Don't Let Anyone Tell You the Electoral College Was Enacted to Protect Slavery

The claim that the Electoral College was enacted in order to protect the interests of slave-owners is blatantly false. I don't expect the average American to know this because most of us are taught the Electoral College by teachers and professors who don't understand it themselves, either willfully or ignorantly.

As an undergrad at Berkeley in the early eighties, I was one of those people at the mercy of my professors' worldview. I absorbed without question the poison that America was racist, imperialist, colonialist, bigoted, homophobic, sexist, patriarchal, and capitalist (read evil). The only reason Islamophobic wasn't on the list is because Islam wasn't on our radar then; 9/11 was still a decade away.

Yes, I was convinced we were a blight on humanity, the personification of evil. The Electoral College only proved it.

How my blood boiled to learn that a male slave counted only three-fifths the value of a white man! How embarrassed I was to be an American. How disgusted. How could I atone for such a grievous sin? (Although I would never in a million years have phrased it that way because the only thing worse than America was Christianity.)

What is, and should have been taught as, a reflection of our anti-slavery conscience festered instead as a large part of the chip on my shoulder toward America.

Had I not woken up to the ludicrousness of my mindset that America was the worst place on earth (which, I must say, was quite the journey), I might never have learned the real story behind the three-fifths compromise. Even minimal study of it disabuses one of its racist reputation, so I find it deeply disturbing that high profile academics continue to peddle the tripe.

Case in point, Professor Akhil Reed of Yale University. Described as a specialist in constitutional law, he "is among America’s five most-cited legal scholars under the age of 60." When asked why the Electoral College exists, he responded:

"In my view, it's slavery. In a direct election system, the South would have lost every time because a huge percentage of its population was slaves, and slaves couldn't vote. But an Electoral College allows states to count slaves, albeit at a discount (the three-fifths clause), and that's what gave the South the inside track in presidential elections."

I'm no attorney, but I'm pretty sure even a first-year law student could drive a truck through the hole in his theory. Reed presents the three-fifths compromise as a sleazy capitulation to enslaving other human beings without mentioning the third option that was available to the framers at the time.

Abolitionists at the table, with the intention of eliminating slavery legislatively, fought bitterly to exclude slaves completely from population numbers in order to weaken the south's legislative power. For the same reason, southern states fought bitterly to include slaves at the same value as white men, even though slaves could not vote. The northern states argued that if the southern states could count their 'property,' the northern states could count theirs, e.g., horses, chickens, etc.

This was before executive fiat by pen and by phone, so compromise was inevitable. The three-fifths compromise 'discounted' the value of slaves relative to white men, but it enhanced the power of slaves relative to white men in reducing by two-fifths the south's power to preserve slavery legislatively.

That would seem to be an important part of the context.

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