Emory University's president has been blasted for "a shockingly horrible column" which appeared to praise the "three-fifths compromise" - the clause of America's constitution that counted black slaves as three-fifths of a person.
President James Wagner has already apologized and published an apology, but some are calling for him to step down.
One instance of constitutional compromise was the agreement to count three-fifths of the slave population for purposes of state representation in Congress. Southern delegates wanted to count the whole slave population, which would have given the South greater influence over national policy. Northern delegates argued that slaves should not be counted at all, because they had no vote. As the price for achieving the ultimate aim of the Constitution - 'to form a more perfect union' - the two sides compromised on this immediate issue of how to count slaves in the new nation. Pragmatic half-victories kept in view the higher aspiration of drawing the country more closely together.
Some might suggest that the constitutional compromise reached for the lowest common denominator - for the barest minimum value on which both sides could agree. I rather think something different happened. Both sides found a way to temper ideology and continue working toward the highest aspiration they both shared - the aspiration to form a more perfect union. They set their sights higher, not lower, in order to identify their common goal and keep moving toward it.
In his walkback, what Wagner claims he intended to suggest the constitution was a weaker document because of the compromise:
The point was not that this particular compromise was a good thing in itself. It was a repugnant compromise. Of course it is not good to count one human being as three fifths of another or, more egregiously, as not human at all, but property. Rather, the first point of the essay was that the Constitution had to be a deeply compromised document in order to be adopted at all. If something is compromised it is inherently weak, unstable.
Agreed it was probably a horrible example to utilize...but I believe he intended to show how back in the 19th century the Federal government was willing to find compromise on issues...while the modern Federal government is lockstep in partisanship and unwilling to work with one another for the betterment of the union and its citizens.
I've never heard of anyone debating the complexities of the constitution based on the premise of compromise. The constitution being argued on the basis that it supports limited government...YES...but the constitution being argued on the basis that it supports compromise????....that's a stretch. The constitution wasn't about compromise. It was about establishing laws that would govern a land free from british rule. The founding fathers did not want any elements of british rule within the boundaries of the U.S. Nor did they want the same detestable british laws and ways seeping out in the new laws of the now free land. If anything,the constitution is an anti-british establishment document. The constitution is a fascinating piece of legal writing but i have a hard time associating it with the concept of compromise.
@cnw95 Northern delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention and those opposed to slavery wished to count only free people of each state for the purpose of representation in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College. Southerners wanted to count slaves just as any other person. By counting slaves, who didn't have a right to vote, slave states would have had greater representation in the House and the Electoral College. If slaveholding states could not have counted slaves, the Constitution would not have been ratified and there would not be a union. The compromise was for slaves to be counted as three-fifths of a person in deciding representation in the House and Electoral College. The compromise reduced the power of slave states relative to the South's original proposal but increased it over the North's original proposal.
Abolitionist Frederick Douglass understood the compromise, saying that the three-fifths clause was "a downright disability laid upon the slaveholding states" that deprived them of "two-fifths of their natural basis of representation."
Patrick Henry acknowledged reality, saying, "As much as I deplore slavery, I see that prudence forbids its abolition." With the union created, Congress at least had the power to abolish slave trade in 1808. James Wilson believed the anti-slave-trade clause laid "the foundation for banishing slavery out of this country."
Founders like Washington- Adams-Hefferson-Jay-Franklin -Hamilton ALL spoke out against slavery.
George Washington said, "There is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it."
Benjamin Franklin: "Slavery is ... an atrocious debasement of human nature." Franklin, after visiting a black school, also said, "I ... have conceived a higher opinion of the natural capacities of the black race than I had ever before entertained."
Here's my hypothesis about people who use slavery to trash the founders: They have contempt for our constitutional guarantees of liberty. Slavery is merely a convenient moral posturing tool as they try to reduce respect for our Constitution.
@drpeeper You said a lot in your comments so i'll take each part separately. I agree that without accepting slavery,the would be no constitutional ratification. But there's a wrinkle with this concept. Slaves were not considered citizens. Illegals if you will. Certainly the behavior of this time would surely support the claim that slaves were not considered citizens. Roger taney,in his infamous dred scott opinion, stated that scott had no right to sue because he was not a citizen. If the founding fathers held this belief, shouldn't it have been illegal to use illegal immigrants for the express purpose of increasing a states population to gain an advantage in the electoral college and house of representatives???
Would you tell a surviving WW2 vet that WW2 is history. It happened. Get over it already. What about a Vietnam vet..the Vietnam war is history. It happened. Get over it already. How about a Sept 11,2001 survivor...Sept 11 2001 is history. It happened. Get over it already. Maybe tell this same line to the family members of the benghazi attack. It is history. It happened. Get over it already.
@cnw95 Can you find a surviving Slave that we shouldn't say these things to? When you do, perhaps Fitz would consider apologizing. Till then, it IS history. No one currently alive dealt with it. So any person talking about it, is doing just that. Talking about it.
