The stance on slavery in the 1787 united states constitution

Confederation Congress[ edit ] The three-fifths ratio originated with a amendment proposed to the Articles of Confederation. The proposal by a committee of the Congress had suggested that taxes "shall be supplied by the several colonies in proportion to the number of inhabitants of every age, sex, and quality, except Indians not paying taxes".

The stance on slavery in the 1787 united states constitution

Because the conflict between slavery and liberty drives to the heart of the meaning of the United States, questions involving slavery, the Constitution, and the founders continue to generate heated but frequently trite debate. With a presidential election looming, it is all but certain that politicians and pundits will be asked about race, slavery, and the founding.

Their responses are predictable. While liberals, Democrats, and the left more generally prefer to put off discussions about race, slavery, and the founding, conservatives have embraced the challenge with zeal. Informed by the demands of Christian nationalists and the precepts of American exceptionalism, pundits and politicians on the right have turned the founders into demigods, conflating the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution into a single document, and then elevating both to sacred text.

Indeed, nary a week passes without some conservative politician, pundit, or celebrity attributing authorship of the Constitution to God or Jesus.

Conservatives and Christian nationalists who have adopted these precepts worship the Constitution as a divinely inspired, sacred text. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, many conservatives continue to insist that the founders were committed abolitionists who directly or indirectly abolished slavery.

These understandings of the founding and the Constitution reflect the ideological convictions of their proponents, wishful thinking, and ample amounts of cynical opportunism. They possess, however, no grounding in historical reality. Nonetheless, by the late s, slaveholders, the system they maintained, and white supremacy emerged from the American Revolution stronger and more dynamic than ever.

A careful analysis of the Constitution produced by the founders in Philadelphia in demonstrates that it was neither wholly antislavery nor wholly proslavery. Nor was it solely the product of a singular group of demigods or hypocrites, acting in a singular moment in time.

The Constitution of —like nearly every other significant outcome of the American Revolution—was the product of prolonged and contentious conflict, debate, and accommodation.

Conflicts and debates about slavery and government preceded the Philadelphia convention by decades and continued well into the s. The emerging sections were badly divided before and after the Philadelphia convention, and voters, politicians, and delegates from both sections failed to obtain all that they might have sought when it came to slavery.

The Constitution included a series of compromises involving slavery. Those compromises added an element of complexity to the Constitution that defies any effort to reduce it to Twitter-sized proslavery or antislavery soundbites that implicate or exonerate the founders. Within those complex compromises, slaveholders gained certain, specific privileges, most importantly the three-fifths clause, the fugitive slave clause, and the international slave trade clause.

More broadly, contemporaries agreed that the Constitution restrained the federal government from taking action against slavery in the states where it already existed.


At the same time, however, voters and politicians agreed that the Constitution permitted federal action when slavery was a national issue or a national matter rather than merely a state issue or state matter.

The Constitution also failed to explicitly define slaves as property, or to identify slavery as a race-based condition. Finally, the Constitution deferred to normal political processes the manner by which the federal government would use its powers regarding slavery.

Even if the government could act against slavery, the decision to do so would be required to move through normal political channels: Overall, the Constitution produced by the fifty-five delegates in Philadelphia in the summer of recognized the existence of slavery as a powerful sectional interest and granted slaveholders important privileges.

At the same time, it allowed for important state and federal action against slavery, and stopped short of constitutionally establishing the United States as a slaveholders republic or union, whose paramount purpose would be to protect and promote the rights and interests of slaveholders.

The stance on slavery in the 1787 united states constitution

How that came to pass involved far more than fifty-five demigods or hypocrites meeting in Philadelphia in the summer of Prelude to the Philadelphia Convention: War, Revolution, and Slavery, 3.

As American independence turned into multiple American Revolutions in the s, Americans black and white, northern and southern, found themselves badly divided over slavery. Middling whites and sympathetic elites used these egalitarian ideologies to chip away at hierarchy and privilege in the North in principle if not always in practice.

In doing so, they opened crucial spaces for slaves, free blacks, and antislavery whites to claim natural rights for enslaved blacks, and to begin the process of state-level abolition.

Across the North, state-level abolition was ideologically grounded in free and enslaved black claims to the natural rights claimed by whites. By the time the Philadelphia convention met to forge a new constitution, every northern state except for New York and New Jersey had passed legislation that provided for at least the gradual abolition of slavery in their states New York and New Jersey would do so in and respectively.

Byeven when northern whites denied black claims to equality and citizenship, they generally accepted the legitimacy of black claims to freedom. White northerners also generally agreed that enslaved blacks possessed a natural right to freedom, even if slaveowners possessed competing and equally valid property rights.

In the South, the situation was markedly different. For southern politicians, the purpose of government had long been to empower the gentry.

The gentry then governed those beneath them according to their race, gender, and rank. Through the Imperial Crisis, war, and revolution, southern elites met popular challenges to their rule and authority—from both black slaves and non-gentry class whites—in various ways.

The stance on slavery in the 1787 united states constitution

They emphasized white supremacy and insisted that free blacks and whites could never live together peacefully in the United States.In after months of debate, delegates signed the new Constitution of the United States. (Wikimedia Commons) Only the Southern states had large numbers of slaves.

The United States Constitution was written in during the Philadelphia Convention. The old Congress set the rules the new government followed in terms of writing and ratifying the new constitution. 3 accounted(for(40percent(of(thepopulation(in(thesouthern(states).((Whether(slavery(was(to(be(permitted(and(continued(underthe(new(Constitution(was(a.

The Thirteenth Amendment (Amendment XIII) to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. In Congress, it was passed by the Senate on April 8, , and by the House on January 31, The amendment was ratified by the required number of states on December 6, Slavery and the Constitutional Convention taking a moral stance against slavery, even though many of them, individually, would T-E.

Timeline for the Federal Convention of Links * United States Constitution (for reference in summary homework) *Madison’s Notes of Debates for June This remark by Madison captures the Constitution’s stance vis-à-vis slavery: permissible, but not moral.

Legal, but not legitimate. In no way .

The Thirteenth Amendment: Slavery and the Constitution