Skip to comments.Constitutional Convention: The Problem of Slavery
Posted on 11/27/2010 6:45:03 AM PST by Eddie01
The problem of slavery
There is no gentle way to put it. The enslavement of blacks in America was of great concern to the men at the convention. Some genuinely felt that the black man was as much "man" as the white man. But this was a minority view. Southern delegates had one thing in mind when it came to slavery: to keep it going to prop up the Southern economy. Indeed, many of the largest slave holders in the United States were at the Convention. Most Northern delegates did not like slavery, but that does not mean they cared for blacks either. Many felt that the larger the black populations in the South grew, the larger the threat that that population would revolt against their masters and march north to exact revenge on the people who bought the goods they had been driven to tend.
For some, slavery itself was at least tolerable, but the slave trade, the importation of new people from Africa, was deplorable. Some felt it was deplorable because trafficking in human lives is simply deplorable. Others felt it deplorable because it diminished the value of their surplus slaves in the slave market.
First we will address the capitation (counting) of slaves in the Constitution. On June 11, Roger Sherman suggested that representation be based on a count of all free men. The South wanted their slaves counted as whole persons, but that would never happen. James Wilson wanted to get the issue out of the way quickly, and asked the Convention to adopt the same standard as that in the Articles: slaves would count as three-fifths persons. This issue would rise again on July 9, when some began to realize that the South could increase their representation in the Congress by simply importing new slaves. Recall, too, that everyone expected the extreme Southern states to grow in white population as well, over the next few decades. The notion was frightening to many from the North, and Northern states banded together on July 11 to completely remove slaves from the population counts.
In the end, both side got something they wanted. Through what some have theorized was a complicated bargain between Northern and Southern delegates to the Convention and Northern and Southern representatives to the Congress, taxation and representation were tied together (the Congress comes into the story, because on July 12, the day after the compromise was reached, the Northwest Ordinance was passed, detailing the carving up of the north western wilderness of North America, and granting the South fugitive slave rules). The deal allowed the South to keep the three-fifths count for representation that had been used under the Articles for calculation of state levies, as long as they also had a three-fifths count for calculation of taxes.
As for the slave trade, for quite some time in the Convention, it was debated hotly. The states of the deep south wanted it maintained; the North and the middle south was opposed. But alliances between states kept some of the Northern states voting with the deep south, and any prohibition in new slave imports or import taxes were defeated. As the Convention progressed, though, it became clear to the South and her allies that some compromise would be needed. In exchange for a prohibition on export taxes, the South agreed to allowing the slave trade to continue for just 20 more years, and for imported slaves to be taxable. As a side note, the very day that the slave trade could constitutionally be prohibited, it was: on January 1, 1808.
Who ever is nominated to run in 2012 as a referendum on the constitution better know the document and it's history inside and out. ...and what a great moment it would be to trap Obama into broaching the topic and correcting the record in a nationally televised debate.
“blacks are indoctrinated to hate the constitution”
You're merely paying RENT on it..
i.e. Tax(lien, license, permit, ticket, penalty, fee) on any property or holdings..
When the gov’t owns you who then is the slave?..
Interesting to note that many blacks (and whites) were indoctrinated to believe that the “good” North wanted to count all slaves, while the “bad” South wanted to only count 3/5. The truth of course, it was all about political power in Congress. The slavery issue was just one more tool in the battle for control.
There's no love among the majority of black people for the United States Constitution. Never mind the arduous efforts to find a workable solution to the obvious incompatibility of the institutions of human bondage with the ideals of our Founding, never mind that many State constitutions expressed this incompatibility (even some southern ones), the fact that it continued utterly condemns it in their eyes.
Never mind that the United States didn't invent or impose or even permit for long the African slave trade, or that much of the world continued on with it, or that fellow Africans sold their ancestors into slavery or that Arab Muslim traders were responsible for capturing the majority of them, never mind the blood and death of war that resulted in the end of the practice or the treasure expended in an apparently futile attempt to right the wrongs, real or perceived.
I just wonder what the statute of limitations on the grudge might be. The Axis of Al doesn't appear willing to jump off that gravy train any time soon, so I suppose we'll be penalized for an inherited, legal practice ... forever, bwuahahaha!
