Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Misunderstood 3/5 Compromise... the Compromise That Helped Create a Nation and 1.5 Million Black American Millionaires

America is an imperfect nation… and it has been from the beginning, as all things crafted by men.  Oft cited is the 3/5 compromise, which was indeed there at the beginning.  One hears many people say that the 3/5 compromise clearly demonstrated that America from the start felt that blacks were not thought of as fully human. Perhaps that was true of some of the Founding Fathers, but certainly not all, as many were abolitionists who pushed for such to be include in the Constitution. 

Of course outlawing slavery was a non starter with the southern states. The 3/5 compromise was, just as the name implies, a compromise.  Given that taxes and representation were based on population, the South wanted blacks to be fully counted for representation purposes but not at all for taxation purposes.  The northern states would not allow that and the 3/5 compromise was crafted where slaves were counted 3/5 for both tax and representation purposes.  The irony is, if slaves were counted as whole persons as people today wish, it would have given the slave states MORE power in Congress but given the slaves nothing more.

The choice was not a United States with slavery vs. a “pure” one without it.  The choice was a United States without slavery in the north, and anywhere from one to five with slaves in the south.  Which begs the question, would the slaves in the five southern states have been better off in a country or countries where there were no abolitionists to try and temper the growth of the institution? Would the slaves have been better off if they were in a country that did not ban the import of slaves after 20 years, which would have resulted in their becoming expendable due of the ease of replacement? Would the slaves have been better off with a free country to their north that utilized its nascent industrialization to expand to the west more quickly than the South and possibly surround it, leading the British to come in on their side (South) if war broke out? The British were loathe to support the South during the Civil War because of slavery, but might they have considered doing so if the North were a significantly stronger rival?  Indeed, would there even have been a war?  The Civil War occurred because of the potential for the expansion of slavery within the country… Had they been separate nations that war may never have happened, the Emancipation Proclamation would not have been issued and slavery could have survived for decades longer.

Lonnie Johnson - Inventor
And as for today's descendants of said slaves who claim America is a racist nation, are they not far better off than they would be had their families not been sold into slavery by their African or Arab brothers?  No doubt they are.  Blacks make up 12% of the American population but they make up 8% of the millionaires and the poorest 20% of Americans are richer than the average European.  Compare that to almost any nation on the planet and virtually everyone in America is economically better off than most people in the world, regardless of the color of their skin or their heritage.  

The bottom line is, as imperfect a document as the Constitution is and was, had not the 3/5 compromise existed, there would have never been a United States as we know it.  The chaos of warring states that scarred Europe for centuries very may have found itself expanded into North America, with all the blood and carnage that entailed… and slavery might have survived well into the 20th century as it did for much of Africa and Asia. 

Back here in the 21st century with media and academia obsessed with pointing out the nation’s imperfections, it’s no surprise so many Americans people don’t understand history and see themselves as victims.  As horrendous as slavery was in America, it was far from unique in the annals of mankind.  Indeed, upon casting off the yoke of slavery the United States became a warrior for eliminating the practice around the world.  And that is a paradigm that is at the core of the United States… Everyone, even the founders recognized that neither the nation nor its Constitution were perfect, but they put in place a foundation for the United States to evolve as circumstances warranted.  We’ve seen that in everything from the abolition of slavery to civil rights to giving women the vote to annually welcoming millions of people of different faiths, colors and nationalities into the country and granting them citizenship.

America was founded on extraordinary principles, despite the fact that foundation was not perfect.  The fact that the nation and its people  – blacks included – have thrived is a testament to those principles.  It’s one thing to stand in 2020 and recognize that there is still work to be done, but it’s another altogether to disparage the nation, what it stands for & what it’s done, and most of all the people who built it and help protect it – again, blacks included.  Perhaps some of those protesters should strike up an exchange program with some of the billions of people around the world who would jump at the chance to move to the United States if given the opportunity.  With a little perspective they might have a different take on the country whose flag, history and heroes they are disrespecting…

NOTE:  Someone I know suggested the point of this piece is "Asserting that those slaves owe us gratitude because we gave them a much better life in slavery than they would have had in their African birth countries or countries."  The actual point is one of gratitude to their ancestors for the sacrifice they made and the price they paid, and to appreciate what that sacrifice has brought them today.  It is like a Christian who is grateful for the sacrifice that Christ made, although in his case he did it willingly.  No Christian would want someone to go through what he did, but  they are grateful that because he did that 2,000 years ago, we have salvation today.

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