E.W. Jackson (New York magazine)

Virginia's Republican nominee for lieutenant governor is either very confused about the constitutional clause that counted slaves as three-fifths of a person for representation and taxation purposes, or else very creative (read: wrong) in his interpretation of it.

Talking Points Memo is reporting on Wednesday on a statement that E.W. Jackson made, disagreeing with a pastor at a church President Obama attended who called the three-fifths clause as a historical marker of racism.

"Rev. [Charles Wallace] Smith must not have understood the three-fifths clause was an anti-slavery amendment. Its purpose was to limit the voting power of slave-holding states," Jackson said.

Not so. TPM explains:

This is a deeply misleading telling of American constitutional history.

The clause was demanded by Southern proponents of slavery as a way of enhancing their congressional representation. They wanted slaves to be counted as full persons but settled on three-fifths. People of African descent would have had no real rights either way. The inclusion of the clause greatly enhanced the South's political power and made it harder to abolish slavery. The clause was effectively eliminated after the Civil War by the Thirteenth Amendment.

"Some of the compromises we can look back and be proud of; some of those compromises we can’t be very proud of. The three-fifths compromise, by which slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person, is not something any of us would applaud them for today," said University of Pennsylvania historian Richard Beeman in a 2011 interview.


Read more at Talking Points Memo.