In schools, the Constitution is taught to be a document created by slave holders who made black slaves only worth 3/5ths of a person.
In reality, it was created by people who abhorred slavery and the 3/5th clause was put in place to reduce the power of the slave states, only giving them the legislative power of their full population when their full population was free.
In other words, the real Constitution set in motion freedom for all.
Some are for sure. I hear this arguement tossed out from time to time.
My opinion based on observation.
Why do 90+% of blacks vote for Marxists? ...because they revere freedom and liberty? or because they believe the progressive left are really there to help them. I mean as far as indoctrination is concerned that is some neat trick.
...and I have NEVER heard a black man or women articulate the premise of my thread, only the context free distain for the 3/5ths of a person crap.
Col. Allen West is a clear example of the opposite, but blacks who identify themselves as conservative with a reverence for the constitution I would argue are few and far between.
I’d love to be proven wrong.
“blacks are indoctrinated to hate the constitution”
I thought everyone was. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that it’s outdated and needs to expand with the times through judicial review. Tyrants in robes suplanted federalism long ago, and we just sat back and let it happen.
I think we would be better served by spending less time reminding blacks of slavery and more time teaching them the positive history of blacks in America prior to the civil war.
That is excellent.
I'd like to know more, seems I've only scratched the surface with regards to my arguement. If you have any reference material, please let me know.
It’s interesting what happens when morality and patriotism are set aside in the name of profit.
No, it did not. It counted free people of all colors as one person, and non-free people of all colors as 3/5s of a person.
in 1776, how many of the original 13 colonies
were slave colonies?
nyy bs gurz
answer in rot 13
Were there white slaves?
Were there free slaves in slave states?
No need to remind, it’s lurking right below the surface in any political conversation involving black and white in this country. It’s the reason for the alienation and isn’t going away no matter how much wealth is transferred or how much “positive discrimination” is applied, to use the more accurate, European euphemism for affirmative action.
Marxists saw festering, lingering resentments, fed by legally enforced segregation, jumped on the backs of well-meaning, long suffering black people, rode their righteous anger into power and are still piling on. They’re living rent-free in the heads of most as a result, and every attempt to assuage is viewed as a proletarian “victory” in the marxist sense, leading to demands for more rather than a sense of acceptance and justice served.
The best country in the world for Europeans who didn’t have anything prior to coming here, the oppressed religious groups, the races deemed somehow inferior elsewhere who prospered by comparison here, is being dismantled piece by piece and disgruntled black people are serving as the vanguard.
How do you undo that? We don’t believe in the de facto seizing of children in order to indoctrinate as they do. We don’t believe in breaking down the moral structure of the people with unfettered sex and making a fashion statement out of substance abuse in order to undermine, eventually destroy and replace what went before as they do.
The only common ground I see is Christianity, and the answer therefore has to arise from there, as our Constitution did.
In 1777, being then a member of the Virginia Legislature, he brought in a bill which became a law, “to prevent the importation of slaves.” He also proposed a system of general emancipation, as a preliminary to which he introduced a bill to authorize manumission; this became a law. (Excerpts from the diary of H.C. Clark)
In these efforts he had the support and sympathy of the slave-holding States, who were overrun with slaves, that returned no adequate remuneration. At this period their numbers reached some 600,000, a part of whom were employed in raising tobacco and rice. The majority of them, however, were occupied in domestic farm-labor, producing no exportable values. Hence there was no profit in slavery at the South, while at the North it was even a greater burden. (Scraps from the prison table: at Camp Chase and Johnson's Island By Joseph Barbière)
Massachusetts had found it so unproductive that, in 1780, she abolished it in her own borders, but she did not cease for that reason to force it, by her importations, on the South.
In the Congress of the Confederation, the views of the North and South on the subject of slavery, founded on interests so antagonistic, frequently came into collision.
It was at this epoch, too, that Virginia, Georgia and other Southern States ceded to the Federal Government for the common benefit of all the States, their immense Western Territories. All the States were then slave-holding, and the idea that a man could not hold his slaves in any part of the territory of the United Stares, had never yet been broached.
