Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Slavery and Stock Liberal Claims

Slightly famous moron Ken Blackwell doesn't appreciate people saying unkind things about the US Constitution as it was originally passed:

The idea that our Constitution “condoned” slavery and was therefore an immoral document unworthy of being viewed with reverence is a stock liberal claim. It is false.

Most of the Founders wanted to abolish the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Jefferson had denounced that “execrable traffic” in his first draft of the Declaration of Independence.
Note how Blackwell can't decide if he's talking about the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, but that's a rather hoary and dull confusion among slightly famous right-wing morons. More interesting is Blackwell's implication that false is the new true and reality is biased toward "stock liberal claims," because in fact, the US Constitution as originally ratified did condone slavery, and this legal sanction for it persisted until the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments abolished it and its discriminatory legal underpinnings. A delightful passage of article 4, section 2 reads as follows:
No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof,
escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein,
be discharged from such Service or Labour, But shall be delivered up on Claim
of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.
Maybe Blackwell is able to charm himself into believing that this talk of persons being "held to Service or Labour" and lawfully "delivered up on Claim of the Party" has nothing to do with slavery, but reality will not be so charmed. This has everything to do with regulating, but not forbidding, the trafficking of human beings (slavery and indentured servitude) as practiced in the closing years of the 18th century, when this passage was made into law.

A quick glance at in article 1, section 2 clarifies the matter further, where the apportionment of representatives
... shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.
Note how "free Persons" are distinguished from "those bound to Service for a Term of Years" on one hand and "Indians not taxed" on the other hand and, finally, "all other Persons" who shall count as 60% persons. This is right there in the text of the Constitution? Yes, this is right there in the text of the Constitution.

Read it and weep if you must, but there's nothing good to be gained by lying about it. Like the Bible, the US Constitution as it was originally written regulates, but does not prohibit, slavery -- unlike the Bible, it spells out the process by which people may rid it of its evils and mistakes. Inasmuch as "stock liberal claims" affirm this, it only serves as evidence that "stock liberal claims" arise from reading the document and the history in question.

(via Eli)


Sheldon said...

And it probably didn't matter that they wanted to stop the trans-Atlantic slave trade as they had a reproducing populations by that time?

Dale said...

Sheldon - I think the best we can say is that the "founders" were genuinely divided on slavery. They allowed it to go forward in the end, but you can see in something like the 3/5-of-a-person thing that there was a lot of negotiating. That strikes me as the kind of number that results from several rounds of back and forth. Certainly, southern delegations weren't going to ratify the constitution if it outright banned slavery, so that was a non-starter even if there had been a critical mass of anti-slavery "founders."