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The Failures Of The Constitution Imsa American Studies Essay

1486 words - 6 pages

Saachi Dalvi
During the Antebellum, the Northern and Southern states adopted opposing views of slavery due to their different economies. The North was more industrial and had an ample labor force of European immigrants, so slavery was unnecessary, making Northerners inclined to perceive the immorality of the practice and reproach it. Meanwhile, cash crop agriculture was the backbone of the Southern economy, but due to the lack of sufficient white labor, the South resorted to importing slaves to work the plantations.  Since slavery was essential to bolster the economy, the South disregarded its immorality and embraced the practice. These conflicting views established tension between the North and the South. The tension was exacerbated by the Constitution’s ambiguity, ultimately resulting in the outbreak of the Civil War. The document was unclear about slavery as a state right, the representation of slaves, slavery in westward territory, and the secession of states.
The Constitution did not make a definitive decision regarding the institution of slavery in the states. The framers feared that explicitly abolishing slavery would prevent the South from entering the Union, so the Tenth Amendment of the Bill of Rights provided a balance: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”1 Since the Constitution did not explicitly grant the federal government the ability to authorize or outlaw slavery, the institution of slavery was a state’s right to decide. Therefore, the North prohibited slavery, while the South continued it, which legitimized the opposing views of the North and South, further straining their relationship. As the Abolitionist movement began to take shape in the North, this state right provided the South a platform to reproach the North’s actions. Since the North was intended to restrict slavery, it infringed on the South’s state right as granted by the Constitution; therefore, the South perceived that the North’s actions were unconstitutional, which greatly aggravated the South and increased the tension between the two.
The Three-Fifths Compromise vaguely established the representation of slaves in the Union: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”2 Since the clause mentioned all social classes except slaves, the “other Persons” was referring to slaves, so each slave counted as 3/5 of a person to the total population of state for state representation and taxes. However, the clause did not specify which social groups would receive their own representation in the government through the right to vote, so it was...

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