Political Compromise and the Framing of the Constitution


When looking at the American History, there have been many instances where there have been some compromises in the formation and shaping of the constitution. Therefore, this paper seeks to analyze three of the numerous cases of constitutional compromises which include; the Three-Fifths Formula, the Great, and the Slave Trade Compromises.

The Three-Fifths Formula Compromise

There was a conflict between the large and the small states which were caused by the rejection of the small states to surrender to the federal government for them to be ruled by the larger states. The compromise was initiated to come up with an agreement that would see three out of five slaves considered for both the taxation and representation. There was a proposal that would provide for appointments of each state’s number of seats that were in the House of Representatives that turned to be a problem in 1787 when the constitution was drafted. The compromise of the three-fifths was a proposal of James Wilson and Roger Sherman (Ohline, pg. 565) However, the roots of the compromise dates back to the times of the Continental Congress that took place in 1783. The compromise was in reaction to the apportionment of taxes that were related to the values of the lands.

Before the introduction of the compromise, the taxes were not complying with the numbers of the population but the area value of the land. Many states started to reduce the value of their lands for the term to get relief from paying taxes. Later on, the compromise of the three-fifths was written and formed part of the original constitution. The introduction of the compromise allowed most of the southern states to proceed with the slavery trade for an indefinite period until 1808.

There were also other compromises could also be considered that could see one executive elected by an electoral college that would run for a four-year term with possible reelection. However, this configuration was seen to lessen the chance that would facilitate the prioritizing of the larger states when it comes to the election of the president. Therefore, the compromise was adopted to ensure that there was equality regarding representation when it comes to electing the leaders and also payment of taxes to the government.

The Great Compromise

There is one difference that is significant between many states and it is how they appointed their representatives in the national congress. There was a variation where the small states wanted a Congress that comprised of equal numbers of the representatives from each state while large states were for the idea of having a system that would allow them to have a more significant number of representatives due to their larger numbers.

The differences saw the delegates from states like the Virginia and the New Jersey to hatch out the opposing plans (Strauss & Cass, pg. 1500). The hatching of the scheme threatened to sink the convention of the constitution. However, the intervening of the likes of Roger Sherman who a delegate from Connecticut introduced a proposal for the Connecticut Plan commonly known as the Great Compromise. The initiative for the introduction of the Great Compromise Plan led to the formation of two different houses in the Congress. There was a house of representatives that comprise of proportional representation as well as a Senate that had equal representation. Therefore, the Connecticut Compromise was an ideal compromise between the Virginia and New Jersey Plans together with the convention that was accepted on July 16.

The article of confederation where America used between 1781 and 1787 stated that each and every state be represented by just using one vote in the Congress (Strauss & Cass, pg. 1498). However, when there were discussions on how the Senate ought to be represented at the formation of the new constitution, the two plans had to be pushed forward. The plan of the state of the Virginia stated the provisions where the representations were to be done based on a number of the population in each state. However, the plan of the state of the New Jersey suggested that the representation is based on equal numbers for each state. Therefore, the Great Compromise resorted to using both the plans to resolve the possibility of a conflict and the Senate pursued the idea uniform representation while the House of Representatives would working on the basis on the size of the population.

The Slave Trade Compromise

When the issue of slavery had spread in a different way, some Northern abolitionists were for the idea of abolishing the whole idea (Jillson & Cecil, pg. 440). At the south, the economy was relying on the labor that was provided by the slaves in production in the agricultural sector. Therefore, they could not support the idea of the northern that suggested that the slavery is completely abolished and they considered such an idea as an unacceptable proposition.

Therefore, to the southerners, their primary concern was that they gave power to a national government that was in a position to ban the slavery trade. In a bid to resolve the conflict, the northerners and the southerners agreed on a Slave Trade Compromise that sought to stop the Congress from any attempt to ban the slave trade for 20 years. However, the northerners considered as a resolution towards the end of the deal in future while the southerners viewed the 20 years as a grace period for the continuation of the trade. Therefore, the compromise helped in resolving that could have arisen between the two groups.

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