On the contrary, the right to carry them everywhere was undoubted. The policy of Virginia, however, was manumission; and Mr. Jefferson, in 1784, prepared in the Congress of the Confederation a clause preventing slaves being carried into the said territories ceded to the United States, north of the Ohio river.
This was a part of the Southern scheme of manumission, which was meant as a check to the trading in Negro slaves, carried on by Massachusetts with unabated activity. This clause did not pass at the time, but in 1787, it was renewed by Nathan Dane, in the Federal Convention. The clause enjoining the restitution of fugitive slaves was then added and it passed unanimously.
By a unanimous vote, it became a vital part of the Federal Constitution, and without it, this compact could never have gone into effect. The slave trade carried on by the North became also the theme of much sharp discussion in the Convention. The North was not disposed, of course, to give it up, but with the South it had become an intolerable grievance. They had long and earnestly protested against it when carried on by the mother country, but their minds were now made up to break with the North rather than submit further to this traffic.
The North then demanded compensation for the loss of this very thriving trade, and the South readily conceded it by granting them the monopoly of the coasting and carrying trade against all foreign tonnage. In this way it was settled that the Slave Trade should be abolished after 1808
(Do not ever discuss the ratification and the issue of slavery without mentioning this:) Without this important clause, the South would never have consented to enter into a Confederacy with the North. The Federal Constitution, with these essential clauses, having passed into operation, it became, henceforth, a certainty that the Slave Trade would finally expire in the United States at the close of 1808. This left it still a duration of nineteen years, and the North seemed determined to reap the utmost possible advantage from the time remaining.
The Duke de Rochefoucault-Liancourt, in his work on the United States, 1795, stated that “twenty vessels from the harbors of the North are engaged in the importation of slaves into Georgia; they ship one negro for every ton burden.”
Thus it is evident, that while New England was vigorously engaged in buying and selling negro slaves, Virginia, on the other hand, was steadfastly pursuing her theory of manumission.
A LETTER TO VISOUNT PALMERSTON, L.G., PRIME MINISTER OF ENGLAND, ON AMERICAN SLAVERY. HENRY WIKOFF
Not sure exactly what you’re asking, but slaves were freed by their owners or bought their freedom themselves in “slave” states. There were also black freemen and always had been.
White slaves? There were people of European descend who were bound. This was typically for a period of seven years, usually to pay the cost of their “transportation” to this continent. Practical reality was that all manner of bizarre infractions, such as marrying or having children, resulted in penalties that added time to their term of indenture, leading to over a decade or more in servitude. But, they were not “owned” in their persons for life as in chattel slavery.
It was the South’s desire and advantage to count slaves as 5/5ths of a person (1 for those in Rio Linda).
I'm not sure about "white slaves" (I don't think so, could be wrong), but there were definitely white indentured servants. By modern standards, they'd certainly qualify as slaves, although perhaps they might have enjoyed an "expiration date".
As for “Virginia's policy of manumission” that would have been accomplished by Virginia simply abolishing slavery within its boundaries, or alternatively by a law simply stating that any slave brought into the state from anywhere else was free the moment they set foot on Virginia's soil. I can't think of a more efficient manner of ending the importation of slaves than voiding the importing merchants' property rights in the slave at the moment of importation. The idea that Massachusetts was forcing slaves on an unwilling southern population is ridiculous and laughable. Someone was buying the goods that Massachusetts was importing - and those people were southerners.
Give me a break!!
Let me make it clear right up front: I am NOT a racist. I supported Herman Cain in his run for the Senate. And if he ever runs again, I would probably support him again (and hes recently begun to talk about just that).
I also consider Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams two of the finest economists and minds extant today. In case you dont know them, both are black.
Sowell, Williams and Cain among others — have spoken out against those fellow blacks who castigate and vilify America for a slavery now long in our past. And ALL thinking men and women oppose the periodic calls for reparations. (When he ran, I supported Alan Keyes. I even spoke in his stead on the RTKABA at a Capitol rally and was asked to fill in for him on his radio show at the time. Sadly, while I still consider Alan a good man, I have had to rethink my support since he came out FOR reparations.)
