Did the three-fifths compromise affect Massachusetts, and how?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

First, it is important to understand the purpose and controversy behind the three-fifths compromise. The three-fifths compromise was drafted during the Constitutional Convention in 1787 due to a disagreement between slave-holding and anti-slavery states. Each state was given one representative in the Senate, but representation in the House of Representatives was based on the population of each state. The primary disagreement occurred when Southern, slave-holding states believed that their slaves should count as part of the population, which would increase their representation in government, although it would increase their taxes as well. The Northern, anti-slavery states, however, argued that a state's population should be based on the free population and that counting the enslaved population meant that Southern states would have more power in the government based on a group of people (slaves) who had no rights and were considered property. As a compromise—hence the term “three-fifths compromise"—the two sides agreed that, for every five slaves, a state would factor three more men into its population, which would count toward representation in the government.

Since Massachusetts was a free state, it initially opposed counting slaves as part of the population at all, since they were considered property. They did, however, vote the compromise into the Constitution in order to move the process forward. In terms of the effect of the compromise after it was adopted, there does not appear to be any significant evidence indicating that Massachusetts was particularly affected.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on