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Slavery And The Constitution Essay

777 words - 4 pages

Slavery was widespread in the southern economy at the founding of the American colonies. Consequently, the framers of the Constitution wrote the Articles in pro-slavery ways to motivate the southern colonies to ratify the Constitution. In doing so, the framers compromised democracy in the hopes of obtaining greater national security. Thus, the text of the Constitution protected and facilitated slavery in the following ways.

The Preamble did not secure for slaves ‘the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to our posterity.’ Neither did the Constitution set a date to end slavery.

In Article 1, the Constitution explicitly awarded more House seats to those states which had more slaves. ...view middle of the document...

Article IV explicitly protected the right of slave owners to the return of their slaves who escaped to Free states. This ‘Fugitive Slave Clause’ required Free states to deliver alleged fugitives back to their owners regardless of the laws of the state. This clause enabled Congress to pass the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which removed the alleged fugitive’s right to testify, have a lawyer, or call witnesses, and paid the magistrate more if he ruled that the alleged fugitive was a slave. Further, article IV did not explicitly end slavery in federal territories. Article V prevented the People from amending the slave trade out of the Constitution until 1808.

The Article II ‘tilt toward the south’, of selecting presidential electors in the states, led to the election of pro-slavery presidents. These presidents, in turn, selected pro-slavery judges who implemented Article III in pro-slavery ways. Even though the south had less than one third of the free population of the country, it had a majority in the Supreme Court by the 1860’s. Notably, Andrew Jackson, a pro-slavery president, appointed pro-slavery Roger Taney as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

In his notorious Dred Scott opinion of 1857, Taney ruled that black people had no right to be citizens even if they were born free or even if their ancestors fought against the British for independence. This contradicted the northern states’ precedent of granting citizenship to...

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