The Instigator
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3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

The 3/5 compromise was better for slaves than if they had full representation in the census.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/17/2014 Category: People
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,647 times Debate No: 59118
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)




The notorious and oft cited 3/5 Compromise that, in part, made the Union possible!

I will be taking the position that the 3/5 compromise was better for slaves than if they had been counted as full people in the census. My opponent will be taking the position slaves would have been better off if they had been counted as full people in the census.


I shall accept. For slaves, assuming little change historically other than greater representation for southern states, counting slaves as full members for purpose of representation would have been better than the 3/5 compromise.
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks for accepting. I hear a lot of complaints in main stream media and others about how inherently racist the US is because slaves were counted as only 3/5 of a person, and I created this debate to help dispel that false notion.

As it appears my opponent already knows, the 3/5 Compromise was key in allowing the 13 colonies to agree to ratify the Constitution. Slaves (not Negroes) were only to be counted as 3/5 of a person in the census for representation and taxation purposes. Slave states wanted them counted as whole people so they would have more Representatives in the House (a main purpose of the Census is to allot seats in the House by State population), despite the slaves still not having human rights or voting rights. The North who did not want them counted as people in the Census, was more in favor of abolition, and wanted slaves free and therefore to have full citizen rights, instead of just being power leverage for their masters. If slaves were counted as full people, thus allowing more seats in the House to Slave States, it would have been harder to Congress to outlaw the importation of slaves after 1808 (Another compromise between the colonies.) If the Slave States had the extra House seats, the compromises that fed Southern fear of abolition and ultimately secession, may not have occurred. Legal slavery may have continued to this day, or at least until it was out competed by industry, or moral indignation against it increased at a later date than it did.


Thank you, Skynet, for hosting this debate. The 3/5 compromise most certainly helped to keep some power away from the South...and yet the south and north would continue to be on relatively equal power against each other from the beginning of the Republic to when the Civil War was concluded. While this meant that northerners had to accept Fugitive Slave laws and expansion for slave-states, it also meant southerners had to accept the same federal tariffs and support free-state expansion. Supposing the southern delegates at Philadelphia pushed through a clause stating that their slaves would be counted as a full person for purposes of house power, the United States would have split sooner...the North seceding from the South. During the War of 1812, many New England Federalists met in Hartford, Connecticut to discuss their grievances with the Democratic-republican federal government, especially over the ongoing war with Britain. Secession was discussed, but it was considered an "extreme proposal." ( How extreme would it have been to secede from a south that was almost guaranteed over half the power? It is very likely that New England, and the Western "free-er" states, would have not wanted to be part of a Union that was run by southern aristocracy.

Then there is the case of the Civil War. With secession, the war may well have happened, but with drastically different results. For one thing, the Fugitive Slave act, a law the Union upheld even during the war so long as masters were still loyal to the Union, would not have passed in a Great-Lakes United States or in a New England United States. The act would have had no power north of the Ohio River. If and when the South declared war, they would not have had the parallels to the Revolution on their side that helped to keep neutrals out. England and France both wanted a United States that was not as strong, so they considered briefly supporting the South, but the slave-system was the southern rebels downfall. In this imagining of a country where the states split over slaves being counted fully for the house, however, the South is an agressor without any wiggle-room; foreign governments would have been more wary of the South and want to help their other valuable trade partners stay intact.

With many more republics with limited power, african-american slaves could flee to free areas more easily, without being captured and sent home, and all the while the smaller republics would have been hard-pressed to offer something for people to at least stick-with, if not actively encourage migration to (the mid-west, west, and north-east had little trouble doing this even with southern influence in congress). Thus, a full counting of a slave in the census in the 3/5 compromise would have better denotated the people"s right to self-determination while allowing a lower barrier for slaves to escape and a lot more pressure for the South to quit its slaving ways. Instead, we got southern rule of the United States after the war of 1812, which led to fugitive slave laws that made it more difficult for slaves to escape, and Jim Crow laws following the war that swept into the Northern States as well. Indeed, the 3/5 compromise, in attempting to preserve a union that could barely be construed, hurt slaves far more than it helped them.
Debate Round No. 2


An intriguing scenario in answer to what I thought was going to be a cut and dry argument, with the New England States actually going through with secession from the Union after the Hartford Convention.

