Antebellum Over-Representation by Slaveholding States: The Math

IcarusPhoenix

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When discussing secession, it is frequently pointed out that the secession leaders weren't just starting an insurrection based on a "peculiar institution" that's existence wasn't really threatened, but that they were doing so in direct response to an election that they had lost, held under a system to which they had previously consented, and as members of a system of government in which their interests were overrepresented. Frequently, this last is something vociferously denied; many have said that the north had more members of congress, more money, and more power, or they'll make some bizarre modern argument about taxation, fiduciary distribution, or government intrusion that isn't based in reality. However, raw numbers can not be denied.

Well, not honestly or successfully, anyway.

Thanks to the 3/5ths clause of the Constitution (the first in a series of so-called compromises in which the slaveholding states got pretty much everything they wanted), 60% of slaves were counted for a state's representation in Congress, despite having no voice themselves in the government. For comparison, this would be like modern-day Texas demanding an addition eleven members in the US House of Representatives based on an apportionment equal to 60% of the state’s cattle.

The upshot of this is that, automatically, the average citizen of a slaveholding state was already overrepresented, even if they personally owned no slaves. The question, however, is by how much?

In the 1860 census, the population of the US was just over 31 million. The total population of non-slaveholding states was approximately 18.8 million. The total population of slaveholding states was just over 12.2 million. However, nearly 4 million of those were slaves, who had no citizenship, no vote, and no rights. The total represented population of the slaveholding states was, therefore, just short of 8.3 million, and the total free population of the US just over 27.2 million.

(Note: I'm obviously ignoring gender differences here; yes, women didn't have the right to vote in any state yet, but since the gender ratio is as-near-as-makes-no-difference to 1:1, the difference in proportional representation doesn't change to a statistically significant degree.)

In the election of 1860, slaveholding states had 90 seats in the House of Representatives, and non-slaveholding states had 148. Along the same lines, slaveholding states had 120 electoral votes, and non-slaveholding states had 184.

The average member of the House of Representatives had a constituency of just over 114,000 people. However, due to the inherent increased representation given slaveholding states, the average representative of a slaveholding state only had a constituency of only 92,000 citizens, whereas a representative of a non-slaveholding state had a constituency of 127,000. Therefore, the average citizen of a slaveholding state had nearly 40% more representation than their fellow Americans in non-slaveholding states.

That is, of course, just the average; at the extreme ends were the examples of Iowa and South Carolina; Iowa's two representatives each had to represent over 337,000 citizens, while South Carolina's six each had a constituency of only 50,000. If having nearly seven times the representation of your fellow citizens isn't over-representation, I don't know what is.

That leads to the Senate, a body in which clever use of the rules can given an extraordinary amount of power to a unified minority, and the slaveholding states had - at the very minimum - a parity of votes in that body until the opening of the 1859 session, with the admissions of Minnesota and Oregon in 1858 and 1859, respectively.

(Note: Many claim that the south lost parity after the 1850 admission of California, but this ignores the fact that Senator William Gwim was openly pro-slavery, thus temporarily maintaining parity through a split in the California delegation.)

As for the electoral college share, there was an average of one electoral college vote per approximately 89,500 citizens. Again, however, the disparity is noticeable. Electoral votes from slaveholding states were allocated at a ratio of one per 69,000 citizens, while those from non-slaveholding states were one per 102,000, giving two citizens of a slaveholding state the same electoral power as three of their fellow Americans from non-slaveholding states.

Again, Iowa and South Carolina present the absurd extremes of this: an elector from Iowa was representative of nearly 169,000 citizens, while a South Carolina elector was representative of less than 38,000, a ratio of nearly 9:2.

This pattern had remained similar since the beginning of the Republic, which is why of the seventy-two years since the inauguration of the first president, slaveholders had held the office for forty-nine of them.

In addition, five of the nine Supreme Court justices - Chief Justice Roger B. Taney and Associate Justices James Moore Wayne, John Catron, Peter Vivian Daniel, and John Archibald Campbell - were from slaveholding states.

The idea that the slaveholding states were victims of tyranny in a government they often controlled and always held far disproportionate power in is not only historically inaccurate, but as the math shows, both logically and mathematically absurd.

There is a counter to the above argument that states that the slaveholding states were smaller and thus needed protection from the larger non-slaveholding states in the form of some sort of statistical balance like the 3/5th Compromise. Unfortunately, this argument in dead in the water, simply based on examination of population figures sorted by population growth and the overall populations of the two regions during the period in which the clause was written.

