I recently agreed to review a few of Vinny’s posts wherein he believes he has victoriously pointed out blatant falsehoods or mistakes of local radio hostess Sandy Rios. She is also president of Culture Campaign, a Fox news contributor, and a sometime columnist at Townhall.com. The thread in question concerned the US Constitution, Article 1 Section 2, and whether it states that blacks are three-fifths of a person.
Now before I go on, it is on purpose that I have chosen not to reprint the section. It is a good idea for anyone to go and look it up, and better yet, review on occasion our founding documents.
So anyhoo, the complaint was that Rios stated to a caller that the Constitution didn’t say that, and that it was in a later court decision. Well, I didn’t review the decisions in question and will hereby concede that point to Vinny, that though I feel for the purpose of the discussion Rios was in with the caller, her blunder is a minor point. (Vinny disagrees.)
But as to the Constitution piece, I have to say that I don’t believe it does condemn blacks to only 3/5 of a person. Rather, I believe, based on reviewing Federalist 54, that it states they are at least 3/5 of a person. The distinction is important.
At the time of the crafting of the Constitution, the slave owning states (SOS) had a habit of flipping on blacks being either people or property. If it served them to do so, blacks were people. If it served them to do so, they were property. The section in question had to do with apportioning representatives to the states. The SOS decided that they would get more representation if they were to consider blacks as persons equal to anyone else. The non-SOS said, “Whoa, dudes!” (ala Spicoli) “Which is it? Are they people or property?” As Alexander Hamilton put it, to some extent they were both. They were often treated legally as the law treats everyone else, but they were at the same time, owned as property was. For the most part it was totally based on the whim of the slave owner.
But Hamilton argues that they could not be totally on par with free men because they were not free. That’s not to say that Hamilton thought they weren’t people, but that the law of the states in question treated them as property at least a portion of the time. So the non-SOS insisted that the SOS couldn’t have it both ways. The result, as I see it, is that it was decided that blacks were at least 3/5 of a person if not entirely so, and it was then written in the Constitution as such. This guaranteed that they could not be treated as less. Not much consolation if you’re a black person, but a sight better than being akin to a chair, and a whole lot better than being whatever the slave owner says you are based on his whim at the moment. A slim distinction to be sure, but what if you were a slave?