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3 - The Tyranny of the Northern Majority

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 June 2019

Michael F. Conlin
Affiliation:
Eastern Washington University
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Summary

Chapter 3 looks at how the Southern minority used the three-fifths clause, the Electoral College, and parity in the Senate to protect itself from “tyranny” of the Northern majority. Even with the three-fifths clause, the South could not overcome the North’s increasing population advantage. Nonetheless, the three-fifths clause’s “slave bonus” did limit the South’s losses in the House. While the South’s determination to have the number of slave states equal the number of free states ensured that the North would not have a majority. Both parity in the Senate and the three-fifths clause inflated the South’s representation in the Electoral College. Of these two proslavery constitutional provisions, parity in the Senate provided greater protection to the South. Northerners understood only too well the political benefits the three-fifths clause and parity in the Senate conferred upon the South. Antislavery advocates bristled at this, while conservatives believed it was the result of the Founders’ grand plan. Both Northerners and Southerners realized that the three-fifths clause and parity in the Senate added to the difficulty of securing congressional approval of an antislavery amendment. In 1850, the South lost parity in the Senate, never to regain it.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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