Outrage and confusion are swirling at Emory University over a column written by its president in which he used the notorious “Three-Fifths Compromise” as an example on how leaders reach agreements.
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Outrage at Emory
An essay by Emory President James Wagner has stirred controversy on campus and across the campus. The essay and his apology can be read here: www.emory.edu/EMORY_MAGAZINE/issues/2013/winter/register/president.html.
Here is part of his original essay:
“One instance of constitutional compromise was the agreement to count three-fifths of the slave population for purposes of state representation in Congress. Southern delegates wanted to count the whole slave population, which would have given the South greater influence over national policy. Northern delegates argued that slaves should not be counted at all, because they had no vote. As the price for achieving the ultimate aim of the Constitution — ‘to form a more perfect union’ — the two sides compromised on this immediate issue of how to count slaves in the new nation. Pragmatic half-victories kept in view the higher aspiration of drawing the country more closely together.
“Some might suggest that the constitutional compromise reached for the lowest common denominator — for the barest minimum value on which both sides could agree. I rather think something different happened. Both sides found a way to temper ideology and continue working toward the highest aspiration they both shared — the aspiration to form a more perfect union. They set their sights higher, not lower, in order to identify their common goal and keep moving toward it.”
Here is part of his apology:
“A number of people have raised questions regarding part of my essay in the most recent issue of Emory Magazine. Certainly, I do not consider slavery anything but heinous, repulsive, repugnant, and inhuman. I should have stated that fact clearly in my essay. I am sorry for the hurt caused by not communicating more clearly my own beliefs. To those hurt or confused by my clumsiness and insensitivity, please forgive me.”