The revolutionary generation feared disunion which

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The revolutionary generation feared disunion--which was predicted by many foreign observers. And so the revolutionary generations made extraordinary efforts to prevent disunion. Such fears, however, transcended support for any social reform that threatened political union. The accommodations the Founding Fathers made to the slave interest in drafting the Constitution in 1787 bespoke their belief that the interests of union superseded those of emancipation. The widespread distribution of property in the United States forestalled a truly radical revolution anyway. Americans equated property-holding with social and political stability and orderly progress--and they warned that the presence of un-propertied elements would unsettle society. And even friends of anti-slavery acknowledged that wholesale emancipation of the slaves would introduce a large, dependent class into the body politic. It would also invite demagogues and intriguers to sow political discord among them. Whatever its moral merits, emancipation would have to be gradual and linked to programs of either apprenticeship or colonization--in order to safeguard the republic from a fatal infusion of propertyless--and thus, dangerous--citizens. Thomas Jefferson also believed that--if slavery were removed--blacks and whites could not live together harmoniously, that one would devour the other. Hating slavery but fearing the consequences of precipitously ending it, the revolutionary generation attacked slavery indirectly: limiting its geographic expansion and its numerical increase by abolishing the slave trade, and pushing it ever southward.
4 The elimination of slavery in the Northern states revealed the measured progress of antislavery during the revolutionary era. The threat that the Deep South states (Georgia, North and South Carolina) would not support the Constitution led many Northerners grudgingly to support the three-fifths and slave importation clauses. The word “slavery” did not appear in the Constitutionbut the institution was directly at issue in crucial clauses in the document drafted in Philadelphia. The three-fifths clause provided for counting three-fifths of all slaves for purposes of Congressional representation. This clause also provided that if any “direct tax”was levied on the states, it could only be imposed proportionally--according to population, and that only three-fifths of all slaves could be counted in assessing what each state’s contributionwould be. The three-fifths clause did notdeclare that slaves were three-fifths of a person. Meanwhile, the fugitive slave clause prohibited Congress from banning the African slave trade before 1808--but did not require Congress to prohibit the trade after that date. During the ratification process, this clause led to vitriolic debate.

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