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  • How Can America Be Just If It Didn't Abolish Slavery Right Away?

    On this December 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment was adopted and slavery was abolished. There has always been intense debate about the existence of slavery in American history, precisely because it raises questions about this nation’s dedication to liberty and human equality. At the time of the Founding, there were about half a million slaves in the United States, mostly in the five southernmost states, where these individuals made up 40 percent of the population.

    From the outset, the Constitution contained three key compromises on enumeration, the slave trade, and fugitive slaves. But this raises the question: If slavery was contrary to the principles of the American Founding, why didn’t the Framers ban slavery in the Constitution when they drafted it?

    The Founders recognized that slavery blatantly contradicted America’s dedication to liberty and equal rights. But they also recognized that if their new country was to survive, they would have to form a strong union and that the Southern states would never ratify a constitution that abolished slavery. The Founders therefore had to refrain from immediately abolishing slavery. This compromise allowed for the immediate survival of the union while setting in motion the eventual eradication of slavery.

    In countless writings, both public and private, the Founders made clear that they found slavery abhorrent and wished for it be eradicated. More importantly, they took many actions to curtail its expansion and eliminate it in certain places.

    The Northwest Ordinance, one of Congress’s very first laws, banned slavery and the slave trade in America’s first territory. President Thomas Jefferson signed a national ban on the slave trade on January 1, 1808—the first day after the Constitution’s 20-year ban on prohibiting the slave trade expired.

    The opposition to slavery was not confined to the federal government. By 1821, slavery had been fully abolished by half the states in the union.

    This question was reprinted from the new First Principles page at Heritage.org. For more answers to frequently asked questions, visit http://www.heritage.org/Initiatives/First-Principles/basics.

     

    Posted in Featured, First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    14 Responses to How Can America Be Just If It Didn't Abolish Slavery Right Away?

    1. Bobbie says:

      it's sickening that people would hold onto something so ugly as their personal interpretation by manipulating the facts of this country. If people can't respect America being the last country to have slavery and the first to get rid of it, they're going to have to do some soul searching to stop holding themselves back! slavery is not legal in America although someone better exploit what the white house government is doing within their control, bringing it back!

      • notosharia says:

        Consider this— The Arabs and a few other countries of the middle east still have slavery big time. Check it out on Jihad Watch and Atlas Shrugs. These are the countries the USA pays the jiyza –lots of money to to keep them out of our business(we think) but in reality it gives these countries-of -slavery more leverage. It is a bribe to bullies.

    2. so, we’re saying that the ends justify the means?
      amazingly progressive and liberal.

      • D.A.M. says:

        the founders were progressive and liberal. Progressives and liberals today are not what they were back in the founding fathers' days.
        the only other alternative was to not have a USA. Also, the US was not the only place where slavery existed. Btw, slavery still exists in the world and also in Africa……where is the outrage over this????

    3. R in NC says:

      THE ARTICLE ASKS: But this raises the question: If slavery was contrary to the principles of the American Founding

      For the same reason they did not ban tobacco use. I appears as though it was more a person to person, or even a person to state gov. issue rather than a Federalist situation.

      If I am not mistaken the Constitution was more of an outline of how our nation was to handle outside interferences more so than state based issues.
      http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/articlei#… says:
      The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

      It appears to me that this is how the Fed's were granted a way to get their grasp on those controls.

    4. MaryK. says:

      I suggest everyone including the author check the writings of Gordon Wood (Pulitzer Prize winning author and one of the foremost authorities on the early founding period) and his take on slavery in the new nation. There is a video online of his lecture that I recently attended on how the Civil War had Revolutionary origins. The link to a YouTube video of that lecture is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BY8SbXAU_18 He explains how slavery was initially on its way OUT as an institution and wasn't expected to last much longer, so the founders believed that by leaving it alone it would die out as an institution without legislating it especially since many states already had emancipation laws on the books. THEN, he shows how economics in the south got in the way and continues it though the Civil War. It really answers a lot of the questions these issues bring up and he makes a great deal of sense. As a historian myself, I find his interpretations valid. I suggest everyone check this out. It is extremely informative and really connects the dots about the entire issue.

    5. Gary Kelly says:

      (Below, with links found at: http://www.earstohear.net/Heritage/FoundersAndSla

      A classic example is slavery, which is repeatedly drummed into our heads in the schools and in the media as something unique done by white people to black people in the United States. The tragic fact is that, for thousands of years of recorded history, people of every race and color have been both slaves and enslavers. The Europeans enslaved on the Barbary Coast of North Africa alone were far more numerous than all the Africans brought to the United States and to the 13 colonies from which it was formed. What was unique about Western civilization was that it was the first civilization to turn against slavery, and that it stamped out slavery not only in its own societies but in other societies around the world during the era of Western imperialism. That process took well over a century, because non-Western societies resisted… Those who want to give back should give back the truth. It is a debt that is long overdue. Thomas Sowell (http://www.creators.com/opinion/thomas-sowell/stop-making-a-difference.html)

      "This is a long story and it is covered in a long essay titled 'The Real History of Slavery' in my book 'Black Rednecks, White Liberals.' Thomas Sowell

      Black Rednecks, White Liberals by Thomas Sowell – The question arises as to why America's Founder's established "all men are created equal," while at the same time allowing slavery to continue? From the words of the Founders, it appears they feared a race war as being more of an evil consequence then slavery, after witnessing the what happened in Santa Domingo (now Haiti). So they instead hoped slavery would be progressively eradicated more peacefully rather than by violence. Slavery is not based on racism, but on vulnerability. It was based on religion at times, but also regardless of race. Not only did whites enslave whites, and blacks enslaved blacks, and Asians enslaved Asians, Europeans also enslaved other Europeans, Africans enslaved other Africans, and Arabs enslaved other Arabs, who were vulnerable, regardless of race. Also, Christians had slaves, as well as Buddhists had slaves, and the Muslim's Koran accepts slavery as an institution.

    6. Gary Kelly says:

      Stop "Making a Difference" By Thomas Sowell – [M]any who repeat the giving back mantra would sneer at any such notion as patriotism or any idea that the institutions and values of American society have accomplished worthy things and deserve their support, instead of their undermining. Our educational system, from the schools to the universities, are actively undermining any sense of loyalty to the traditions, institutions and values of American society. They are not giving back anything except condemnation, often depicting sins common to the human race around the world as peculiar evils of our society. A classic example is slavery, which is repeatedly drummed into our heads in the schools and in the media as something unique done by white people to black people in the United States. The tragic fact is that, for thousands of years of recorded history, people of every race and color have been both slaves and enslavers. The Europeans enslaved on the Barbary Coast of North Africa alone were far more numerous than all the Africans brought to the United States and to the 13 colonies from which it was formed. What was unique about Western civilization was that it was the first civilization to turn against slavery, and that it stamped out slavery not only in its own societies but in other societies around the world during the era of Western imperialism. That process took well over a century, because non-Western societies resisted… Those who want to give back should give back the truth. It is a debt that is long overdue.

      "This is a long story and it is covered in a long essay titled 'The Real History of Slavery' in my book 'Black Rednecks, White Liberals.' Thomas Sowell

      Black Rednecks, White Liberals by Thomas Sowell – The question arises as to why America's Founder's established "all men are created equal," while at the same time allowing slavery to continue? From the words of the Founders, it appears they feared a race war as being more of an evil consequence then slavery, after witnessing the what happened in Santa Domingo (now Haiti). So they instead hoped slavery would be progressively eradicated more peacefully rather than by violence. Slavery is not based on racism, but on vulnerability. It was based on religion at times, but also regardless of race. Not only did whites enslave whites, and blacks enslaved blacks, and Asians enslaved Asians, Europeans also enslaved other Europeans, Africans enslaved other Africans, and Arabs enslaved other Arabs, who were vulnerable, regardless of race. Also, Christians had slaves, as well as Buddhists had slaves, and the Muslim's Koran accepts slavery as an institution.

      (The above and more at: http://www.earstohear.net/Heritage/FoundersAndSla

      Perhaps wisdom challenge is in order: What would YOU have done in 1789?

    7. Bobbie says:

      hmm, very poignant recognition that the Muslim Koran accepts slavery as an institution. puts a definite piece of obama's America's puzzled future together. slavery is culminating subliminally and while Muslims are specially favored and paid by unknowing American tax payers to protect themselves says they (Muslims) and any immigrants that have to be protected at America's expense have no purpose in being here! Obama wants to increase taxes on the rich white folks while everyone else will be given deductions in favor of race, creed or culture, or just in favor of not being white. keep in mind Muslims have their own banks and run them according to their own rules. So who's really holding back America? the president and / or Muslims who hold back everywhere they're at for attention, intimidation, trouble and sympathies. no immigrant should be allowed compromise of the laws and decencies of this country for their benefit. to correct this damage government leaders permitted the people could put in place immediate deportation proceedings.

      what the heck happened to America! in this country you make your life your own. not put it on government thieving from tax payers to make for you!!!! "fair" to obama has nothing to do with it's true definition…
      someone better fix this country to where no one is discriminated against for anyone elses benefit!!!! lots of this ugliness to clean!!!!

    8. Apply this article in the context of abortion. Isn't abortion just as bad as slavery? We're allowing millions of innocent children to be murdered.

    9. Robert H Appleby says:

      One item the article does not comment about, and that is the punishment that was given to the Southern Slave holding States. Slaves were only enumerated at 3/5ths of a person in calculating representation in Congress.

    10. Emmett Smith says:

      The founders were against slavery but, their man concern was to form a union. They knew that Southern States would not join the Union if it abolished slavery which was viewed as key to their survival at the time. Even Lincoln 's main purpose was to hold the union together and he would have allowed slavery to continue if he could do so. He said and wrote these words. Little did they know how the Union would evolve and really wasn't worth setting aside their morals in order tom maintain it.

    11. Emmett Smith says:

      48 of the signers of the declaration of Independence were Masons and as "Free Masons" they were against slavery but, in order to bring all of the states together into a Union, they put their morals on the back burner. If they only knew that the government that they were forming would follow their lead becoming corrupt and eliminating the liberty that these men held so dear, they would not have done it.

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