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America's founding is not rooted in pro-slavery sentiments - NewViewNews






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America's founding is not rooted in pro-slavery sentiments

IDW100890 · other · opinion · 11/08/2020

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The American political order established by documents like the Declaration and Constitution were not pro-slavery. While it was not, at its beginning, abolitionist, the sentiments of the Declaration of Independence, along with the system put in place by the Constitution, would set the stage for the eventual protection of liberty for all. 

Firstly, the amendment system embedded within the Constitution allowed for the status quo of slavery in some states to eventually be changed. The 13th amendment to the Constitution essentially abolished slavery and rendered the the 3/5ths Compromise and the Fugitive Slave Clause moot, and while the 13th is not an original feature of the document, the amendment process was.

Likewise, the Declaration of Independence would influence the demand for a deliverance of the promises of liberty enshrined within it, even if they weren’t immediately protected. For example, Abraham Lincoln regularly cited the Declaration as a moral standard in the case for universal liberty; Martin Luther King Jr did as well. In both the Gettysburg Address and I Have A Dream, in both of their respective fights for liberty, the men harkened back to the words of the Fathers, that “all men are created equal.” While that sentiment has taken a long time to genuinely exist in the nation's laws, its existence is part of what has brought the nation closer to that goal. As Lincoln argued in his last debate with Stephen Douglass “[The founders] meant simply to declare the right [to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of all men], so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit.”

Many may argue that the constitution, through its implicit recognition of chattel slavery through the 3/5ths Clause, Fugitive Slave Act, and Importation Clause makes the American order at least a bystander to, if not an encourager, of slavery. However, I ask them to consider any realistic alternative. North Carolinian delegate to the Constitutional Convention William Richardson Davie made it clear that his state “would never confederate on any terms that did not rate [slaves] at least as three-fifths,” and judging by a little skirmish in the 1860s, the other southern states did not want to be a part of a slave-less U.S. either. So, had the northern states refused to compromise, it’s fair to assume the south walks from the convention, and the south continues the sin of slavery regardless. There seems to be no realistic way that slavery doesn’t exist in the south at that time, whether or not there’s a Constitution to back it up.

So, as an imperfect document that allows for potential pathways to lessening the issue of slavery, such as the importation clause, it is relatively anti-slavery when considering any realistic alternative. Again, regardless of the Constitution, slavery would exist in the south, so all these documents did was allow the paths mentioned above to abolition to exist.

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