the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

The two most explicit decisions implicitly endorsing

Info icon This preview shows pages 85–87. Sign up to view the full content.

The two most explicit decisions implicitly endorsing slavery were the agreement to count slaves as three- fifths of a person for purposes of representation in the House and a prohibition against ending the slave trade for twenty years, concessions to the Deep South, especially South Carolina, that appear horrific to our eyes but without which the Constitution almost certainly could never have come into existence. 36
Image of page 85

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

There were, to be sure, flashes of emotional honesty that exposed the depth of the sectional divide. Luther Martin of Maryland denounced slavery as “an odious bargain with sin, inconsistent with the principles of the revolution and dishonorable to the American character.” Gouverneur Morris pronounced slavery “a curse,” an anachronistic “vestige of feudalism” that would actually retard the economic development of the South, and “the most prominent feature in the aristocratic countenance of the proposed Constitution.” On the pro-slavery side, the most succinct statement came from Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina: “South Carolina and Georgia cannot do without slaves.” 37 Such statements accurately expressed the broadly shared recognition that slavery was, on the one hand, a cancerous tumor in the American body politic and, on the other, a malignancy so deeply embedded that it could not be removed without killing the patient, which in this case was a newly created American nation. As a result, the most salient piece of evidence is silence. No one proposed any provision condemning slavery and insisting that it be put on the road to extinction. And no one proposed that the Constitution contain language explicitly justifying or protecting slavery or defending its permanent place in American society. The euphemisms and circumlocutions in the language of the Constitution accurately reflected the ambiguous and ambivalent mentality of the delegates. If there was one explosive device that could blow up the entire national enterprise, this was it, and the delegates knew it. Leadership, as they saw it, meant evading rather than facing the moral implications of the slavery question. Whether this was a failure of moral leadership or a realistic recognition of the politically possible can be debated until the end of time. By transforming slavery from a moral to a political problem, the delegates made it susceptible to compromise, but this achievement came at a cost. Writing in his notebook on July 9, John Dickinson of Delaware expressed his personal disappointment that the moral question posed by slavery was being conveniently obscured: “Acting before the World, what will be said of this new principle of founding a Right to govern Freemen on a power derived from Slaves…. The omitting of the WORD will be regarded as an Endeavor to conceal a principle of which we are ashamed.” 38 From the perspective of abolitionists fifty years later, the conscious decision to bury the slavery issue was a moral travesty that rendered the Constitution “a covenant with death.” It is clear that several
Image of page 86
Image of page 87
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.
  • Fall '16
  • Chemistry, pH, American Revolution, Second Continental Congress, American Revolution, Continental Army

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern