The 1787 Constitutional Convention was paramount in unifying the states after the Revolutionary War. However, in order to do so, the convention had to compromise on many issues instead of addressing them with all due haste. This caused the convention to leave many issues unresolved. Most notably were the issues of slavery, race, secession, and states’ rights. Through the Civil War and the Reconstruction, these issues were resolved, and in the process the powers of the federal government were greatly expanded.
There was no significant desire among most delegates to abolish slavery during the 1787 Constitutional Convention. In addition, the focus of the convention was on forming a more perfect union, not dealing with the issue of slavery (Dolbeare, 71). Also complicating things was the concern among some delegates that putting too much weight on the issue of slavery might cause the unification process to fall apart. This resulted in the Constitution containing a series of compromises regarding slavery, and blatantly avoiding the issue of slavery.
These compromises are found in four main places within the Constitution. The first is the three-fifths compromise, which detailed how slaves would influence the population of each state for the purpose of determining representation and taxation. Located in Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution the compromise states that three-fifths of the slave population would be counted for enumeration purposes (Dolbeare, 71). This compromise was important for the Southern states, whose populations consisted of large numbers of slaves, because without it they would have a significant smaller number of representatives in the House. Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution prohibited Congress from interfering with the slave trade until 1808 (Dolbeare, 74). Since the Constitution could be amended sooner than 1808, another clause was added into Article 5. That clause prohibited any amendment made to the Constitution prior to 1808 that interfered with the three-fifths compromise or the clause regarding Congress’ interference with the slave trade (Dolbeare, 77). Lastly is The Fugitive Slave Clause in Article 4, Section 2 of the Constitution that permitted the extradition of runaway slaves (Dolbeare, 77). While the compromises within the constitution were necessary to ensure the formation of the United States, it is clear that the 1787 Congressional Convention did little to address the issue of slavery.
The Civil War and the Reconstruction brought about much change and turmoil throughout the United States. During these periods, three main events occurred that resolved the issue of slavery, and expanded the power of the federal government.
First was Lincoln’s delivery of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Lincoln declared, “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be...