While defending the Constitution I am met often with two questions: 1) If the founders were so great and the Constitution such a great document, why did it preserve slavery? 2) Why did the Constitution treat black people as 3/5th a person? The answers to these questions are rather simple when fact and truth are employed. To understand the truth, we start with some basics…
In June of 1776 the Lee Resolution was ratified and was the legislative action that authorized the Declaration of Independence. This Resolution was a three step process to declaring independence from Great Britain and establishing a union of States:
“Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved. That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances. That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.”
The Colonies knew that once they became thirteen independent and sovereign States and formed alliances with foreign nations to break free from the hold of Great Britain, the most important thing they could do would be to form a union of States. If they failed to form a union, everything that they sacrificed for independence would have been in vain. They had just bankrupted themselves, invited foreign nations onto their soil. Failure to unite could result in their servitude once more. A union would mutually protect their sovereignty from external attack.
As Thomas Jefferson correctly stated, the Constitution would have to be ratified by the “whole American people.” The framers needed all the States to consent. Immediately after the revolution, the victors could have very well attempted to force the other States to unite. However, they never intended to form the union by force, as they never intended to keep it together by force. James Madison said, in a letter to Robert Walsh (27 Nov. 1819) that “the Constitution was ‘the result of mutual deference & Concession’.” They knew the only way to form a lasting union, a union based upon Liberty, was to do so by consent.
Understanding that the formation of the union of States was the most important thing they could do left them with a dilemma. There were societal and cultural differences between the States. One such difference existed in the institution of slavery and many saw it as a great evil but recognized that the successful formation of the new nation was the only way to see it abolished.
“Great as the evil is, a dismemberment of the Union would be worse. If those States should disunite from the other States for not indulging them in the temporary continuance of this traffic, they might solicit and obtain aid from foreign powers.” –James Madison, Virginia Ratifying Convention, 15 June 1788
Continue Reading: How The Constitution Ended Slavery – KrisAnne Hall
What is a “Remonstrance?”
Krisanne Hall will be speaking in Clarksville TN on June 25, 2016 at the First Baptist Church and June 27, 2016 at the Clarksville-Montgomery County Library, 5:30PM. Mark it on your calendar!
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