A common misconception states that–because many of the founding fathers of the US were slaveholders–the Constitution is a racist document that “doesn’t give the same rights to black people as it does to white people.”
First of all, the Constitution doesn’t GIVE rights to anyone. No one can give rights to someone else. Either you have rights or you don’t. The Constitution only recognizes rights that every human being has, simply for being a human being.
Following are six major actions taken by the founding generation to marginalize and ultimately quash the practice of slavery in the US:
– the Declaration of Independence declared without qualification that “all men are created equal.”
– the Three-Fifths Compromise, which declared that the slave population would be counted as three-fifths in total when determining representatives, prevented the slave states from using the presence of the slaves in their states as additional population to increase their representation
– the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 forbade slavery in the Northwest Territory (parts of Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin)
– the Slave Trade Act of 1794 outlawed the use of any U.S. port or shipyard for the purpose of building slave ships, and severely regulated the trade freedoms for any existing ship engaged in trafficking with foreign countries
– The Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves of 1807 did just what its name says: prohibited the importation of new slaves into the US
– the Missouri Compromise of 1820 admitted Missouri as a slave state but also included Maine as a free state to maintain the balance of free and slave states and avoid giving the slave states too much power
The very Founding Fathers many deign to call bigoted or hypocritical actually began paving the way for the abolition of slavery before any other nation in the world.
Look out for the second half of this post, wherein I demonstrate why the Civil War was not fought over slavery…