Tennessee Republican defends counting slaves as 3/5ths of a person in floor speech
The Recount

In the Tennessee House of Representatives Tuesday, Knoxville Republican Rep. Justin Lafferty defended the three-fifths compromise — the constitutional provision counting enslaved persons as 3/5ths of a person — and claimed that the purpose of the provision was to bring about the end of slavery down the line.

"The three-fifths compromise was a direct effort to ensure that Southern states never got the population necessary to continue the practice of slavery everywhere else in the country," said Lafferty. "What does that mean? Appropriation based on population. We've got nine state representatives. By limiting the number of population in the count, they specifically limited the number of representatives that would be available in the slave-owning states, and they did it for the purpose of ending slavery."

The Southern states did indeed want enslaved persons counted fully to pad their numbers. The compromise was agreed to by Northern states to get slave-holding states to agree to support the Constitution.

The remarks come soon after a state representative in Louisiana triggered controversy by suggesting schools should teach the "good" parts of slavery along with the bad — something he quickly tried to backpedal on, but that the president of the Women's Republican Club of New Orleans defended on the basis that "slaves loved their masters."

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