22 Feb

CLAIM: Alexander Hamilton supported the Ratios of Representation.





As a New York delegate to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Alexander Hamilton saw the need for compromise on the issue of slavery in order to establish a new confederacy of States. With his signature on the new Constitution of the United States, Hamilton publically supported the new ‘general government’ and its “Ratios of Representation” designed to calculate how many Congressmen each State gets in the federal House of Representatives. The ratios can be found in Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 otherwise known as the “Rule of Representation”.

SOURCE: Signing of the United States Constitution. (2023, January 30). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signing_of_the_United_States_Constitution


Its language reads as follows from the Constitution of 1787:

“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. The actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct. The number of representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each State shall have at least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to choose three, Massachusetts – eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations – one, Connecticut – five, New York – six, New Jersey – four, Pennsylvania – eight, Delaware – one, Maryland – six, Virginia – ten, North Carolina – five, South Carolina – five, and Georgia – three.“


Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3’s purpose is to determine a State’s Congressional representation in the federal House of Representatives through an Enumeration or Census, and direct taxation burden, when levied by the ‘general government’. Lastly, to instruct the ‘general government’ when to hold an Enumeration or Census of the population of the United States which is every 10 years.

SOURCE: https://constitution.congress.gov/browse/article-1/section-2/clause-3/


What are “The Ratios of Representation”? There are, in fact, TWO ratios serving different purposes within the “Rule of Representation”, even though much of the literature of the time refers to a single ratio, depending on the focus of the ratio being discussed. The first ratio is the number of constituents to one representative or the “Ratio of Constituency” as I like to call it to keep things straight for a novice. The “Ratio of Constituency” was used to calculate the number of Congressmen a State receives in the federal House of Representatives. Even though the Constitution of 1787 expressed the first ratio as 30,000 constituents to one representative, Congress changed it to 33,000 in 1792 under the first Enumeration or Census. Over the following decades, Congress changed the number of constituents to one representative several times. As a result, a State’s number of representatives in the Federal House would either increase or decrease. Initially, any fractions from the result were disregarded. In 1842, Congress gave States with fractional results equal to or greater than the ratio, or .5, an additional representative. In 1850, Congress really made the math interesting by setting the number of representatives in the House to 233. The House number of 233 representatives would be ‘apportioned’ or divided into the total population of the United States to calculate the “Ratio of Representation” of the constituency. “Ratio of Representation” of the constituency is just another way to call the “Ratio of Constituency”. The Ratio of Constituency” was divided into a State’s population to determine the number of representatives it received in the Federal House of Representatives, including an additional representative if the resulting fraction was equal to or greater than the ratio. Crazy. I know.

The second ratio is the number of slaves, or five, which equals three free persons for the purposes of population count during an Emuneration or Census. Once the number of slaves was known, their number was added to the free persons’ count and divided by the constituent ratio to calculate the number of seats a State received in the federal House of Representatives.


Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 is referred to as the ‘Three-Fifth’s Clause’ or the ‘Three-Fifth’s Compromise’ because of its 3/5s ratio component in factoring the slave population in calculating the population of a State. Each State’s population is determined by adding free persons, persons bound to service for a term of years (indentured servants), and three-fifths of all other persons (or slaves), excluding Indians. “Three-fifths of all other persons” mentioned in the article, means Congress counts three out of five slaves, as free inhabitants, as a factor in calculating a State’s population. With the end of the War of 1861, the ‘Three-Fifths Compromise’ was changed by the United States Congress to reflect all people.


What the Article fails to say is that the Ratio of Constituency or 30,000, as expressed in the Constitution of 1787, is divided into the State’s population to calculate the number of representatives it would receive in the Federal House of Representatives. It’s assumed. The Founding Fathers were famous for not showing the long math to an answer.

Everything else is pretty self-explanatory in this Article.


Do not confuse the Ratio of Constituency with the “Three-Fifth’s Clause” for slave population computation. They serve different functions in Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3; Although both are ratios.


Approved by the Philadelphia Convention, it would be up to the States to ratify — or reject — the new Constitution and its “Ratios of Representation”. Federalists such as Hamilton supported ratification. Anti-Federalists, who feared that the document gave too much power to the federal government, worked to convince the States to reject it. 

In order for the Constitution to take effect, nine of the 13 states would have to ratify it. But even if that minimum number were met without ratification by powerful states such as Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New York, the new government would not hold. New York, in particular, appeared problematic. Of the three delegates from that state, only Hamilton had signed the Constitution. The other two delegates had fled the convention in anger. And in New York, Anti-Federalists such as Governor George Clinton held power. 


No one was better prepared to defend the Constitution than New Yorker Alexander Hamilton. In 1787-88 he worked with John Jay and James Madison to write a series of 85 essays in support of the Constitution. Known as “The Federalist,” these essays proved critical in achieving ratification of the document in New York, as well as the rest of the nation. The essays were published under the pen name Publius. Hamilton himself wrote more than two-thirds of them.


Published on February 13, 1788, Federalist 55, entitled “The Total Number of House of Representatives”, defends the number of members in the House of Representatives against the critics who believe the number of members to be inadequate. It discusses critics’ objections to the relatively small size of the House of Representatives (sixty-five members) because they believe that there aren’t enough representatives to defend the country against the small group of legislators who are violating the rights of the people. It notes that the size of the House will increase as the population increases, using three-fifths of the slaves in the calculation. In addition, the paper states that the small size does not put the publics’ liberty in danger because of the checks and balances relationship the House of Representatives has with the state legislatures, as well as the fact that every member is voted in by the people every two years.

SOURCE: Library of Congress, Federalist 55

“The first thing objected to is that clause which allows a representation for three-fifths of the negroes. . . . The regulation complained of was one result of the spirit of accommodation which governed the Convention; and without this indulgence, no union could possibly have been formed.”

SOURCE: Hamilton, Alexander. “Alexander Hamilton in the New York Convention.” The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Vol. 3. Ed. Max Farrand. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911. Print.

Over the next month, Alexander Hamilton presented the New York convention with his case for ratification. Day after day, hour after hour, Hamilton hammered away at the Anti-Federalists’ arguments. During this time, the ratification of the Constitution by Virginia bolstered his case and opposition evaporated. The New York Convention ratified the Constitution.  Hamilton had helped to save the Constitution and the new ‘general government’ but at the expense of slavery. Did Alexander Hamilton support the “Ratios of Representation”? Yes. he did.


Slavery was legal in eleven of the thirteen sovereign States at the time of the Constitution of 1787 and in other countries on the Earth going back to before the Bible. Slaves were inconvenienced by the Founding Fathers and every other government on Earth due to the legality of the institution in the Colonies, and later States, at that time. When I say “inconvenienced”, I mean that sarcastically. Slaves had fewer rights than free persons. No doubt but the practice was legalized by States which enacted Slave Codes and as such Slaves did have rights as described by the Code. This is a fact regardless of the moral “soapbox” ramblings of the Southern Poverty Law Center and organizations like them. Socialists don’t seem to understand the facts and as such, they don’t have a problem with labeling things they don’t like as racist through their rainbow-colored sunglasses. Slavery was legal until it wasn’t.


It provides additional context to Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens’s “Cornerstone” speech in March 1861.


Doris Benefield Needham, 86, of Wadley, Alabama passed away on Sunday, December 26, 2021 in Huntsville, Alabama.

Pictured in 1996, me and my Mama.



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