Debate and Compromises over Representation and Slavery
Another contentious issue at the Constitutional Convention was whether or not enslaved people should be counted in a state's population for the purposes of representation and taxation. Many of the less populous states allowed slavery. Counting enslaved people would give them greater representation than they would otherwise have. Many of the more populous states did not allow slavery. A compromise, called the Three-Fifths Compromise, was reached. Adopting a formula used under the articles to calculate the financial responsibility of states, it provided that enslaved individuals would be reckoned as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of both representation and taxation.
The slavery issue prompted another debate—the question of the international slave trade. By the time of the Constitutional Convention, 10 states had banned the importation of slaves—only the two Carolinas and Georgia still allowed it. Delegates from those states were adamant about retaining the slave trade, however. In the end, the northern delegates who opposed slavery—only a minority of the Convention—accepted provisions that entrenched slavery for the sake of ensuring the support of southern delegates. The delegates also agreed to prohibit Congress from banning the slave trade before 1808 and also agreed that those who escaped from being enslaved by fleeing to a free state could be seized and returned to slavery.
Executive Branch and Electoral College Compromise
The method for choosing a president presented another challenge to the delegates. While some preferred that the president be selected by a vote in Congress, others felt the president should be chosen by popular vote. The compromise was the electoral college—the system by which the president and vice president of the United States are selected by electors from each state and the District of Columbia. Each state has the same number of electoral votes as it has representatives and senators in Congress, and the District of Columbia has three. (The Constitution originally did not give electoral votes to the District of Columbia; they were added by an amendment ratified in 1961.) A candidate had to secure a majority of the electoral votes to win the presidential election—today, that means 270 out of 538 electoral votes.