The fact is that the modern descendants of slaves brought here in chains in admittedly miserable, soul-gutting conditions now calling for reparations need to remember something:
They should not only be glad to be in America, they should be glad to be ANYWHERE!
Had their ancestors NOT been brought OUT of Africa many by Muslim slave raiders —the blood of those ancestors would have run into the earth over there several centuries ago, victims of the OTHER black tribes that captured them in one of the interminable tribal conflicts STILL ravaging that sad continent and these modern day would-be “plaintiffs” would not even exist.
And I would remind you that slavery is STILL practiced in parts of Africa (mainly by American BLACK muslims LISTEN UP!! — MUSLIMS) and Asia today. How ironic that disgruntled American blacks are embracing a system that participated mightily in their initial bondage and would, if Islam takes root here, probably put any who cling to their Christianity back INTO BONDAGE or to the sword.
95% of the African slaves who were transported across the Atlantic went to South and Central America, mainly to Portuguese, Spanish and French possessions, and that less than 5% of the slaves who crossed the Atlantic went to the United States, it was remarkable that the vast majority of academic research, films, books and articles concerning the slave trade concentrated only on the American involvement, as though slavery was a uniquely American aberration.
And should the great-great-great grandchildren of SLAVE OWNING BLACKS also be subject to PAYING these reparations? If so, how do we find THEM?
And I have traced MY family back to the SLAVS. Although the term looks to be related to slave, depending on your source, it either means glory or worshipper. But my family research indicates that many of my of my ancestors LIVED lives of virtual slavery to some despot or other. Do I qualify for reparations? From whom?? And it begs a question: Are most of us now living here headed into a modern form off that servitude? But thats a topic for another discussion.
The official US Census of 1830 lists 3,775 free blacks who owned 12,740 black slaves. Furthermore, the story outlines the history of slavery here, and the first slave owner, the Father of American slavery, was Mr Anthony Johnson, of Northampton, Virginia. His slave was John Casor, the first slave for life. Both were black Africans. The story is very readable, and outlines cases of free black women owning their husbands, free black parents selling their children into slavery to white owners, and absentee free black slave owners, who leased their slaves to plantation owners.
-”Selling Poor Steven”, American Heritage Magazine, Feb/Mar 1993 (Vol. 441) p 90
Of course, a full telling of Black History would not be complete without a recitation of the origin of slavery in the Virginia colony:
Virginia, Guide to The Old Dominion, WPA Writers’ Program, Oxford University Press, NY, 1940, p. 378
And the holier-than-thou Northern liberals are strangely silent on recent archeological evidence from NEW YORK CITY clearly tracing the financing of the slave trade to NORTHERN BUSINESSMEN!!
At the height of his remarkable boxing career, Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Clay), once declared Im glad my great-grandpa got on that boat.
And speaking of ancestors, my paternal grandmothers daddy joined with the 80th Ohio Volunteer Infantry early in the War Between the States (reupped twice) and fought on the Union side at Chickamauga, Vicksburg, Jackson then joined up with Sherman for that infamous march to the sea through Georgia. My wifes great-great grandpappy ALSO fought for the Union. While I revere the memory of my ancestors, inasmuch as that conflict was less about slavery than it was the economic exploitation and abuse of the South by the North, I fear they MAY have been on the wrong side.
Author Robert Hitt Neill tells of attending a Tennessee Mountain Writers Conference years ago with several other authors. Among them was Alex Hailey, celebrated author of Roots. Watching a TV news show, a group of them watched a demonstration in a Southern state against the Rebel flag incorporated into that states flag. The very next report covered a famine in Africa. Graphic images showed dead bodies, starving children with distended tummies and runny noses and dying people covered with flies, too weak to brush them away.
Mr. Hailey intoned in a low, serious voice, Every time an American black sees a story like that, they should find a Confederate flag and kiss it. He then pointed to the TV screen and continued, Because these would be me and my descendants, except for American slavery. I thank God that my family and I are here instead of there.
Maybe not in the U.S., but do some research on the Barbary Pirates.
There were free blacks in the US. Some former slaves, and some who had never been slaves. They would be counted as whole persons, since the Constitution said “which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons”.
