Which parts of the US Constitution have aged least well?Breaking News
tags: Founding Fathers, Constitution, political history
Jennifer Victor is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.
The framers of the Constitution famously punted on the question of slavery. During the deliberations at the Constitutional Convention, it became obvious that if the republic was going to stand together as one nation, there would have to be a compromise regarding slavery.
Representatives from the South were simply not willing to join a nation that outlawed the source of their fortune. Abolitionists decided to choose the republic over the enslaved people and agreed to a compromise that accepted their status as less than full humans. It was an immoral and repugnant choice that has scarred the nation permanently.
By punting on slavery, the framers set the stage for the American Civil War to take place 72 years later. It remains the deadliest war in US history, taking more than 650,000 Americans’ lives, which was around 2.1 percent of the population at the time. That’s what happens when your own citizens are on both sides of a violent four-year war.
There are those who argue that the framers’ punt on slavery was worth it; that the republic known as the United States of America would probably not have been formed if they hadn’t. This is a subjective judgment, and no one knows what the counterfactual universe would be if things had gone differently in the Constitutional Convention, but it’s important to note that such a view is a decidedly white perspective. Those whose ancestors did well under the republic that formed are much more likely to see the slavery trade-off as having been worth it, but if your ancestors were enslaved, or perished in the war, your view of the compromise may be much different.
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