Goodreads Profile

All my book reviews and profile can be found here.

Friday, September 17, 2004

The Negro President by Garry Wills

The stranglehold on the presidency held by the southern states was, in large part, thanks to the slave population and the bizarre compromise ceded to the southern states as a compromise needed to ratify the Consitution that provided the south extra representation based on their slave population, each slave being counted as three-fifths of a white person.

The implications were substantial. The extra representation gave Jefferson the election in 1800 [see my review of Bernard Weisberger's excellent book, America Afire in issue 110] when the tied Electoral college was thrown into the House of Representatives for decision. The difference was eight votes, precisely the advantage gained the south from the three-fifths clause. That's why Jefferson was called the “Negro” president. In his book by the same title, Garry Wills discusses the enormous impact slavery had on the mindset of our early presidents, twelve of whom owned slaves at one time or another.

In fact, a major reason for locating the new capitol in Washington, D.C., was because slave owners (all the early presidents owned slaves) would have been forced to manumit them had they remained in Philadelphia, the original capitol and a hotbed of Quaker abolitionism, for more than six months.

The stranglehold on the presidency held by the southern states was, in large part, thanks to the slave population and the bizarre compromise ceded to the southern states as a compromise needed to ratify the Consitution that provided the south extra representation based on their slave population, each slave being counted as three-fifths of a white person.


Post a Comment