The Census

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William Birch
The New York Public Library.  www.nypl.org

The Census
"…that in order to ascertain the alterations that may happen in the population & wealth of the several States, a census shall be taken of the free white inhabitants and 3/5ths of those of other descriptions…and that the Representation be regulated accordingly."

-Hugh Williamson's proposition recorded in Madison's Notes on the Convention

The delegates agreed that a census would be taken every ten years to measure the population and determine representation in the House. But just how the census would be counted was not clear and the debate on the issue was lively.

Many delegates had balked at a proposal to count slaves at a three-fifths ratio of the actual population. South Carolinians Pierce Butler and General Charles Pinckney believed blacks should be counted equally with whites, which were voted down. Northerners such as James Wilson of Pennsylvania wondered if blacks should be considered as citizens--each would be counted in the census--or as property, which would mean that none were included.

The convention recessed without reaching a decision on how the census was to be implemented.

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Thursday, July 12, 1787 Progress on Determining Representation

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Last updated: February 26, 2015

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