@Fishbone345 - Well put. Everything is history, once the survivors have shuffled off this mortal coil. While they live, comments can be considered insulting or their situation may have been trivialized. Once they have all died, the history becomes a learning experience to be discussed.
@AntiBullshit Exactly. If there is any race of people the Government should be apologizing to, its the remaining survivor Japanese Americans that were put in camps. At least they are still alive to apologize to.
I think that the biggest hurdle when framing the constitution was how to give the appearance that it would equally serve all the people when in reality the framers wanted to insure the power broakers retained their standings in the new world.
It was not about counting BLACKS as 3/5 of a person but counting SLAVES as 3/5 of a person. Free blacks were counted like everyone else. The historical alternative was not to count them at all. Would that have been better?
Considering this was the 18th century, a country could be (or could not be) formed all on what the north/south wanted, a compromised was reached. It may not have been perfect, but that is the definition of compromise. His wording seemed to be an acceptable explanation of the thoughts of the founding fathers. I'm sure the Constitution is filled with other compromises as not all had the same ideas/feelings as to how this country was founded. It's a crime and a shame that Congress/Senate/Executive Branch can't stop all their childish games and learn that word......compromise.
@Neo_NtheMatrix No offense Neo....I am a "leader" in my job. If I had a "crew" like what Obama has I would increase the unemployment ranks. He can't do that. My "crew" knows what ever I ask of them, I can/will do myself.......
@stepped_in_it - Our government is not a dictatorship so obama shouldn't be able to fire Congress. However, if obama's ideas were reasonable he'd be able to persuade enough congressmen and senators to support his ideas. The last budget obama submitted got 0 votes in both the House and the Senate. That means his budget was so nuts not even members of his own party could support it. Think about it, leadership starts at the top.
This is one of those times that the liberals are being idiots. The man may have not chosen the most sterling example of compromise in our Constitution but compromise it was. I see no reason for outrage here. I do see reason for people getting a frigging grip.
It never fails to amaze me of just what kinds of people rise to the top in this country. If he is racist---Then how does a man like that get to be a president of a major university? And if it was just a "poor" choice of words...Then, again...How does a person with such a stark lack of eloquence get to be in that kind of position? And if it was just a "merely" misunderstood, but harmless statement--Then why would someone so out of touch-be elevated to such a post in the first place...
Don't blame it on those "liberals"...No, not this time....put the blame where it out to be..with someone (who for one of those limitations) should not be in the position he is in, in the first place...
This really was a bad example of Constitutional compromise....by counting slaves as 3/5ths(or even a whole) in regards to representation, but not giving them the right to vote or harshly restricting that right amounted to giving undue clout to those in the south that would continue to discriminate for almost another 100 years.....thus the walk-back.
Discretion is the greater part of valor. I understand his point about the need for compromise in order to hold the original thirteen colonies together. However, many in today's society have a rudimentary understanding of history and judge earlier periods by the standards,or lack thereof, that are commonly accepted today. Examples such as the 3/5 compromise would be more appropriate in the context of a scholarly paper which would not be intended for general consumption. I've found that there are many who respond to key words or phrases that invoke an immediate positive or negative response without looking at the context or broader purpose of using these words. Political correctness has given us countless euphemisms for words with unpleasant connotations. He should have used them. His detractors probably don't understand his point anyway. He needs to reconnect with the world outside Academia.
In 1851 [Frederick] Douglass broke from Garrison's position that the U.S. Constitution was a pro-slavery document, and that the free states should peacefully secede from the union. In a letter to Smith he reported that he was “sick and tired of arguing on the slaveholder's side…”(Douglass  1999). Douglass sided with Gerrit Smith and the Liberty party's position that the United States' founding documents were anti-slavery.(Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy--as in Stanford University)
So here we have one, if not the most prominent men in black American history (and in American history in general) defending the U.S. Constitution and do so by saying it is anti-slavery, not pro-slavery. I completely understand Mr. Waner's position regarding the three-fifths clause because he was merely citing American history. I have not seen anything indicating he is a racists. It's really a shame that people can't even discuss or mention history without upsetting the many ignoramuses and politically correct types.
I get what he means but I believe that freeing the slaves should've outweighed forming a more perfect union. Anywhere where there is slavery it is wrong and should be stopped by any means necessary. The northern states should've said "screw the south", pooled together and destroyed the institution of slavery.
Americans would not have been interested in a civil war in 1787, because that's what would have happened if the north said to the south, "We are abolishing slavery and if you don't agree, we will force you to abolish it anyway." The Three-Fifths Compromise was the north telling the south that they can't have slaves without having rights as Americans, but then use them to for purposes of gaining political power. The south was already threatening to walk out of the convention over slavery, so there were compromises for the sake of the union and the constitution. In fact, there was already thousands of abolitionists who wanted slavery ended at the constitutional convention but they were not organized as of yet. It wouldn't be until the 1830s that the abolitionists coalesced and began fighting slavery as a group.
He's a smart man, he probably wanted to humor himself to see how quickly the poo would start flying. PC is a joke. You have no right to say how you feel anymore without any recourse. Sorry lefties, but you people need to quit being the thought police.