Based on Document 8 below and the arguments put forth during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 AND the
wording of the document itself, was the United States Constitution a proslavery or an antislavery document?
Document 8—Slavery and the Constitution, James Madison, 1787
Regarding the Three-Fifths Clause
Monday, June 11, 1787—In Convention
[Decided (9 - 2) that representation in First Branch of the National Legislature
should be based on free population plus 3/5 of all other persons.]
Saturday, June 30, 1787—In Convention
...Mr. James MADISON [Virginia]... But he contended that the States were
divided into different interests not by their difference of size, but by other circumstances;
the most material of which resulted partly from climate, but principally from the effects of
their having or not having slaves. These two causes concurred in forming the great
division of interests in the United States. It did not lie between the large & small States: It
lay between the Northern & Southern....
Wednesday, July 11, 1787—In Convention
...Mr. Pierce BUTLER & General Charles PINKNEY [South Carolina] insisted
that blacks be included in the rule of Representation, equally with the Whites: and for that
purpose moved that the words "three fifths" be struck out....
Mr. Pierce BUTLER insisted that the labor of a slave in South Carolina. was as
productive & valuable as that of a freeman in Massachusetts, that as wealth was the great
means of defense and utility to the Nation they were equally valuable to it with freemen;
and that consequently an equal representation ought to be allowed for them in a
Government which was instituted principally for the protection of property, and was itself
to be supported by property.
Colonel George MASON [Virginia], could not agree to the motion, notwithstand it
was favorable to Virginia because he thought it unjust. It was certain that the slaves were
valuable, as they raised the value of land, increased the exports & imports, and of course
the revenue, would supply the means of feeding & supporting an army, and might in cases
of emergency become themselves soldiers. As in these important respects they were useful
to the community at large, they ought not to be excluded from the estimate of
Representation. He could not however regard them as equal to freemen and could not vote
for them as such....
Mr. James WILSON [Pennsylvania] did not well see on what principle the
admission of blacks in the proportion of three fifths could be explained. Are they admitted
as Citizens? then why are they not admitted on an equality with White Citizens? Are they
admitted as property? Then why is not other property admitted into the computation?
These were difficulties however which he thought must be overruled by the necessity of
Thursday, July 12, 1787—In Convention
...On the question on the whole proposition; as proportioning representation to
direct taxation & both to the white & 3/5 of black inhabitants, & requiring a Census within
six years-& within every ten years afterwards....
[Approved (6-2-2) a motion to proportion direct taxes, including 3/5, to representation]
Wednesday, August 8, 1787—In Convention
...Mr. Gouverneur MORRIS [PA]... He never would concur in upholding
domestic slavery. It was a nefarious institution. It was the curse of heaven on the States
where it prevailed.... Upon what principle is it that the slaves shall be computed in the
representation? Are they men? Then make them Citizens and let them vote. Are they
property? Why then is no other property included? ... The admission of slaves into the
Representation when fairly explained comes to this: that the inhabitant of Georgia and
South Carolina who goes to the Coast of Africa, and in defiance of the most sacred laws of
humanity tears away his fellow creatures from their dearest connections & damns them to
the most cruel bondages, shall have more votes in a Government instituted for protection
of the rights of mankind, than the Citizen of Pennsylvania or New Jersey who views with
a laudable horror, so nefarious a practice....
The Southern States are not to be restrained from importing fresh supplies of
wretched Africans, at once to increase the danger of attack, and the difficulty of defense;
nay they are to be encouraged to it by an assurance of having their votes in the Natl. Govt.
increased in proportion....
Wednesday, September 12, 1787—In Convention (Committee of Style Report)
...[Article 1, Section 2] 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 servitude for a term of years, and excluding Indians not
taxed, three-fifths of all other persons....
Thursday, September 13, 1787—In Convention
...Art. 1. Sect. 2. On motion of Mr. Edmund RANDOLPH [Virginia] the word
"servitude" was struck out, and "service" unanimously inserted, the former being thought
to express the condition of slaves, & the latter the obligations of free persons....