College of Arts and Sciences


Master of Arts in History - Thesis (MA)


Carey M. Roberts


Slavery, Three-fifths Clause, Wilson, Representation, Citizenship, Taxation


History | Legal | Political History | Public History | Social History | United States History


The Three-fifths clause of the 1787 U.S. Constitution is noted for having a role in perpetuating racial injustices of America’s early slave culture, solidifying the document as pro-slavery in design and practice. This thesis, however, examines the ubiquitous application of the three-fifths ratio as used in ancient societies, medieval governments, and colonial America. Being associated with proportions of scale, this understanding of the three-fifths formula is essential in supporting the intent of the Constitutional framers to create a proportional based system of government that encompassed citizenship, representation, and taxation as related to production theory. The empirical methodology used in this thesis builds on the theory of “legal borrowing” from earlier cultures and expands this theory to the early formation of the United States government and the economic system of the American slave institution. Therefore, the Three-fifths clause of the 1787 U.S. Constitution did not result from an interest to facilitate or perpetuate American slavery; the ratio stems from earlier practices based on divisions of land in proportion to human scale and may adhere to the ancient theory known as the Golden Ratio.