counting humans in the US Constitution

Anton Sherwood (
Tue, 10 Mar 1998 19:31:07 -0700

Mark Grant wrote:

> .... Let's actually read the Constitution, shall we?
> "Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the
> several States which may be included within this Union, according to
> their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the
> whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a
> Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all
> other Persons."
> Now, where does that specifically mention slaves,

What else can we infer from a contrast between "free Persons" and "other

> or say that they're
> less than human? All it says is that the number of representatives and
> the apportioning of taxes will be calculated by taking the number of
> voters/tax-payers and a fraction of the number of non-voters. ...

Not exactly. Remember, not all free Persons were voters -- indeed there
are still at least two classes of free nonvoters: minors and resident
aliens. Even "illegal aliens" are counted (I believe this was decided
in a suit over the census of 1980).

A comparison with the Articles of Confederation is instructive.

"Art. VIII. All charges of war, and all other expences that shall be
incurred for the common defence or general welfare, and allowed by the
united states in congress assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common
treasury, which shall be supplied by the several states, in proportion
to the value of all land within each state, granted to or surveyed for
any Person, as such land and the buildings and improvements thereon
shall be estimated according to such mode as the united states in
congress assembled, shall from time to time direct and appoint. The
taxes for paying that proportion shall be laid and levied by the
authority and direction of the legislatures of the several states within
the time agreed upon by the united states in congress assembled."

Such a survey is obviously difficult and open to quarrels of
interpretation, not to mention corruption. So the Convention of 1787
adopted population as a proxy for wealth, on the theory that free people
will tend to migrate to where the wealth is. And *then* they made
representation in the Lower House proportional to taxation.

Thus electoral equality came in through the side door.

"How'd ya like to climb this high without no mountain?" --Porky Pine
Anton Sherwood   *\\*   +1 415 267 0685
!! visiting New Mexico, end of March !!