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Current time:0:00Total duration:8:26
CON‑1.C.3 (EK)

Video transcript

when you first learn about the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and the debates and the compromises it's easy to assume that okay that's interesting from a historical point of view but how does it affect me today well the simple answer is it affects you incredibly those compromises that were made over 200 years ago so the most obvious question is well what were those compromises well to even start to appreciate the compromises let's start with this picture or this chart of the census in 1790 so it gives a pretty good snapshot of what the United States looked like after the Constitution was ratified so as you can see the population as a whole was much smaller than it is today it was roughly a little under 4 million people today the United States is over 300 million people and then you also see a pretty big population difference between the states you have big states like Virginia which at the time had 750,000 people and then you had small states like Delaware that had 60,000 people or you have Rhode Island that has a little under 70,000 people and so you could imagine the Virginians or the people from Massachusetts might've said hey we want representation in the legislative in Congress to be based on population it should be you know we have a lot of people we should get more of a say while someone from say Delaware might say wait hold on a second under the Articles of Confederation we were a sovereign state we don't want to just become you know do whatever the Virginians or the people from Massachusetts want to do we want to have a more equal say and of course the big state folks would have said well no then your population people in your population in your state are going to be over-represented and so this was a serious debate and it resulted in what is called the great compromise the great compromise which is probably the most cited compromise coming out of the US Constitution and it's the notion of okay well let's have it both ways in the legislative let's create two houses let's do one house that is based on population so the House of Representatives wherever Virginia will get more representation than a Delaware but then let's make another house called the Senate where every state has equal representation where you have two senators per state and to appreciate that this is all even today a controversial thing here is an article from the New York Times from 2013 this is an article that's talking about perceived inequalities of per person federal funding and it says and the article is literally named big state small state Vermont's six hundred twenty five thousand residents have two United States senators and so two New York's 19 million that means that a Vermonter has 30 times the voting power in the Senate of a New Yorker just over the state line the biggest inequality between two adjacent states the nation's largest gap between Wyoming and California is more than double that so they're making the argument that at least in the Senate a person in Vermont has 30 times the representation as a person in New York and if you compare Wyoming in California it's a factor of 60 and they say the difference reflects the growing disparity in their citizens voting power and it is not an anomaly the Constitution has always given residents of states with small populations a lift so this is coming straight out of the Great Compromise but the size and importance of the gap has grown markedly in recent decades in ways the framers probably never anticipated so you can imagine this is the New York Times so they probably might favor a little bit more representation for New Yorkers but it's an interesting thing to think about the Constitution was written over 200 years ago could they have predicted how much the United States would grow be the movement to the cities even in that census of 1790 we saw a factor of a little more than 10 between a Virginia and say Rhode Island but now we're talking about a factor of 60 between California and Wyoming there's no right answer here but it is something very interesting to think about and as you can see it's something that people are even talking about today now the other significant compromise that is also talked a lot about these days is the enocean of the electoral college so people who are more in the anti-federalist camp they were more in favor of a participatory democracy a direct democracy where you have one person one vote and whoever gets the majority of the vote in the country well maybe they should be President but Federalists especially folks like James Madison they were a little suspicious of just the crowd voting whoever they wanted they wanted it to go through a filter with the idea that maybe that filter could temper the the passions of the crowd so to speak and so they devised this system where it isn't one person one vote but every state has a certain number of electors so you vote for electors and then the states send them and then they can place their vote for president it turns out that most states have decided to have a winner-take-all policy so that maybe they could matter more for the presidential election but what that's resulted in is if you take a big state like Texas and draw quick drawing of Texas or a big state like California right over here and a winner-take-all as soon as you cross 50% you get fifty point one percent and either either one of these states and in other big states is true in most states well then you'll get all the electors for that state so even if you get 70 percent of the vote in Texas or 70 percent in the vote of California its equivalent to getting 50.1% the reason why this has resulted in some significant debate in in the recent past you've had two major elections where the electoral college majority was different than the popular majority you had Bush versus Gore in 2000 and you have Trump versus Clinton in 2016 now two of the other major compromises that came out of the Constitutional Convention are less debated today and that's a good thing because they were resolved finally in 1865 by the 13th amendment that came out of the Civil War and these were around slavery you have the three-fifths three-fifths compromise and this is actually still more of a notion around representation even in the house how do you determine the population that's going to dictate how many representatives you get what about slaves if you look back to this chart right over here notice some of the southern states had a significant fraction of their population that were slaves and so you could imagine that their delegates were saying hey we want to count them in the population they didn't want to count they didn't want them to vote but they said hey when we decide how many representatives we get we want to count these 293,000 people in Virginia when we decide how many representatives they get and you can in other states either just because they didn't want to dilute their own representation or maybe even some of them might have felt morally against something like slavery said wait no we you shouldn't get a benefit because you're doing this thing called slavery and so they were against it and so the compromise and once again James Madison was significantly involved here was a three-fifths compromise that for determining representation a slave would count as three-fifths of a person which is offensive to our sensibilities but that's the compromise they came up with but it didn't because it wasn't an issue anymore once the slavery was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment the last major compromise that people will talk about and this one also revolves around slavery is the importation importation of slaves during the revolution because Great Britain had such a significant role in the slave trade the the colonies were pretty you or the states the nascent states were pretty unified around not participating at least with Great Britain but once the revolution was over this became an issue again some states did not want more importation of slaves some did and so the compromise that was reached is that at least for 20 years the Congress would not pass a law that is prohibiting the importation of slaves and it turns out almost exactly 20 years later once that expired from the Constitution under Thomas Jefferson they did ban the importation of slaves officially although it still continued to some degree at a much smaller level I'll leave you there but the big appreciation here is that those debates that we talked about the great compromise the electoral college these debates around representation that we saw over 200 years ago these are things that people still feel passionate about and they still debate today