Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Constitution and the Issue of Slavery, A new Look at it

Was the Civil war necessary for the purpose of freeing the slaves? If we are to understand our own history along with the original intent of the founders the answer has to be no. Along with this we can better understand the reasoning of the Southern States when they decided to leave the confederation of States. The understanding can be found right in the Constitution itself.


This understanding can be found in the following section of the Constitution. It is the first clause of the ninth section of Article I.

“The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think
 proper to admit,
shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight,
but a tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.”

Believe it or not, this clause dealt with the issue of slavery. It was meant to be the first step in the banning of the institution within this new nation. In fact a debate ensued over this clause because the word “slave” was not used to clarify its meaning. It was inserted into the Constitution for the purpose of giving the federal government the authority and power over the particular domestic issue of slavery at the point of its intended authority and power.

The explanation of this clause can be seen in the following rebuttal argument by William Wilson:

“With respect to the clause restricting Congress from prohibiting the migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, prior to the year 1808, the honorable gentleman says that this clause is not only dark, but intended to grant to Congress, for that time, the power to admit the importation of slaves. No such thing was intended. But I will tell you what was done, and it gives me high pleasure that so much was done. Under the present Confederation, the states may admit the importation of slaves as long as they please; but by this article, after the year 1808, the Congress will have power to prohibit such importation, notwithstanding the disposition of any state to the contrary. I consider this as laying the foundation for banishing slavery out of this country;and though the period is more distant than I could wish, yet it will produce the same kind, gradual change, which was pursued in Pennsylvania.
It is with much satisfaction I view this power in the general government, whereby they may lay an interdiction on this reproachful trade: but an immediate advantage is also obtained; for a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person; and this, sir, operates as a partial prohibition;
it was all that could be obtained. I am sorry it was no more; but from this I think there is reason to hope, that yet a few years, and it will be prohibited altogether; and in the mean time, the new states which are to be formed will be under the control of Congress in this particular, and slaves will never be introduced amongst them.”

So, from this explanation of the clause we can see that it was the intent of the founding fathers to ban the institution of slavery and it can be found in the Constitution when we decide to understand it from the point of view of “Original Intent” rather than seeing it as a “Living document”. If we was to interpret that clause in accordance to the idea behind the concept of it being a living document we could never come to the conclusion that is seen here.

It could also be shown as being added evidence that the structure of government was intended to be as I stated in my post on the Preamble, part III as declared here;

“From this, the hierarchy was established of the federal government being subordinate
to the collective of the States
and the county and city governments being subordinate
to their respectful individual State”

The reason being is that they enumerated this particular issue as being within the powers of the federal government thus allowing the assumption that all other domestic issues remained within the power of the States or the people. The fact that States had the power to ban slavery declares that they were not intended to be subordinate to the federal government on any domestic issues even on this issue.

The choice now becomes yours, the reader. Was war necessary to free the slave as so many want to believe? Can it be even said that slavery was the real issue in regards to the war?

21 comments:

BB-Idaho said...

IMO, it was necessary. Alexander Stevens, Vice President of the Confederate States of America-
"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. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."

Gorges Smythe said...

Slavery was far from being the only cause of the Uncivil War. However, it was the only issue that either side would openly discuss, since doing otherwise would have exposed the sins of both sides. It was also used by the North as reason for having the supposed moral high ground, so men would fight and die for causes of which they weren't even aware.

The Griper said...

Since Mr. Wilson was giving an explanation of the Constitution's content at the time of its ratification, would you say that the VP's words spoken 70 years later are consistent with the intent of the founders?

Gorges Smythe said...

If your question was intended for me, I'd say Wilson was right, in that many of the founders intended to ultimately end slavery. I'm sure many others simply figured there would be some way found around that possible banning. Intentions and reality often don't mesh, after all.

Lista said...

From the Quote of William Wilson...

"for a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person; and this, sir, operates as a partial prohibition."

Actually, what I see here is the Treating of the Slaves as Property, for Property is Often Taxed, yet Wilson's Words Make it Obvious what the Motive was behind it.

"From this, the hierarchy was established of the federal government being subordinate to the collective of the States and the county and city governments being subordinate to their respectful individual State"

Yet if the Intent was to Eventually do Away with Slavery, then this would Switch the Power to the Federal Government, at Least in Relation to this Issue.

