Beck defends clause counting blacks as three-fifths of a person

By Sahil Kapur
Wednesday, December 16, 2009 9:17 EDT
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WASHINGTON — Glenn Beck offered listeners a rather unique version of U.S. Constitutional history on his radio show Tuesday.

In response to a question from an African-American caller, Beck defended the original “Three-Fifth Clause” in the Constitution, which deemed African-Americans to be “three-fifths of all other persons.”

It was a compromise reached between the North and South in the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, and served in many ways as the justification for slavery while it lasted.

“I noticed you reference the founding fathers a lot,” said the caller. “And to me it’s kind of offensive because most of those guys were slave-owners. The Constitution that they wrote up — they didn’t even recognize my people as even human.”

“Where’d you learn that, Josh?” Beck soon responded, after asking him to explain his question. The caller said he “learned that in school.”

“Well, you didn’t, really,” Beck retorted, launching into his curious defense of the Constitutional clause the United States later abolished and deemed unequivocally immoral.

“That is the common misconception,” Beck said, recommending that the caller learn the truth by reading “a really good history book not written by progressives.”

“Do you know who wanted slaves to be counted as a full person?” he asked. “Slave owners.”

Josh argued with that assertion, but Beck wouldn’t have any of it.

“The reason why they wanted that is because of the balance of power,” Beck explained. “The South could control the numbers in Congress. Their representation would go through the roof.”

“That’s why,” he continued “in the Constitution, African-Americans were deemed three-fifths people, because the Founders wanted to end slavery and they knew if the South could count slaves as full individuals you would never get the control to be able to abolish it.”

Beck’s interpretation of the motives of the Founding Fathers for writing the three-fifths clause is highly curious, as it did ultimately serve as a key Constitutional justification for establishing African-Americans an unequal and thus holding them as slaves.

His assertion that Founding Fathers cleverly designed the clause to set the stage for the abolition of slavery is also a dubious version of history.

This is not the first time that Beck has made controversial comments about the Constitutionality and justifications for slavery.

The audio was captured by Think Progress:

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