No Taxation without Discrimination: The Racial Interconnectedness of the Three-Fifths Clause, Taxation, and Alienation

Monday, July 14, 2014: 4:00 PM
Room: Booth 63
Oral Presentation
Kasey HENRICKS , Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL
“No taxation without representation!” These iconic words of tax rebels like the “Sons of Liberty” marked the birth of a new nation. Yet when they became formally codified under law, neither can be fully understood without reference to race. In terms of congressional representation, Northern representatives wanted to regard slaves as much less than three-fifths a person to ensure their own political control, but when it came to taxation, these same delegates argued that slaves should be counted as more than 60 percent for a tax system based on population size. Of course Southern delegates objected to higher tax burdens and lower representation, and they assumed positions in direct opposition to their Northern brethren. On both sides of the debate, racial oppression was rationalized by elite white men to promote their own interests through discourses of alienation and estrangement—discourses ranging on a continuum from entitlement and enfranchisement on one end to victimhood and disenfranchisement on the other. The debates spanned nearly 10 years, until finally, a compromise was achieved. Yet this compromise is not merely an artifact of the American past. It culminated into the prohibition of direct taxes by federal government, a legal clause that still stands as a major Constitutional roadblock to federal taxation on most forms of wealth in the United States. For these reasons, among others, I argue for a re-articulation of those revolutionary words as not “no taxation without representation” but “no taxation without discrimination.”