Knoxville lawmaker’s comments on Three-Fifths Compromise under scrutiny

News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — People throughout the country are talking about what a state lawmaker from Knoxville said on the floor of the Tennessee House on Tuesday.

State Representative Justin Lafferty was not the sponsor of the bill up for discussion, but his name is in national headlines. What raised eyebrows is what he said about the Three-Fifths Compromise.

“The Three-Fifths Compromise was a direct effort to ensure that Southern states never got the population necessary to continue the practice of slavery everywhere else in the country,” Lafferty said on the House floor.

The Three-Fifths Compromise was laid out in 1787 when questions came up about how to count enslaved people in the Census, which would determine a state’s representation in Congress.

“By limiting the number of population in the count, they specifically limited the number of representatives that would be available in the slave-holding states and they did it for the purpose of ending slavery,” Lafferty said.

“He went way too far by arguing that it was designed to limit or even to end slavery, that I think is just not true at all,” Dr. Aaron Astor, associate professor of history at Maryville College, said.

Astor explained the compromise at the center of the debate.

“Enslaved people would count not as one person, not as zero people, but as 3/5 of a person for purposes of determining how many people are going to be in the legislature. And this would give an artificial advantage to states that had high slave populations,” Astor said. “It does I think rightly signify how embedded slavery was in American law, in American constitutional law from 1787 right up to the Constitution.”

Lafferty returned our call Wednesday evening. He said, “I tried to tell the truth and I’ve been drug through the mud for it.”

The discussion came up as Tennessee lawmakers debated a bill that would limit what school districts teach when it comes to race.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

WATE 6 Storm Weather School

WATE 6 On Your Side Twitter