Constitutional Compromises: Crash Course Government and Politics #5

Constitutional Compromises: Crash Course Government and Politics #5

Hi, I’m Craig, and this is Crash Course Government
and Politics, and today we’re going to talk about the single most important document in
America, one that we’ll be talking about a lot over next few months. No, I’m not talking
about O Magazine – it’s the United States Constitution, and what we’re really gonna focus on is how it got made
and how it became the foundation of our government. [Theme Music] Those of you who watched the U.S. History
series with John Green probably remember that the government set up by the Constitution
is actually the second attempt at an American government. Also, as pointed out in the comments,
you probably noticed that I am not John Green. The first American government, which was in
place during the Revolutionary War and for almost 10 years afterwards, was the Articles
of Confederation. Like many first attempts, the Articles government had some good ideas
and it meant well, but it was poorly executed. Give it a break, it never did this before! So when delegates gathered in Philadelphia
in 1787 to revise the Articles, they ended up scrapping the whole thing and creating
a new Constitution. It’s probably not because they didn’t know what revise meant. So, the
delegates from the various states each had their own agendas at the Constitutional Convention,
and that made it difficult for them to agree on what the new government should look like.
In order to hammer out a Constitution, they had to do something you don’t see very much
of in government these days – compromise. Oh, let’s compromise, I’m sorry, eagle, I
didn’t mean… Before we get into what those compromises
were, it’s kinda necessary to look at what was so bad about the Articles government in
the first place. The main thing was it really couldn’t govern. There was no executive branch
or president and no judiciary to settle disputes. It was basically just a congress where each
state was equally represented and they all pretty much had veto power and could sink
legislation they didn’t like. All decisions were collective, which meant that very few
decisions were actually made, because it’s really hard to get 13 people to agree on something
that will be in the interest of all 13. I can barely agree with Stan on anything. Right,
Stan? He said wrong. Most important, the Articles government had
no power to levy taxes, which meant that if it needed any money to do, well, anything,
it had to ask for the money from the states, which were free to say, “No, I don’t think we’ll be
giving you any money today. …or tomorrow. Or ever.” As I remember from my college years – and
I don’t remember much – living without money is awful. Without money, it’s pretty much
impossible for a government to do anything, except buy ramen noodles. The Articles government
was able to accomplish one notable thing, though. One of the big issues it had to deal
with was Americans moving out West, which in the 1770’s and 80’s meant to places like
Ohio and Indiana that weren’t states yet. The government managed to set up rules for
these settlements in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which set up a system for eventual
statehood. But most importantly, it forbade slavery in these territories, which, as students
of American history know, was kind of a big deal. You wouldn’t know that, you’re not a student
of American history. You’re a symbol of America, bird! I’m not gonna punch you. Other than that, though, the Articles government
was a flop. And the very thing that made it so ineffective threatened to screw up any
attempts at new government, too. This was the issue of competing interests between different
states, more specifically the states with large populations and the smaller states.
Basically, a state with a large population like, say, Virginia, had different needs than
a state with a small population, like Delaware. More importantly, large states might stand
to benefit more from any government spending. When the delegates decided to make a new congress,
these large population states wanted the number of representatives to that congress to be
proportional to the states’ populations, which would mean that the larger states would have
more representatives than the smaller ones. This idea, a large congress made up of many
delegates, was called The Virginia Plan. Because it was put forward by the delegates from Wisconsin.
Just kidding…Virginia. The delegates from small New Jersey put forward a
plan that would have a congress where each state would send an equal number of representatives. In other words, something
that looked a lot like the Articles government. This New Jersey Plan would prevent smaller states
from being dominated by the larger states, and also ensure that the large states wouldn’t be able to vote
themselves a bigger share of government spending. These two opposing interests threatened to
scuttle the whole new government thing until Roger Sherman from Connecticut proposed The
Great Compromise, that gave us the bicameral legislature that we talked about in episode two,
and we’ve all come to know and love, sometimes. So The Great Compromise meant that we would
have a two-house legislature, but this wasn’t the only issue related to how the seats in
Congress would be apportioned. The membership in the House would be based on the state’s
population, but at the time there was an issue about how to count that population. The issue was slavery. More specifically,
how to count slaves as part of a state’s population. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. The states with large slave populations, like
South Carolina and Virginia, had a pretty big interest in counting these slaves for
the purposes of determining representation. And the states with few slaves didn’t want
them counted at all. Because this would mean that the white non-slave people in those states
with lots of slaves would effectively be better represented than the white non-slave people
in the states with few slaves. The delegates at the Constitutional Convention
solved this problem with another compromise that was decidedly less great. Article 1 Section
2 of the Constitution includes the following clause: “Representatives and direct taxes
shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according
to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of
free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians
not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons.” If you’re looking for the word “slave,” you
won’t find it. They’re the ones described by the phrase, “three-fifths of all other persons.”
This is the notorious Three-Fifths Compromise. What it means is that in order to determine
how many representatives a state has, you count the number of free people in the state,
including indentured servants, and add to that number three-fifths of the number of
non-free persons, otherwise known as slaves. So in terms of counting, each slave was
worth three-fifths of each free person. Thanks, Thought Bubble. Anyway, this meant that states with large
populations of slaves would be disproportionately represented in Congress, but not quite so
badly that most northern states with small numbers of slaves wouldn’t vote for the Constitution. What this also did was enshrine the idea that
slaves, who were mostly black, were worth less than free people, who were mostly white.
And it embedded slavery into the Constitution. So before this constitution of compromise
could go into effect, it had to be ratified by at least 9 of the 13 states. So each state
had a special convention where delegates could vote on whether or not to adopt the new constitution.
These conventions were more open to the public than the Constitutional Convention itself,
and the ratification process is the reason why some people say the Constitution is based
on the will of the people. But not everybody wanted the Constitution,
and they needed convincing. This is where things get a little confusing. Did you want
the Constitution? Did ya? In 1787, public opinion about the Constitution
was pretty evenly divided. Those who wanted the Constitution were called Federalists,
largely because of the Federalist Papers, a series of articles written by Alexander
Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. They wrote the Federalist Papers to convince
voters in New York to ratify the Constitution. And since New York did eventually ratify the
document, I guess they worked. But we should listen to both sides of the argument…in
the Clone Zone. So joining us in the Clone Zone today will
be Federalist Clone and Anti-Federalist Clone. Let’s hear from Federalist Clone first. Feddy?
Can I call you Feddy? No. The Federalists were the incredibly intelligent
Americans who thought that a strong central government would benefit the country as a
whole. They tended to come from cities, and often they represented commercial classes,
especially wealthy people, who had lent money to the government during the Revolution. They liked the new Constitution because they
felt that a strong national government would pay its debts, and this was good for business.
They also tended to want stronger ties with England, again because England was a good
trading partner. Given the raging success of the Articles government, it’s pretty clear
that the Federalists were right. Okay, now let’s hear from Anti-Federalist
Clone. How do you respond, Anti? I’m not your aunt! Sure, Federalists were
right to believe in tyranny. Anti-Federalists were right to be skeptical of a large government
that would trample on our individual liberties. They didn’t want a big government that would
tax them to death, and possibly take away their slaves. In general, Anti-Federalists
felt that states would be the best protectors of people’s rights and liberties, because
being smaller, they would be more responsive to people’s needs. Okay? The Anti-Federalists published pamphlets and
articles, too. But we weren’t quite as organized, so we didn’t have a coherent set of Anti-Federalist
Papers to push on government students. Okay, okay, you seem really mad about this. I am. But you eventually lost the debate. I did. Huzzah! How come he got to shoot fireworks– –I didn’t know he was gonna– –I wanna shoot fireworks– Okay? I’m sorry, I’m sorry–next time. You
can have fireworks. So the Federalist position won out and the
Constitution was ratified. And that’s the government that Americans have been living
under ever since. Hooray! Because the Constitution was passed, we tend
to think that everyone loved it. But it wasn’t nearly as clear-cut as hindsight makes it
appear. Eventually, the Federalists had to offer another
compromise, promising a Bill of Rights in the first ten amendments. This isn’t called
one of the constitutional compromises because it happened outside of the Convention, but
it was yet another example of how different interests had to give a little in order to
get a Constitution passed. It’s very important to remember that compromise,
the idea of balancing interests and giving a little to get a lot, is embedded in the
Constitution. While today it seems like a political dirty word, compromise is the basis
of the American government itself. Thanks for watching. I’ll seeya next week.
Well, I’ll compromise. Seeya in a week and a half. Let’s face it; Stan’s probably not
going to get this done in time anyway. Crash Course Government and Politics is produced
in association with PBS Digital Studios. Support for Crash Course U.S. Government comes from
Voqal. Voqal supports non-profits that use technology and media to advance social equity.
Learn more about their mission and initiatives at Crash Course was made by all of these nice
people at the Chad and Stacy Emigholz Studio, in tropical Indianapolis. Thanks for watching.
I’m going to the beach.


  1. Arent the guys who wanted to Count the Slaves as a whole the same guys you had to fight to the death to end slavery, and would probably use their vote to further promote their racism? (their intentions werent noble)

  2. Don't bully the articles of confederation! I-it tried it's best…It was once a powerful and effective constitution, but nobody accepted it untill it gave up all it's power!

    ;-; Cries in the history nerd corner

  3. The three-fifths clause was actually completely different from the politics of the time because it acknowledged that slaves were in fact partly human. Most people at the time didn't see slaves as human at all. Instead, they were seen as property.

  4. ALEXANDER HAMILTON: AN AMERICAN MUSICAL: (gleefully) I was chosen for the constitutional convention – Alexander

  5. but technically neither the federalist or the antifederalist won right? I thought they both agreed for a national government just not on how much power that government should have and since we have state and national they both won in a way

  6. The 3/5ths compromise did not "enshrine the idea that slaves were worth less than free people." That is a complete misinterpretation of the Constitution. It would have been better for the slaves had they not been counted as people at all, because then states that wanted to END slavery would have had more power in the house.

  7. The three fifth rule was for representation only. It was not intended to identify the negro people as least human, but it was meant to give southern states less power in government.

  8. You obviously know the truth about the 3/5 compromise, and the Northern preference for 0 counting of slaves in elections: that it was meant to keep the slave-owning system from getting more power and dominating the Federal Government. But you prefer to state this obliquely, and then repeat the myth, used massively nowadays for whipping up racial resentment: that it was a way of demeaning blacks as less than full people. For shame.

  9. USA educational system stops short of explaining the difference between England and UK? … or maybe just Craig's education.

  10. You're wrong about The 3/5s Compromise. The Northern states largely wanted to abolish slavery which was a practice introduced by British rule which the founders were gathered in an attempt to unite against. In order to form a union of all of the states to be able to fight against England and win, the 3/5s Compromise was made. That compromise only represented how much a slave would count for a state's representation in the House of Representatives and helped to ensure that the largely abolitionist Northern states wouldn't be largely outnumbered in representation in the House by pro-slavery states so the Northern states would have a better chance of abolishing slavery as a whole in the future. It was a brilliant move by the Abolitionist Founding Fathers in their cause of freedom for all people. Any misrepresentation of those facts only further deceives people about the true virtue and honor of the Abolitionist Founders and gives those people a false perception of the founding of the US.

  11. I think this Craig guy is great, however for the clone zone, it was clear that the "Anti- Federalist" guy was actually trying to prove federalism when he should have been against it. I think the producers need to take a step back and actually try to consider what the other side thought.

  12. Funny how Federslists were big Government in late 1700's but from mid to late 1900's the unfederalists are big government. If you look at it from the point that Conservative party is federalist and the Liberal party is unfederalists or anti federalists. I think un federalists was the term used back in the day when this was taking place. Why the shift in governmental plans.

  13. The three fifths compromise is the reason we were able to eliminate slavery. If the south had been able to count them each their representatives would have outnumbered the abolitionist Americans. They would have used the increase in representatives to keep slavery alive. Sometimes the only way to move forward is to first step back and brace yourself. And it worked.

  14. There is a mistake about royal governors in the introduction blurb. Two of the colonies, Connecticut and Rhode Island were chartered companies which elected their governors. And Maryland and Pennsylvania were proprietary provinces where the proprietors Calvert and Penn appointed the acting governors or lieutenant-governor, as the proprietor was considered the actual governor. The royal colonies started as chartered companies or as proprietary provinces which the government confiscated.

  15. Honestly, I kinda like this guy better because John green kinda talks way too fast and plus when I use captions/subtitles and slow the speed I still can't find answers. So yeah I like this guy way better and also John green is kinda cringe and not really funny to me

    Sorry John Green😬😬😶😶😕

  16. you are wrong ; the final number of slave population was tabulated at 60% of the whole , actual number . Only the Slave states treated men like property and did not want to pay taxes on them YET had the chutzpah to try to count them for Congress.
    Incidentally , this is why Democrats welcome illegal immigration ; because it allows them more Representation in Congress. Not much has changed really…

  17. a little to simplistic at 5:15…Counting slaves as 3/5 was not actually the belief slaves were 3/5 of a human. That is misconstrued by educators today and a lazy interpretation of what it really was which was a political tactic to bring the union together (and the North keeping the balance of power intact) knowing there was no way to abolish slavery in that moment. I specifically rememebr my AP US history teaching saying slaves were believed to be 3/5 of a person and i always found it kind of strange since it was obvious the north was doing this in terms of representation and fearing the spread of slavery to other parts of the country.

  18. Some of those comments are so mean, poor guy just wants to help us learn in a fun way and he gets criticized. You go Craig!

  19. Did not expect my boy Weezy Waiter to be teaching me about the government but this has been the most pleasant surprise

  20. craig, my professor said the three-fifths compromise doesn't mean a slave is three-fifths of a person- he said they only counted three-fifths of the entire slave population in order to please the states that wanted more power in the House of Representatives (but not entirely)

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