E.W. Jackson, Virginia GOP Candidate, Called Three-Fifths Clause ‘Anti-Slavery Amendment'

Bishop E.W. Jackson, the controversial Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in Virginia, once reportedly claimed that the so-called "three-fifths clause" was actually an anti-slavery amendment -- an opinion disputed by several American historians.

Ratified as part of the U.S. Constitution in 1788, the clause made slaves worth three-fifths of a "free individual" for the purpose of state representation in Congress.

Talking Points Memo's Sahil Kapur points out that Jackson called the clause "an anti-slavery amendment" in April 2011, when Jackson was running as a GOP candidate for Virginia’s open Senate seat. Jackson also said at the time that the clause's "purpose was to limit the voting power of slave-holding states."

Reporting on these statements back in 2011, Kapur wrote that Jackson had painted "a remarkably inaccurate interpretation of an important aspect of American history" and added that historians had debunked similar claims in the past.

Richard Beeman, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, said in 2011 that, as far as the Founding Fathers' compromises go, 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."

Similarly, Albany Law School professor Paul Finkelman wrote in a recent New York Times column that the "three-fifths compromise was one of a number of proslavery provisions" that effectively "guaranteed a continuation of slavery."

Though Jackson has claimed he has nothing "to rephrase or to apologize for," regarding his past statement, Emory University President James Wagner was quick to apologize after he made a similar statement about the three-fifths compromise. Wagner in February angered many in the academic community after praising the compromise as a good example of the benefits of political cooperation.

"As the price for achieving the ultimate aim of the Constitution -- 'to form a more perfect union' -- the two sides compromised on this immediate issue of how to count slaves in the new nation," Wagner wrote in the winter edition of Emory Magazine. "Pragmatic half-victories kept in view the higher aspiration of drawing the country more closely together."

A few days later, Wagner issued an apology to "those hurt or confused by my clumsiness and insensitivity."



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