What were the issues involving slavery in the writing of the Constitution?

Expert Answers

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

There were several issues related to slavery when the Founders were drafting the Constitution. First, there was a debate over how to count slaves for the purposes of representation in Congress, for apportioning electors, and for taxation. As Southerners had more slaves than Northerners, they wanted to count slaves for representation but not for taxation. The deal that was worked out was called the Three-Fifths Compromise, and it stipulated that slaves were to be counted as three-fifths of a person. In addition, there was the question about whether slavery and the slave trade should even be permitted. The compromise that was worked out was that the importation of slaves would not be changed until 1808 (the year that the importation of slaves was ended in the United States). The Constitution did not eradicate slavery; it was not ended nationwide until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, in 1865.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There were two significant issues involving slavery in the writing of the Constitution. The first issue was how to count slaves for the purpose of determining the number of a state’s representatives in the House of Representatives. The North didn’t want the slaves to count at all while the South wanted the slaves to be fully counted. Since political power was at stake, each side wanted its view to prevail. A compromise, called the Three-Fifths Compromise, was reached. Every five slaves would count as three people for the purpose of determining a state’s population for the number of representatives the state would have in the House of Representatives.

Another issue that needed to be resolved was the issue about the slave trade. There was some question if slave trading should be ended. An agreement was reached that no action would be taken regarding the trading of slaves until at least 1808.

These two issues dealing with the topic of slavery were resolved during the writing of the Constitution.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial