The U.S. Constitution And Slavery

Under the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson explained why the colonies were breaking away, and it was only because America believed in freedom and egalitarianism. However, contradictory to that there was a much followed trend of keeping slaves long before this statement was released. Jefferson alone had about 100 slaves, most of them residing in the southern colonies where slaves were 40 percent of the total population. Many colonists opposed the idea of keeping slaves while still taking advantage of them as their laborers for cash crops.

Articles of Confederation 1781

The first national government of the United States was formed under the Articles of Confederation in 1781. Most of the power was given to individual states because after the experience with the British, the colonists were against the central government. This however, did not include any clause on slavery.

This government soon became ineffective and in May 1787, 55 delegates from 12 states met in Philadelphia to revise the Article of Confederation. This did not work out for them so they quickly drew up a new constitution. It was to have three main branches, executive, judiciary and a two house legislature.

The Disputes

Disputes are inevitable in situations like these and so large states (densely populated) demanded more representation in both houses of the legislature. However, smaller states wanted equal number of members in both houses. This lasted for about two months and they finally came to a conclusion that one of the houses (The House of Representatives) would be based on population and the Senate would have two members from each state.

The Issues

  1. There were many issues that arose. The first one came about after this settlement about what should be done about importing new slaves in the U.S. Most of the states agreed to ban it but three out of those argued that they would leave the convention if the slave trade was banned. The Congress said it would decide if the slave trade was to be banned or not.
  2. Second major issue arose when the southern states demanded to return escaped slaves in the Northwest Territories. It was agreed that this would happen and a clause was put in the constitution for the slaves and it in return to the fugitive slave clause, shipping was done on concessions for the New England states.

After this settlement, a lot of serious problems came to surface. The fugitive slave clause allowed slaves to be chased and caught in the North. There were many illegal kidnappings done, South Carolina imported about 40,000 slaves this resulted in so many slaves gathered and there was a spill over in Louisiana.

Finally, the Declaration of Independence came about and the areas to set equality and fairness were left for the future to handle.