It was Controversial, though, Making the Intent Controversial and therefore any Discussion of their Intent Controversial. There were those who Believed in Federalism more than Others. There was Never Unity on the Issue.

I Guess that the Other Issue Relating to the War was States Rights or State Sovereignty, however you want to Put it, yet I still do not Understand how you Think the Slaves could have been Freed without War.

Gorges Smythe's Comment has Confused me and Made me Aware that I may not Fully Understand all the Hidden Motives and Reasons behind the War, nor what the Sins were on Both Sides.

BB,
Are you saying that War was Necessary because of the Opinions of Men like Alexander Stevens who Believed "the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man."? I'm just Asking a Question to make sure that I Understand.

The Griper said...

Given the words of the VP and the words of one of the founders, each could be said as being representative of the thoughts of their particular group we have a good basis for analysis of different ideas and that is good.

Lista said...

There is a Commenter that Comments on Z-man's Blog Once in Awhile, named Satyavati. Her most Recent Comment made me Think of this Post.

"Lincoln fought a war to free slaves, but it certainly didn't bring them 'equal rights'...if it had, there would have been no need for the Civil Rights Movement, would there? The Sharecroppers' Union was the FIRST biracial union in a time when discrimination, lynching, gross civil rights violations and the general beatdown of the black folk were accepted social realities.

"All Lincoln did was get them off the plantation, which was in itself a good thing, but it didn't bring them equal rights, or we'd never have needed the Civil Rights Movement in the first place."


Could things such as the Civil Rights Movement and Sharecroppers' Union Done the Job without the War? These are the Sort of Questions that the Above Post Leads Up to.

The Griper said...

the civil rights movement, lista, was to protest the jim crow laws enacted by some states and local communities and, in effect, a protest against the "separate but equal" means test for determining interpretation of the Constitution.

and there was a civil rights movement prior to the civil war. it was called the anti-slavery movement. and that movement existed from before the beginning of this nation. members of this movement were called abolitionists.

BB-Idaho said...

"Was war necessary to free the slave as so many want to believe? Can it be even said that slavery was the real issue in regards to the war?" IMO, the founders compromised on the issue of slavery in the writing of the constitution, otherwise the slave-holding states would not be part of the Union. It seems clear that both northern and southern
founders believed the
'peculiar institution' would die a natural death,
done in by its own moral
turpitude. It did not-it
was an economic necessity for plantation operations.
Within a few years, politicians such as John C. Calhoun formulated a
defense of slavery, 1.
it was paternalistic, the
slaves were better off than poor workers and treated well, 2. It was
constitutionally legal..
the states rights argument. (in fact, the south managed to get a bill through congress on
the hunting and returning of runaways into the north.
The dragging of escaped slaves from hiding places
by the sheriff was only one of a number of examples which exacerbated
the abolution movement in the north. This period of history rapidly spiraled
towards violence, for example 'bleeding Kansas'
where congress enacted the right of citizens to vote for slave or free..thousands of slave holding Missourians flooded into Kansas to
'vote'. This was critical to the south, because as new states were admitted,
they would lose power in congress if the new states were 'free states'. The south proclaimed they wanted freedom from the
power of the north (even
while holding thousands of slaves, such was the logic of the times), the south
knew they could not defend slavery as an institution,
so they used 'states rights'. But, the handwriting was on the wall..newer states would
add to the numerical superiority of the north
in congress. The south
felt it had no option but to secede. IMO slavery was the issue..were it not surely the south would have freed them and THEN
seceded. For the south,
the slavery issue was confounded by the large number of negro slaves:
what would they do if freed? For that reason, although the Union armies
had many black regiments, the south refused to arm
blacks, or promise them freedom for fighting for the south (which was proposed by some Confederate generals)
"Was slavery the real issue?" It surely was.
Was war necessary to free the slaves?" We can but guess. Given the intense feeling and effort put forth by the southern states in defense of their 'peculiar institution', the little
cotton growing country
of CSA certainly had the potential to continue slavery for a long time.
It is instructive that politicians in the confederacy were very
upset that no country in the world would give them
coveted 'recognition' which would have given them legitimacy among nations. The rub was slavery: they knew it, but it was just too entrenched. We cannot rewrite history, but
IMO it would have been
even uglier than those
hundreds of thousands of young fellas in blue and grey that were casualties
in an argument over a
'peculiar institution'...

