No Three-Fifths

“Misery is July in Philadelphia,” says the short man with bad teeth and an ill-fitting barristers wig. He and the wig look like they have seen better days, both are old and frayed and likely ill-smelling. He fans himself with the Franklyn printed draft they were supposed to vote on eight hours ago and the men behind him know for sure and get up to find new seats.

His tiny eyes; feverish with hope to settle the concept of slavery and citizenship once and for all before they leave the hell that is this courtroom, take in every detail around him.

But he knows they won’t be able to ratify anything, at least without some give and he and many others would rather not, on both sides of the issue.

“Misery is Philadelphia, plain and simple my dear Mr. Adams, wait till August, you’ll be dreaming of July,” his companion amiably replies, his own wig off his red-haired head and crumpled in his long thin fingers.

Jefferson’s hair is plastered to his scalp and though Adams doubts the man fully supports slavery he wishes he would stop selling him on the concept of the 3/5th compromise. Adams is a Bostonian man and has already sworn he’d rather die than vote for anything that supports the institute of forced labor and purchasing of other human beings. But he would also prefer he see his farm again before he shits himself to death.

He empathizes with Jefferson as a slave-owning southerner. He is stuck also and knows if the tall Virginian goes home with anything but the three-fifths ratified he’ll be tarred and feathered.

Before Adams can respond though, movement on the dais draws his eye. The General himself stirs. The giant man stands and stares daggers into the skull of the representative from Georgia named Few. The smaller man in front of him sweats under the scrutiny.

Washington’s soft aristocratic voice reaches to the back of the courtroom without effort, “In politics as in philosophy, my tenets are few and simple Mr. Few. The leading one of which, and indeed that which embraces most others, is, to be honest, and just ourselves and to exact it from others, while we meddle as little as possible in other’s affairs especially when our own affairs are not involved.”

Few acts as if he will be quick to apologize for whatever insult he uttered but Washington leans in following a sharp jabbing finger, “If my maxim was generally adopted, wars would cease and our swords would soon be converted into reap hooks and our harvests be more peaceful, abundant, and happy,” He shoulders past the gentleman from Georgia who has been on and on about his politics since June- all of his slaves should count toward representation as if there was nothing else to say on the matter.

“I’d like to know what the little red-faced cuss said to get the granite mountain to burst.”

“He must have a keen cutting tongue.”

“Few? He is as meek as a mouse, skirting the shadows talking about keeping slaves as a one for one representation.”

“I’ve got a feeling the South may find themselves wishful he had remained silent in this debate,” Adams retorts. “Here comes our fearless general again.”

Just as quickly as Washington leaves he reappears with the oak doors banging hard against the wall behind him.

“Bullets can’t kill Washington only votes,” Jefferson replies, and I’ve heard he can fall trees and man with those eyes of his.

Washington’s demeanor is rigid and stoic- his shoulders back and the veins in his huge farmer neck bulging. Fists clenched at his sides. “The question of whether my property is people or not needs an answer. So I have decided to Answer it. I declare all human beings equal citizens under the eyes of God whether property or free- equal! And as president of this Congress I will ratify this declaration in the blood of any that oppose it.”

The silence after is stunning. Not even the creak of old wood under fat landowner asses disturbs it.

“You going to say something, seems this puts Madison’s Three Fifth’s compromise in jeopardy,” Adams whispers to Jefferson but looking over notes the smile on Virginian’s face.

It says it all.

The vote to free all slaves and make them equal partners in America’s future makes him and all Americans free, just like they fought for.

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