way for the freedom and rights of all (black, white, Asian, Hispanic, male and female).

It is a great document and to point out the one "injustice" about the document is to ignore the many more great things about the document.

Oh, and please don't take the above as me being some sort of racist. I see no point in not granting people of all races and gender liberty, freedom, and equality. I don't think we can look back and try to view their actions through 21st century lenses. Or perhaps we can? I mean our own government makes compromises all the time that many of us don't agree with and some would proclaim as "deals with the devil."

It is sad that perhaps many teachers will ignore it for the rest of the year. My gov't professor didn't even mention Constitution Day yesterday. Although, we've been discussing it for the last the two weeks and will continue discussing it for the next 6 or so I suppose!

At 9/18/07, 5:47 PM, Blogger 100 Farmers said...

My classes were so horrible yesterday that I actually began to advocate an extreme federalist point of view. I wouldn't want the kids I had yesterday to mandate anything. They were intelligent angels today though. Sigh.

At 9/19/07, 8:49 AM, Blogger Coach Brown said...

I would also warn about looking at historical events, or documents, through the eyes of a person in the 21st Century. I'm not any sort of advocate for slavery, but it was not uncommon for colonial powers to have slaves, and it was also probably imperative to get the support of the Southern Colonies for the fledgling nation to work.
Context, Context, Context.

At 9/19/07, 2:16 PM, Blogger Chanman said...

This has always been one of the most demagogued snippets from our Constitution. I remember Al Gore once denigrating our founding fathers because they considered blacks to be "3/5 of a person."

When I teach the Constitution, I always harp to my students that it was the ANTI-Slavery delegates that didn't want slaves to be counted at all, let alone 3/5. It was the PRO-Slavery delegates who wanted the slaves counted as whole people. Counting the slaves as part of a state's population gave the slave-holding states increased representation in Congress. To keep the convention from totally falling apart, the anti-slavery delegates agreed to the 3/5 compromise. Why it wasn't a 1/2 compromise, I will always wonder, because with 60% being counted, the southern states made out on the deal.

By the way, the 3/5 compromise only applied to slaves. Free blacks (and there plenty in the north and some in the south at this time) were counted as whole people in ALL the states.

OK, history lesson over :)

At 9/22/07, 12:05 AM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Well, to add to the history lesson: it was three fifth because it was believed that a slave would produce 60% of the work value of a free man, who had the incentive of working for himself.

And don't give me any crap about the North in this one. Both sides were being cynical. The North wanted them counted as people, but if they weren't, they believed that the slaves should be taxed as property.

The South didn's want the slaves taxed as property, and wanted them counted as that fraction of a free worker for representation in the House-- AND in the Electoral College, which then gave the South and particularly Virginia a stranglehold in the presidential elections.

The North made loads of money on the slave trade, which everyone forgets. Let's remember that Liverpool, England just admitted its role in the slave trade and attempted to memorialize it. The South won on this one.

Let's also not forget that the context of the 18th century included plenty of admission by people on both sides that the slave trade was evil.


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