State_________________1780 (est.)__1790_____% growth
New Hampshire_______87802______141885____61.6
New York_____________210701 ____340120____61.4
Georgia______________56071______82548_____47.2
North Carolina_______270138_____393751____45.7

Massachusetts_______268627_____378787____41.0
Virginia_____________538004_____747610_____38.9
South Carolina______180000_____249073_____38.3

Pennsylvania________327805_____434373_____32.5
New Jersey_________139627_____184139_____31.9
Maryland__________245474_____319728______30.2
Delaware__________45385______59094_______30.2

Rhode Island_______52946______68825_______30.0
Connecticut________206701_____237946______15.1

Northern States______1294209___1786093____38.0
Southern States_____1335072___1850804____38.6

From a statistical stand-point, that's basically dead-even growth, and you'll notice that the slaveholding states already had a somewhat larger population and grew somewhat aster in the nascent years of the Republic. Indeed, had other factors (immigration, changing demographics, economics, etc.) not come into play, they would have arguably kept and even potentially extended their larger populations if the above growth figures had been maintained.
 

jgoodguy

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When discussing secession, it is frequently pointed out that the secession leaders weren't just starting an insurrection based on a "peculiar institution" that's existence wasn't really threatened, but that they were doing so in direct response to an election that they had lost, held under a system to which they had previously consented, and as members of a system of government in which their interests were overrepresented. Frequently, this last is something vociferously denied; many have said that the north had more members of congress, more money, and more power, or they'll make some bizarre modern argument about taxation, fiduciary distribution, or government intrusion that isn't based in reality. However, raw numbers can not be denied.

Well, not honestly or successfully, anyway.

Thanks to the 3/5ths clause of the Constitution (the first in a series of so-called compromises in which the slaveholding states got pretty much everything they wanted), 60% of slaves were counted for a state's representation in Congress, despite having no voice themselves in the government. For comparison, this would be like modern-day Texas demanding an addition eleven members in the US House of Representatives based on an apportionment equal to 60% of the state’s cattle.

The upshot of this is that, automatically, the average citizen of a slaveholding state was already overrepresented, even if they personally owned no slaves. The question, however, is by how much?

In the 1860 census, the population of the US was just over 31 million. The total population of non-slaveholding states was approximately 18.8 million. The total population of slaveholding states was just over 12.2 million. However, nearly 4 million of those were slaves, who had no citizenship, no vote, and no rights. The total represented population of the slaveholding states was, therefore, just short of 8.3 million, and the total free population of the US just over 27.2 million.

(Note: I'm obviously ignoring gender differences here; yes, women didn't have the right to vote in any state yet, but since the gender ratio is as-near-as-makes-no-difference to 1:1, the difference in proportional representation doesn't change to a statistically significant degree.)

In the election of 1860, slaveholding states had 90 seats in the House of Representatives, and non-slaveholding states had 148. Along the same lines, slaveholding states had 120 electoral votes, and non-slaveholding states had 184.

The average member of the House of Representatives had a constituency of just over 114,000 people. However, due to the inherent increased representation given slaveholding states, the average representative of a slaveholding state only had a constituency of only 92,000 citizens, whereas a representative of a non-slaveholding state had a constituency of 127,000. Therefore, the average citizen of a slaveholding state had nearly 40% more representation than their fellow Americans in non-slaveholding states.

That is, of course, just the average; at the extreme ends were the examples of Iowa and South Carolina; Iowa's two representatives each had to represent over 337,000 citizens, while South Carolina's six each had a constituency of only 50,000. If having nearly seven times the representation of your fellow citizens isn't over-representation, I don't know what is.

That leads to the Senate, a body in which clever use of the rules can given an extraordinary amount of power to a unified minority, and the slaveholding states had - at the very minimum - a parity of votes in that body until the opening of the 1859 session, with the admissions of Minnesota and Oregon in 1858 and 1859, respectively.

(Note: Many claim that the south lost parity after the 1850 admission of California, but this ignores the fact that Senator William Gwim was openly pro-slavery, thus temporarily maintaining parity through a split in the California delegation.)

As for the electoral college share, there was an average of one electoral college vote per approximately 89,500 citizens. Again, however, the disparity is noticeable. Electoral votes from slaveholding states were allocated at a ratio of one per 69,000 citizens, while those from non-slaveholding states were one per 102,000, giving two citizens of a slaveholding state the same electoral power as three of their fellow Americans from non-slaveholding states.

