Monday, June 23, 2008

3/4s of a person vs. 1 person as 1 person, question underlying it...

Everyone knows how slaves were defined in the Constitution as being 3/4s of a person, most everyone knows that voting rights were restricted to men who had certain amounts of property, but there's something missing in this story. Why were slaves, who had no rights under the Constitution, who could be bought and sold like any other piece of property, worked to death, beaten, and finally often killed by their masters without any repercussions considered to be people at all? It wasn't because of any special thoughtfulness on the part of the slave masters. If you look at what the 3/4s of a person standard was about you see that it has to do with figuring out how many seats in the House of Representatives a given State is allotted.

Now slaves only counted for 3/4s of a person, and only people possessing certain amounts of property could both vote and serve in office. It figures that seats in the House of Representatives weren't apportioned based on how many eligible voters there were but but were decided based on how many people total there were. The people who voted and who were elected to office carried out their functions on 'behal'f of the rest of the population, as it were. Slaves were classified in with the great unwashed masses who though free didn't have voting rights and couldn't serve in office because of their poverty, and/or because they were women.

The system of representation as it was originally set up in the U.S. was one where the social betters, the wealthy and influential, served on behalf of the majority of the population, representing their interests, elected by a slightly broader swath of people who were given the right to vote based on having significant amounts of property and income, who in turn voted for representatives on behalf of the majority.

No comments: