The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State….” Each state had the right to have all persons living within its boundaries to be counted in the census.
W. Cleon Skousen explained, “This provision was designed to eliminate the previous arrangement of counting slaves as here-fifths of a vote. This had not been done as a demeaning gesture against slaves but simply as a compromise over the issue of taxes and representation. The South wanted to count all slaves in calculating he population for the purpose of determining the number of representatives in the House, but it did not want to count the slaves at all in apportioning taxes `according to population.’ It was finally agreed that slaves would be counted as three-fifths of a vote for both representation and taxation. The Fourteenth Amendment eliminated this practice.” (See The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 724.)
Paul Moreno of The Heritage Foundation explained, “In his speech of April 11, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln described the Southern states that had rebelled in the Civil War as being `out of their proper practical relation with the Union.’ In setting the terms for the readmission of those states to the Union, the Reconstruction Congress had to deal with several issues in addition to that of the status of the freedmen: representation in Congress, the political status of high-ranking rebels, and the debts of the United States and Confederate States.
“The abolition of slavery increased the political power of the former slave states in the House of Representatives. Under the Three-fifths Clause of the original Constitution (Article I, Section 2, Clause 3), five slaves had counted as three persons; now they would be counted as five persons, though none of the Southern states would have permitted them to vote….” (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, pp. 404-405.)