The second greatest compromise of the Convention roared back today.
Just as equality of State suffrage in the Senate was a do or die issue for small states, so was Slavery to the South and National Government regulation of commerce to the North.
Navigation Acts, the rules over foreign commerce had earlier in the Convention required a 2/3 majority of Congress. Southern States were fearful what simple majorities could do to the Slave trade. Their fears were put to rest in recent days. The Committee of Eleven, composed of one delegate from each attending State, hammered out a deal to allow simple majorities to determine foreign trade laws in exchange for previous guarantees to the institution of Slavery.
Now, Southern delegates had to date never shown any reluctance to protect their peculiar institution on either moral or practical grounds. The deal had been made and things were going smoothly until Charles Pinckney (SC) motioned to revive the 2/3 requirement for Navigation Acts.
His cousin, General Pinckney immediately arose and protested. Fellow South Carolinian Pierce Butler did as well. They knew the Convention would blow up without this compromise. Charles Pinckneys motion was thus rejected without debate.
So what of Slavery? Could the North have held out for restrictions, closer limits? I think so. Immediate abolition was never spoken of, it didnt have chance. Still, the three Southernmost States would have had a hard time outside the union and could have been pushed for a concession. They were under populated, feared slave uprisings and had few means of supporting or protecting themselves either in manufactures or a Navy.
IMHO, the Northern States could have driven a better bargain. I think Slavery could have been restricted to the existing States without jeopardizing their ratification of the Constitution. It would have been in their economic interests to do so, for there would have been less agricultural competition from new States envisioned in the southwest. Forcing the issue probably would have saved us from civil war.
That the Framers did not do so, does not reflect poorly on them. No one envisioned black equality at the time. They gathered in Philly not to compose the best government possible, but rather the best the people would accept.
What is all of this?