Friday, November 16, 2012
Dan Horgan 11/15/12 Period: E Was the US Constitution Pro or Anti-Slavery? Although one may make many arguments as to why the US Constitution was anti-slavery, I believe that it is pro-slavery. While I believe that the document was pro-slavery, I believe that it tried to exclude referencing slavery, when possible, to allow the issue to be resolved in time, rather than wholly favoring one side or the other. I also believe that the writers and signers of the Constitution may have unintentionally made it interpretable as pro-slavery, regardless of what their opinions may have been (which were probably pro-slavery). Putting this aside, because of the time period that the document was written in, and the stances that it takes regarding slavery, I believe that it was pro-slavery (which no longer applies in today’s world). The Constitution is pro-slavery for a plethora of reasons. Some of the parts of the Constitution that are pro-slavery are The Preamble, Article 1, Section 8, Article 4, Section 2, Article 1, Section 9, and Article 1, Section 2. The Preamble is less pro-slavery and more hypocritical, because it promises to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. None of these three promises are guaranteed to slaves, even though the Constitution guarantees them. This brings up the point that slaves are not US citizens and thus are not bestowed with the rights guaranteed in the Constitution. I also believe that the writers of the Constitution may have meant white people when they said “We the people,” bringing up the possibility that the constitution protected only the free, and thus was pro-slavery. Article 1, Section 8, supports slavery, in that it gives congress the authority to suppress insurrections through military force, which prevents slaves from revolting or protesting, as well as taking away much power from anti-slavery activists, who hold public protests or rebellions. Article 4, Section 2, states “A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime. No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.” This is in favor of slavery because it, like the fugitive slave law, requires slaves to be returned to their “rightful” owners, if they were to flee from slavery into another state. Article 1, Section 9, is pro-slavery because it prohibits congress from banning slavery before the year 1808. This is pro-slavery because it essentially allows slavery to continue in full force until 1808; there is an attempted justification for this statement, saying that a tax, not exceeding ten dollars per person may be imposed, but this does little to justify the guaranteed continuance of slavery until at least 1808. Article 1, Section 2, prevents slaves from running as representatives, because they are not US citizens, as well as only counting them as 3/5 of a person in the population of a state, relative to the house of representatives, which belittles the slaves, thus showing that slaves were not considered equal with other people, and proving that the Constitution was pro-slavery, because it did not view slaves as people, but merely as property, with little more value than cattle. I believe that the constitution is pro-slavery for many reasons. It was an injustice to slaves at the time and a burden to those who opposed slavery. The Constitution may not have intended to be pro-slavery, but it made things much easier on slaveholders than it did on slaves and abolitionists. The writers of the Constitution, however, were white men in the 1700s, which does explain their actions, but does not justify them. The Constitution was a pro-slavery document at the time it was written and was in dire need of change.