There were white indentured servants, as others have mentioned. They would count as whole persons, as the Constitution continued “including those bound to Service for a Term of Years”.
I’m not sure if there were white slaves, but if there were, they would be covered under the rest of that sentence, “and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons”.
But no where in that section does it mention black or white.
Someone was enslaving and shipping human beings in chains for profit, and that was parsimonious, judgmental New Englanders.
It takes two to tango.
The observations of Booker T. Washington explain why this is not the case.
Booker T. Washington, who rose from slavery to become the nations first widely recognized black leader, once warned against what he called "problem profiteers" among our nations black community.
"There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs and the hardships of the Negro race before the public," observed Washington. "Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs."
Whose names immediately come to mind after reading Booker T. Washingtons observation?
Blacks hated the Constitution because of their belief that the Constitution promoted slavery.
Even after the most prestigious black leader told the Negros that the Constitution was not an instrument for slavery they allowed themselves to be persuaded otherwise.
To this very day and in spite of all the evidence to the contrary the majority of black people in America choose to remain ignorant on the subject of the Constitution and slavery .
Frederick Douglass held the view that the Constitution was a slave document until he read it. Then Frederick Douglass, the escaped former slave, self-taught author and editor, and leading abolitionist orator, said, "Take the Constitution according to its plain reading," he challenged the Rochester Ladies Anti-Slavery Society on July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York. "I defy the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it." In fact, Douglass told the crowd gathered to hear his Independence Day address, "Interpreted as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a glorious liberty document." Douglass echoed this point in his Independence Day address, asking, "if the Constitution were intended to be, by its framers and adopters, a slave-holding instrument, why neither slavery, slaveholding, nor slave can anywhere be found in it?"
Fredrick Douglass also warned black people to never vote for Democrats.
Excerpts from Frederick Douglass speech delivered at the annual meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania December 3-4, 1863
While we had in this State a majority of but 15,000 over this pro-slavery Democratic Party, they have a mighty minority, a dangerous minority
Your Democracy will clamor for peace, and for restoring the old order of things, because that old order of things was the life of the Democratic Party. "You do take away mine house, when you take away the prop that sustains my house," and the support of the Democratic Party we all know to be slavery. The Democratic party is for war for slavery; it is for peace for slavery; it is for the habeas corpus for slavery; it is against the habeas corpus for slavery; it was for the Florida war for slavery; it was for the Mexican war for slavery; it is for jury trial for traitors, for slavery; it is against jury trial for men claimed as fugitive slaves, for slavery. It has but one principle, one master; and it is guided, governed, and directed by it. I say that, with this party among us, flaunting its banners in our faces, with the New York World scattered broadcast over the North, with the New York Express, with the mother and father and devil of them all, the New York Herald, [applause,] with those papers flooding our land, and coupling the term Abolitionist with all manner of course epithets, in all our hotels, at all our crossings, our highways and byways and railways all over the country, there is work to be done a good deal of work to be done.
I believe this speech came to be known as the Our Work is Not Done speech.
And I will note that my prior post was in error. Massachusetts as a state was not importing slaves, certain shipowners living in Massachusetts were using their ships to import slaves directly to southern states, said slaves never seeing Massachusetts at all. Massachusetts could not stop commerce that occurred entirely outside its borders and was entirely legal in the states in which it was performed. The preceding in no way minimizes the immorality of the acts of said shipowners.
CSA Vice President Alexander H. Stephens, Cornerstone speech -- "...last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution -- African slavery as it exists amongst us -- the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the 'rock upon which the old Union would split.' He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact." -- March 21, 1861
There were a small number of Irish brought here as chattel slaves.
In so far regarding your comments on Massachusetts, ie. “The idea that Massachusetts was forcing slaves on an unwilling southern population is ridiculous and laughable.”
Well, of course that is, if it were true. Massachusetts, as well as many other New England states continued in the slave trade after 1808, shipping them to the Caribbean for Central and South American consumption.
“Someone was buying the goods that Massachusetts was importing - and those people were southerners.
It seems that it is bias, not truth, that interests you. If you need a change, please advise.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.