The Confederation Congress Calls a Constitutional Convention, 21 February 1787

Although all Americans believed that the Articles of Confederation were defective, the procedure for amending the Articles that required the proposal by Congress and the unanimous approval of the state legislatures made it impossible to obtain amendments. Only through a special constitutional convention was a revision of the Articles achieved. The congressional resolution of 21 February 1787 calling for the states to appoint delegates to the convention served as the springboard for the new Constitution.

The Impact of the Three-fifths Clause on Representation in U.S. House of Representatives, 1793

One of the most difficult problems faced by the Constitutional Convention was how to apportion representation of the states in Congress. The Great Compromise settled the controversy between the large and the small states by providing that the House of Representatives would be apportioned based on population, while the states would be equally represented in the Senate. Debate persisted over how to count the slave population when apportioning representatives. Another compromise determined that three-fifths of the total slave population should be counted in apportioning both representatives and direct taxes. After the first U.S. Census in 1790, Congress re-apportioned the House of Representatives. Four Southern States received a total of eleven additional representatives because of the three-fifths clause.

John Jay: Abolitionist and Slave Owner

When fighting for their liberty from Great Britain, most Americans denounced slavery. Many slaves escaped to freedom during the war—some by serving in the army and navy, others by running away, and others by manumission. In wrestling with their consciences, slaveowners had to determine whether or not to free their slaves. Many slaveowners freed their slaves, but far more found ways to rationalize their continued ownership of human beings. John Jay, a staunch opponent of slavery, bought a slave in 1779. Was Jay a hypocrite?