BB-Idaho said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lista said...

Well, I Guess that Answers my Question, Griper, about the Civil Rights Movement Preventing a War, for the Civil Rights Movement of the Abolitionists did not Work, did it?

My History is Absolutely Horrible. I'm not even Sure what the "Separate but Equal means Test" is.

It Looks Like BB Mentioned the Compromise that you so Often Talk about, Griper. The Compromise was Necessary in Order to Allow the Slave-Holding States into the Union.

Thanks so much for the History Lessons, BB. I so Appreciate them. You Explain it in a Way that is Very Simple and Clear and I'm Learning a Great Deal from you.

The Griper said...

got a surprise for everyone on this issue. it was a real big one for me when i found it.

Lista said...

Hi Griper,
I'm not Sure what you Mean, so Perhaps you'll Explain it Further, yet Right Now I'm Sort of Caught Up in my Own Thoughts on the Matter, for I Keep Writing Things on Other People's Blogs that I Know have been Influenced by What I've Read on this One. Here's Another One and I've Divided it into Two Posts. I'll Explain the Relevance Once I'm done Repeating what I Said.

"To Form a World Government, the Countries that are Involved would have to Sacrifice their Individual Sovereignty and to do that in a Way that Connects us with other Countries that Think Very Differently than Ourselves is not a Good Idea, because America has a Different Philosophy than a lot of the Other Countries of the World.

"There is a Verse in the Bible that says...

"'Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?' (2 Corinthians 6:14, KJV)

"Now, Granted this Verse is Mainly about Christianity and not being Yoked in Marriage with someone who is of a Different Faith than Oneself, yet some have Translated it to also Include Business Arrangements with those who do not Share Our Same Ideas about how Businesses should be Run.

"This Idea is Based on the Actual Analogy that is Presented in the Verse, which is of Two Oxen that are Placed in a Yoke Together in Order to Plow a Field. If the Two are not Equal, the Stronger One will Pull the Weaker One to the Right or the Left and the Path that is Plowed will not be Straight."

Lista said...

"Anyway, the Point I want to Make is that even though, this Verse is Most Often Used in Relation to Religion and Marriage, it also has Broader Implications than that. When Ever we are Yoked Together, either in Marriage, Business or Politically with someone who has Very Different Ideas than Ourselves, we Risk Getting Pulled in a Direction that we do not at all Want to Go in and this is Why we do not Want World Government.

"Back to Democracy, though. Democracy does not Govern that which it Frees. When we have Fought Wars in Places Like Korea and Iraq, we have not Set Up Our Own Governments there. Our Goal Instead is to Help them to Set Up their Own Governments and then Once they are Self-Sufficient, we will Leave them be.

"Communism is Very Different than that, because it does Seek to Rule what it Concurs, but Democracies do not. The Sovereignty of Other Countries is Respected, just as the Sovereignty and Freedom of Individuals is as well.

"The Biggest Problem, though, with World Government would be the Problem of Being Yoked with Communist Countries that do not share Our Values. Even if Such a Rule was Democratic, if Communists Countries were also Given a Vote, we would be Forced into Compromise with them and this would Tare Away at that which we Value, so it is Better to Remain Separate from them.

"Even in the US, there are some who Believe in a much Higher Level of State Sovereignty than we Currently have and the Opinion that Federalism has Gotten Way Out of Hand, yet that is a Whole Other Subject."


Or is it?

The Griper said...

no, lista it is not a different subject. the only thing different is the reasons of differences. the issue of slavery was the issue of values that separated the States of this nation as opposed to communism for a world government.

we have a form of a quasi-world government now. it is called the United Nations. and it is basically patterned on how this nation was founded.

The Griper said...

the whole idea behind the United Nations, lista, is for nations to bring international problems to the U.N. and solve them in a peaceful manner. and in doing so, allow each nation to deal with domestic problems as they will.

that was the intent of the founding fathers for this nation also. to allow the federal government to handle international problems as well as interstate problems and allow each state to deal with domestic problems.

