Learn American History through 50 pop songs

Three-Fifths of a Man?

Synopsis

The Three-Fifths Compromise was a compromise between Southern and Northern states reached during the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 in which three-fifths of the population of slaves would be counted for establishing taxes and apportioning Congressmen to the House of Representatives.

Lyrics

© Copyright 2010 by Mr. and Mrs. Gillenwater

Am I just 3/5 of a man?
Broken back and calloused hands
Giving my very life to the land
Am I just 3/5 of a man?

It was decided in Philadelphia one day
That every state in the union should have a fair say
But just what’s fair when all states vary in size
This is what led to the 3/5 Compromise

Because they wanted to put in the new Constitution
That the number of statesmen would be based upon population
So the states in the South said, “Our slaves should be counted”
But the Northern states did not like how this sounded

Am I just 3/5 of a man?
Broken back and calloused hands
Giving my very life to the land
Am I just 3/5 of a man?

Up in the North they had very few slaves, so the bulk of the power
Would go to southern states
“Slaves cannot vote,” they claimed in the North,
“So they cannot be counted in a census, of course

“Just hold on,” the southern states cried, “Every person should count
The whole country wide”
Because without slaves in on the count,
They’d be much smaller than the Northern amount

Am I just 3/5 of a man?
Broken back and calloused hands
Giving my very life to the land
Am I just 3/5 of a man?

So they came up with a plan both sides could take,
Whether they were a Northern or Southern state

Three slaves would be counted out of every five,
And that is what’s called the 3/5 Compromise

Am I just 3/5 of a man?
Broken back and calloused hands
Giving my very life to the land
Am I just 3/5 of a man?

Vocabulary

3/5 Compromise— Slaves were considered 3/5 of a person when determining the state population.

Tiered Questions

Tier 1 Questions

Who were the two sides involved in the 3/5 Compromise?

Explain each side’s position on slaves being counted in a census.

Tier 2 Questions

Compare and contrast the two positions involved in the 3/5 Compromise.

Tier 3 Questions

Compare and contrast the two positions involved in the 3/5 Compromise.

Assess why compromising is necessary when different sides of an issue have different wants and needs.

Consider the African Americans who lived in the country during this time, both free and slaves, how do you think they felt about this constitutional amendment?

Test Prep Questions

“New Congress to Have Two Houses”
“Slaves to Count as Three-Fifths of a Person”
“President to be Chosen by Electoral Vote”

1) Which conclusion about the Constitutional Convention is best supported by these headlines?

  • (1) The framers of the Constitution were able to compromise on important issues.
  • (2) States that were small in area would lose
  • (3) States with large populations controlled the outcome of the convention.
  • (4) The president and Congress would have equal power under the new constitution.

2) Delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 agreed to the Three-Fifths Compromise as a solution to the problem of how to determine the

  • (1) number of representatives in the House from each state
  • (2) qualifications of Supreme Court justices
  • (3) tariff rates on exports
  • (4) length of the president’s term