Again, Iowa and South Carolina present the absurd extremes of this: an elector from Iowa was representative of nearly 169,000 citizens, while a South Carolina elector was representative of less than 38,000, a ratio of nearly 9:2.

This pattern had remained similar since the beginning of the Republic, which is why of the seventy-two years since the inauguration of the first president, slaveholders had held the office for forty-nine of them.

In addition, five of the nine Supreme Court justices - Chief Justice Roger B. Taney and Associate Justices James Moore Wayne, John Catron, Peter Vivian Daniel, and John Archibald Campbell - were from slaveholding states.

The idea that the slaveholding states were victims of tyranny in a government they often controlled and always held far disproportionate power in is not only historically inaccurate, but as the math shows, both logically and mathematically absurd.

There is a counter to the above argument that states that the slaveholding states were smaller and thus needed protection from the larger non-slaveholding states in the form of some sort of statistical balance like the 3/5th Compromise. Unfortunately, this argument in dead in the water, simply based on examination of population figures sorted by population growth and the overall populations of the two regions during the period in which the clause was written.

State_________________1780 (est.)__1790_____% growth
New Hampshire_______87802______141885____61.6
New York_____________210701 ____340120____61.4
Georgia______________56071______82548_____47.2
North Carolina_______270138_____393751____45.7

Massachusetts_______268627_____378787____41.0
Virginia_____________538004_____747610_____38.9
South Carolina______180000_____249073_____38.3

Pennsylvania________327805_____434373_____32.5
New Jersey_________139627_____184139_____31.9
Maryland__________245474_____319728______30.2
Delaware__________45385______59094_______30.2

Rhode Island_______52946______68825_______30.0
Connecticut________206701_____237946______15.1

Northern States______1294209___1786093____38.0
Southern States_____1335072___1850804____38.6

From a statistical stand-point, that's basically dead-even growth, and you'll notice that the slaveholding states already had a somewhat larger population and grew somewhat aster in the nascent years of the Republic. Indeed, had other factors (immigration, changing demographics, economics, etc.) not come into play, they would have arguably kept and even potentially extended their larger populations if the above growth figures had been maintained.
Good points, but it could have been slaves counted as whole persons.
The South never considered that immigration would boost the North's population either.
 

IcarusPhoenix

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Good points, but it could have been slaves counted as whole persons.
True, but counting any slaves at all when they weren't citizens and therefore weren't represented by the men elected based on their numbers (whether in whole or in part) is certainly and demonstrably to the advantage of the slaveholding aristocracy.
 

jgoodguy

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True, but counting any slaves at all when they weren't citizens and therefore weren't represented by the men elected based on their numbers (whether in whole or in part) is certainly and demonstrably to the advantage of the slaveholding aristocracy.
White women and children were counted but were not what we would call citizens.
 

IcarusPhoenix

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White women and children were counted but were not what we would call citizens.
I address that above:
(Note: I'm obviously ignoring gender differences here; yes, women didn't have the right to vote in any state yet, but since the gender ratio is as-near-as-makes-no-difference to 1:1, the difference in proportional representation doesn't change to a statistically significant degree.)
The women and children were also counted alike north and south, whereas the partial slave count only applied to states in which slaves were held.
 

jgoodguy

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I address that above:

The women and children were also counted alike north and south, whereas the partial slave count only applied to states in which slaves were held.
That is obvious. However, the issue was that you raised objections in counting slaves that also apply to women and children. Only white men were in law equal to each other. Everyone else had some defects.

An alternative was to count slaves as part of the population, which in fact happened from reconstruction to the Civil Rights Era when former slaves were disenfranchised leading to even greater advantage to the South. The other alternative is to consider slaves as no person at all which has all sorts of disastrous consequences.

The reason for the compromise in the first place is that it was the price for Union. It and similar compromises kept the US together until it could be held together by the force of a bloody civil war. As horrible as the price, there was no other viable option. It is important to understand that slavery begins its end a the time of the American Revolution, Anti-slavery is in its infancy between Revolution and the Constitution. The Constitution is ratified in 1788. There is only one Free State in the Union at that time.

The forgotten fork of the 3/5 compromise is federal property tax, Slaves could be taxed as property, however, tariffs replaced the federal property tax as the primary source of income. The South made out like a bandit got representation without paying taxes.
 
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