Lista said...

Ok, now for the Relevance. The Relevance can be Shown by just Replacing the Word "Countries" with the Word "States" and the Phrase "World Government" with the Phrase "United States". If you do this, you will see a Parallel between the Past and that which is going on Right Now in the Present. When I did this Below, I had to Change some Pronouns as well.

Example:
"To Form" (The United States), (the States) that are Involved would have to Sacrifice their Individual Sovereignty and to do that in a Way that Connects them with other (States) that Think Very Differently than themselves is not a Good Idea, because (Slave Holding States) have a Different Philosophy than a lot of the Other (States) of the (Union).

And Also,

"The Biggest Problem, though, with (a United Federal Government) is the Problem of Being Yoked with (Slave Holding States) that do not share Our Values. Even if Such a Rule was Democratic, if (Slave Holding States) are also Given a Vote, we would be Forced into Compromise with them (or they with us) and this would Tare Away at that which we Value, so it is Better to Remain Separate from them."

Anyway, this was an Interesting Thought that I am Still Processing.

Surprisingly, what I have Written Puts the Idea of "Compromise" in a New Light, both in Relation to Compromising with Communistic Countries and Also Compromising with Slave Holding States and what I have Said Above could be Used in Support of the Idea that Perhaps the Compromise that was made with the "Slave Holding States" should not have been Done, just as Griper had at One Time said to me.

I do not Believe, however, and Never Will Believe that Compromise is ALWAYS a Bad Thing. It's just that when we Compromise in Ways that do not Really Fit with what we are Willing to Do, it is not an Honest Compromise, just as those who made this Compromise were Hoping "that yet a few years, it will be prohibited altogether" or that "the 'peculiar institution' would die a natural death, done in by its own moral turpitude."

Don't you see? This Compromise was not Actually done Willingly and Honestly, because there was a Hidden Hope within it that "Perhaps one day, they will Change" and Hoping to One Day Change a Person or Group is not True Compromise.

Lista said...

Griper,
Sometimes you Accuse me of Changing the Subject, so I am so Relieved to Hear that you do see the Parallel, even before I Explained it to you.

We Do Need to be very Careful how much of our Sovereignty we Sacrifice to the United Nations. Excessive Compromise in this Context would not be a Good Thing.

We are Finally Communicating, yet to be Quite Honest with you, Griper, Most of the Time, I do not Follow very well what you are Saying and you can Blame that all on me if you want to, but I still Think that you do not Communicate as Clearly as some and that this is a Problem that you Need to Keep Working on.

As to the Compromise, though, if the Slave States had Remained Separate from the Union, that would have been a Rather Sad Solution and I Wonder if War would have Broken Out Later anyway. It is really hard to Tell what Outcome would have come from that Solution.

The Griper said...

lista,
"and I Wonder if War would have Broken Out Later anyway. It is really hard to Tell what Outcome would have come from that Solution."

any answer to this question would only be speculation but i don't really believe that it would.

and i also believe that, in time, slavery would have been abolished in the slave states also on a voluntary basis of those states. and once that occured i don't believe we would have had the race related problems that resulted afterwards either.

Lista said...

I don't Think I Agree, but it's just Speculation, so theirs no Point in Arguing it too Extensively.

It's just that Wars Start Often over Injustices, such as this, such as the Mistreatment of the People in Iraq. Democrats have Often Questioned the Real Motives behind that War. Was it Really because of Nuclear Treat, or was it Partly because of the Injustices Imposed on the Iraqis?

This is the Sort of Thing that Makes me Wonder Whether or not the North Really could have Left the South Alone, or would a War have Broken Out anyway.

Also, the Fact that Slavery Still Exists in Africa Makes me Question that it would have Died Out on it's Own.

This is all Speculation, though, so it's Probably not Good to Dwell on it for too Long.

Rational Nation USA said...

"So, from this explanation of the clause we can see that it was the intent of the founding fathers to ban the institution of slavery..."

This is correct. It is also true the the Continental Congress considered banning abolishing slavery.

Unfortunately the reason it failed to happen was both political and economic.

The founders had to deal with the reality of their times and simply pushed the issue to another day of reckoning.

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