Pol 166: The Constitution as a compromised document

Ta-Nehisi Coates has been investigation and writing about the American Civil War for the past couple of years, paying particular attention to the concept of the “slave society”.

In a recent post, he notes that the tenacity with which the southern states held on to the institution of slavery very nearly destroyed the US Constitution before it was ever completed. As one of the commenters on this post, David Litvak, notes:

I was writing a response citing almost the exact same moment with Rutledge and didn’t notice your comment, but I want to underline how galling this gets in the context of the Constitutional debate.  Gouvernour Morris of Pennsylvania, disturbed at the proposed compromise concessions to the slave states, was desperately worried that:

“The inhabitant of Georgia and South Carolina who goes to the Coast of Africa, and in defiance of the most sacred laws of humanity tears away his fellow creatures from their dearest connections and damns them to the most cruel bondages, shall have more votes in a government instituted for the protection of the rights of mankind,than the citizen of Pennsylvania or New Jersey who views with a laudable horror so nefarious a practice.”

And Rutledge, in reply (I don’t believe directly, but obviously rebutting Morris’ general point):

“Religion and humanity had nothing to do with the question. Interest alone is the governing principle with nations. The true question at present is whether the Southern states shall or shall not be parties to the Union.”

I talk about this more below ( http://www.theatlantic.com/per… ), but I wanted to make sure people had the context.  This stuff is downright nefarious.

Go read the whole thing. Good stuff.

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About proftp

I teach political science and bioethics as an adjunct at a CUNY school.
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