"There are a number of reasons why historians doubt that the New England Federalists were seriously considering secession. All the states, especially Connecticut with its claims to western lands, stood to lose more than they would gain. Efforts were made in the delegation selection process to exclude firebrands like John Lowell, Jr., Timothy Pickering, and Josiah Quincy who might have pushed for secession, and the final report of the convention did not propose secession."

Too bad for us, according to my opponent's source, the proceedings of the Hartford Convention are intentionally lost. But it appears there may have been enough reasons for the Federalists in New England to leave secession out of the final report, even if the Slave States had superpower in the House.

Furthermore, the Federalists were thouroughly discredited by a combination of false rumors of a treasonous return to English loyalty becasue of thier opposition to the war of 1812, and decisive military victories over England in the ongoing war, which was a large reason for the convention. Considering Southern political power and thier policies (harsh embargoes, ammassing federal power) were the main reasons for the Hartford Convention, increasing Southern power through House Seats probably would not have changed the inevitability of the War of 1812. Perry, Jackson, and the like would still probably have had thier victories. And the Hartford Convention would still have come to naught.

My opponent's argument is an intruiging, fun to read and imagine alternate history, and I thank Con for the unexpected departure from the pedestrial drivel I had set out to encounter. However, seccession still seems fairly unlikely to have been included in the final report of the Hartford Convention, considering other disuading factors, such as the prospect of trading a moderately powerful country for two weak ones during the lifetime of the Founding Fathers, and Northern industry's easy access to Southern raw agricultural goods in the established Union.

It seems even less likely that the Hartford Convention would have been taken seriously considering most of the delegates turned back when they heard about the end to the war.

I must still disagree with Con's argument because it hinges upon unlikely New England seccession.

Good debate. Thanks Con, I learned a lot.


Thank you Skynet for your reply.
I would try to defend my position on New England seceding, but seeing as how the last rounds shouldn't"t add new positive arguments, and seeing how your critique of the federalists (who were people with a love of a larger, more powerful federal government) was accurate, and seeing how we don"t have more rounds, I will submit that Skynet does have the sounder arguments. The error on my part was in making sure the same people that started the Revolution was seen as the reason for any federalist calling for secession at all, given their historic favoring of larger government, and thus showing that the people of New England, as well as the elite, were thinking of secession.

This was a fun exercise for me, and I regret that I did not do the argument more justice. And thank you for addressing the argument presented rather than going with a more simple "well, the north would have just had slaves too to counteract the south." I think we both agree that, without any secession attempts by free states, slaves would most certainly have been worse off if their masters had more power over free men precisely because of them. In short, Pro really does have the better arguments. It is truly a shame this debate was not longer, but the short length is understandable given the topic, and it still does not excuse the oversight of a crucial point in my case when presenting my argument. I forfeit this last round.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Oromagi 3 years ago
Well, the only value of the 3/5ths compromise was to pad the census numbers so that slave states could maintain a higher proportion of congressman than non-slave states. If a slave was counted as a full human for census numbers but not enfranchised, then slaveholders would have received even more disproportionate influence in DC. If the compromise had never happened, the abolitionist vote would have prevented would have prevented any new slave states. By the time cotton and slaves became so valuable that plantation owners were willing and able to fight a civil war, slavery would probably have been abolished. Even so, VA, NC, SC, and GA would not likely secede on their own and if they had they would have been vanquished that much quicker.

Obviously, slaves (and the Southern proles devastated by cotton feudalism) would be better off with with no fake census numbers.
Posted by ricksterpr0 3 years ago
I think you are spot on. If they had been counted as 1 person then it could have made it easier for the south to publish laws that support slavery.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by bladerunner060 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: An excellent and courteous debate. As Con conceded in the final round, I don't think I need to go into detail as to why Pro's arguments were more convincing, though I can if asked, and as always am happy to clarify this RFD. But this was an excellent and interesting debate!