Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Constitution and the Issue of Slavery, A new Look at it. (part II )

Prior to the Civil war and prior to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States the Union was made up of 34 States, 16 that could be called slave States. This left 18 States that were identified a free States at the time. Based on these simple facts one could assume that ratification of any amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery would be considered as very improbable.

While there were threats of secession prior to Lincoln's election history reports that it was his election that became the straw that broke the camel's back. Seven States seceded from the union prior to his inauguration. And upon the attack at Fort Sumter four more States seceded from the union. These eleven States made up what is called the Confederacy.

Neither President Buchanan nor President Lincoln recognized a State's right to secede from the union and thus considered what the southern States did as a rebellion. They considered secession as going against the will of the founding fathers of setting up a perpetual union.

This is opposed to the idea of the Constitution being a compact or contract among the States which each State entered into willingly therefore should be allowed to leave willingly. It is this concept that is the foundational basis of State rights or State sovereignty.

While everyone is in agreement that the slave issue was the dominant issue of the day and it was that issue that ultimately led to its unfortunate bloody conclusion the right of the present States to have legalized slavery was not the focus of the debate. It was the expansion of slavery into new territories which could be a real threat to the political fortunes of this nation that was the focus. This was characterized by use of the term of “slave power” by northern politicians.

“The problem posed by slavery, according to many Northern politicians, was not so much the mistreatment of slaves (a theme that abolitionists emphasized), but rather the political threat to American republicanism, especially as embraced in Northern free states. The Free Soil Party first raised this warning in 1848, arguing that the annexation of Texas as a slave state was a terrible mistake. The Free Soilers rhetoric was taken up by the Republican party as it emerged in 1854.”

“Worse, said the Republicans, the Slave Power, deeply entrenched in the "Solid South", was systematically seizing control of the White House, the Congress, and the Supreme Court. Senator and governor Salmon P. Chase of Ohio was an articulate enemy of the Slave Power, as was Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts.”

It was in the election of Lincoln that some saw that "slave power" was broken and a good reason for the secession of the Southern States from the union as exemplified by the words of Salmon Chase in congratulating Lincoln for winning the election;

“The object of my wishes and labors for nineteen years is accomplished in the overthrow of the Slave Power, ...”

In conclusion with this knowledge I know a different viewpoint but also brings up a big question of the intent of the founding fathers in regards to what they expected the Constitution to mean. Did they see it as a compact or did they see it as creating a perpetual union?

All Quotes were taken from the Wikipedia on the subject of Slave Power


BB-Idaho said...

"Did they see it as a compact or did they see it as creating a perpetual union?" We can only guess:

"I am not a Virginian, but an American. Patrick Henry, 1774
"I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." Nathan Hale,
"In the formation of our constitution the wisdom of all ages is collected--the legislators are antiquity are consulted, as well as the opinions and interests of the millions who are concerned. It short, it is an empire of reason."
Noah Webster, 1787
"It is much to be wished that slavery may be abolished. The honour of the States, as well as justice and humanity, in my opinion, loudly call upon them to emancipate these unhappy people. To contend for our own liberty, and to deny that blessing to others, involves an inconsistency not to be excused."
John Jay, 1786
"I am persuaded that a firm union is as necessary to perpetuate our liberties as it is to make us respectable; and experience will probably prove that the National Government will be as natural a guardian of our freedom as the State Legislatures."
Alexander Hamilton, 1788
"The American war is over; but this far from being the case with the American revolution. On the contrary, nothing but the first act of the drama is closed. It remains yet to establish and perfect our new forms of government, and to prepare the principles, morals, and manners of our citizens for these forms of government after they are established and brought to perfection."
Benjamin Rush, 1786
"This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a ban of brethren, united to each other by the strongest of ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties."
John Jay, 1787
"'Tis done. We have become a nation."
Benjamin Rush, 1788
...OK, I'll guess: they saw the Articles of Confederation as a 'compact'.
They saw the Constitution
as the basis for their new nation, thereby creating a
'permanent union'.

The Griper said...

strong argument, my friend, a very strong argument. :)

BB-Idaho said...

Griper, your stated purpose is to make folks think. Since political history and constitutional
legalities are far from my
area of expertise or interest, I've had to dig
a bit to support my opinions. You have suceeded. :) Why do I suspect a bit of teaching in your background, and a bit of Socratic methodology?

Lista said...

Thanks for the Historical Information in this Post, Griper. It has been Quite Informative.

If we had just said, "Ok, Fine. Secede then, you are Free to do so.", would this have Prevented a War? As I Understand the History, Griper, I Understand your Point of View. You just Never Took the Time Until now to Explain it to me.

"the right of the present States to have legalized slavery was not the focus of the debate. It was the expansion of slavery into new territories which could be a real threat to the political fortunes of this nation that was the focus."

You see, that Sounds like a Problem with or Without State Sovereignty.

It is Interesting that the Election of a President that Represented One of Two Conflicting Ideas would Result in the Secession of a Bunch of States. That's Almost like Democratic States Seceding because of the Election of a Republican President, or Republican States Seceding because of the Election of a Democratic President. They're Quite Touchy, Aren't they?

The Griper said...

and there is more to come too. this was a facinating time in our history with a lot of twists and turns

Rational Nation USA said...

While slavery and states rights were the rallying cry by the north and south respectively the real underlying reason for the south in succeeding from the union was to preserve their economic system and it's reliance on cheap slave labor.

An abominable practice, one the founders understood as such given their writings.

Unfortunately they lacked the political support to end slavery in their time. Had they attempted to do so there is little doubt the union of 13 individual former colonies would not have happened.

They opted for the bigger enchilada if you will.


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