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The Articles of Confederation & Slavery

There is no mention of slavery in the articles of Confederation, the nation's first constitution (Constitutional). Each state picked its own representative for Congress, so population was not an issue. There was no slavery abolition movement at the time. The national government had little power, and so representatives from 12 states met in Philadelphia to frame the Constitution (Ratification). It was decided that the House of Representatives would have membership based on population, and the Senate would have two members from each state. Under this compromise, the issue of slavery split along North/South lines. They had to decide whether or not slaves should be counted as part of the population. Under the proposed Constitution, population would determine three things:

1) how many members each state would have in the House of

2) how many electoral votes each state would have in presidential elections

3) the amount each state would pay in direct taxes to the federal government.

Only the Southern states had large numbers of slaves on whom they depended for their financial well-being. (Constitutional; Ratification). If they were counted in the population figure, this would give the Southern states tremendous political power over the Northern states, but it would also mean they would pay higher taxes. The Southern states were willing to pay this price because slaves were an essential part of their economy, and they argued in favor of counting slaves as part of the population. The Northern states objected, and a compromise was reached in which each slave counted as three-fifths of a person. The tax revenue for the federal government no doubt figured into the Northern states' acquiescence. This compromise is in the Constitution in the Enumeration Clause (Constitutional).

Following this compromise, the delegates had to decide what was to be done about the slave trade (Ratification). Ten states


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The Articles of Confederation & Slavery. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:00, December 02, 2020, from