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Oview of the 3/5 Compromise and Importation of Slaves for Another 20 Years

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Published: 23rd Sep 2019 in History

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Explain the 3/5 Compromise, importation of slaves for another 20 years and the Fugitive slave clause of the Constitution.

3/5 Compromise- When the Constitution of The United States was being written, the Founding Father had to figure out how slavery and representation exist together. They came to the conclusion of allowing some, but not all of the slaves to count towards the population count of state. The Three-Fifths Compromise is a guide for the process the states use to count slaves as part of the general population for the purposes of representation and taxation. Some states in South wanted all slaves to count toward the population for reasons involving representation, but they didn’t want to pay taxes on the slaves because to them, the slaves were considered property. In contrast, the States in the North felt some representation would be taken away from the North if all slaves were counted toward the population. However, this issue was outweighed by their attempts to get the tax burden off of themselves. The argument between the North and South led to the conclusion to count 3 out of every 5 slaves toward the population and tax purposes.

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Importation of slaves for another 20 years (1787-1808)- “The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.” Those words are of the last of the slave trade provision (Article 1 Section 9 of the Constitution). The clause was designed to cover up what the convention was really doing to the country. If you read between the lines, you’ll see that the clause above didn’t require the trade to end in 1808. Instead, the clause stated an assumption that was held by nearly every convention member. The assumption was that the Southern States were going to grow faster than any other State, and by the its 1808, the states that wanted to continue the slave trade would have enough power and allies to stop the end of the trade. In order to end the slave trade, a bill would have to pass the houses of Congress and the President must sign it. That would mean three opportunities to stop the bill. There were supporters of the clause on both sides of the argument. Some, like James Wilson, worked hard to convince nonbelievers to believe that the Constitution demanded an end to the slave trade, when in factuality, it did not,  They made many clever arguments, and made sure to attend every debate about the clause until the northerners started to believe.

The Fugitive Slave Clause of the Constitution- “No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.” The Fugitive Slave Clause is Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution. It demands the return of runaway slaves back to the state from where they ran away from. If a slave was captured, the hunters would bring them to a judge and give proof of ownership of the slave and if the judge was satisfied with the evidence, the owner was permitted to take the slave back to his home. The law also required a $500 fine to anyone that helped a slave escape or hid a slave. They were created to make sure that the free states wouldn’t become safe havens for slaves. For this reason, the Fugitive Slave Clause was included in the Constitution of the United States.

  • Baltzell, George W. “Constitution of the United States – We the People.” Constitution for the United States – We the People, constitutionus.com/.
  • “The Abolition of The Slave Trade.” Peoples from the Kongo and the Bight of Biafra – U.S. Slave Trade – The Abolition of The Slave Trade, abolition.nypl.org/essays/us_constitution/3/.
  • US Legal, Inc. “Fugitive Slave Clause Law and Legal Definition.” Fraud Law and Legal Definition | USLegal, Inc., definitions.uslegal.com/f/fugitive-slave-clause/.

What role did Blacks play in the Revolutionary War? Who was Phillis Wheatley?

The Revolutionary War – Also known as the war of independence, the American revolution, or the 4th of July. This movement was led by the rich, who made their decisions by majority of votes. Resentment of the policies of Britain is what started it all. The policy that the people resented the most was the Parliaments right to tax colonies and the fact that colonist couldn’t participate in decisions that affected their political interests. The issue has come to be known as “taxation without representation”.

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 Black people played an important role on both sides of the war for Independence. Black Americans were involved in the was as active participants.  In fact, by the year 1783, thousands of blacks were involved. Some of them won their freedom and some were prisoners and victims of the war. Despite all of the hardships black people had to overcome, they still refused to just stand around watching. They were loyal to the side of the war that seems to offer the best chance for freedom. In 1775, over half-million enslaved African Americans lived in the 13 colonies. By the 1760’s people began to speak against what the British were doing. More and more people started to point out contradictions between wanting liberty and wanting to own slaves. All the talk around town about freedom gave blacks motivation to fight in the revolution. 1775, between 10 to 15 African American soldiers, including slaves, fought the British in battle. By 1776 it became clear that the talk about freedom after the revolutionary war and the stuff the Founding Fathers spoke didn’t apply to enslaved blacks. Even though the Declaration of Independence promised freedom and liberty for all, it did not end slavery. And even after black soldiers proved themselves in battle, the army still didn’t let them enlist. Eventually, free blacks were allowed to join the army. 

Phillis Wheatley was the First African American Poetry book publisher in 1773. She was only eight or seven years old when she was taken from he home in West Africa. She was brought to Boston on a slave ship in 1761. A wealthy tailor and his wife, John and Susanna Wheatley bought the little girl from the ship and named her Phillis Wheatley. The couple knew nothing of the talents inside the little girl. She grew up to become a poet. She published her first book of poetry during a time when slaves were forbidden to learn, read, or write. Ms. Wheatley took a trip to London where she hoped to meet the Countess of Huntingdon, Selina Hasting. Although they never met in person, the Countess did help Phillis publish a volume of her work in 1773. When Wheatley returned to America, she was surprised to find out she was now a free woman. After becoming a free woman, she posted an antislavery letter and a poem to President George Washington. Washington wrote a letter back to her thanking and praising her great poetic talents.

Ms. Phillis Wheatley later married a free black man named John Peters in 1778. She also published three more poems that year. Her husband on the other hand, was not successful in his business. So Wheatley eventually became a servant. At the time of her death she was a very poor woman, but at least she was free.

  • The First March From Selma, www.americaslibrary.gov/jb/revolut/jb_revolut_poetslav_3.html.
  • “African Americans and the American Revolution.” History Is Fun, www.historyisfun.org/learn/learning-center/colonial-america-american-revolution-learning-resources/american-revolution-essays-timelines-images/african-americans-and-the-american-revolution/.


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