How did the American Constitution protect slavery?

At the moment of the Constitution signature, slavery was a huge reality in the United States. Slaves were generally accepted by society and there were no movements against slavery (talking very generally, because there were some northern states that were against slavery, but my point is that it was not the main problem of the country, from the eyes of free people).

Slaves were part of the population and, in fact, they were counted to determine the representation in the United States House of Representatives. Some states didn`t agree with that, but it happened.

The constitution could have been a good way to finish with slavery, it could have been the perfect way but it wasn’t the perfect context, because the people weren’t demanding it (and neither the state, of course).

Instead of finishing with it, the constitution covered slavery, protected it. In the section 9 of the 1st article, it is said : “The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person”. It forbids the Congress to forbid, at the same time, slavery. By this article, the american constitution legitimates the slavery in its area.



However, it specifies “prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight”, so, it gives the states 30 years to solve anything in relation with it. Therefore, the constitution doesn’t completely countersign slavery, because it can be inferred the intention of finishing with it in a short-term, but, at this moment, maybe it was a huge problema to deal with, more than the acceptable, so it just delays the problem, to deal with it later.

Afterwards, in 1864, it was added the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This was the Amendment which abolished slavery . Nevertheless, it didn’t completely disappear, mainly in the south, where it was stronger and the white supremacy idea was still powerful. In 1935, Du Bois wrote: “Slavery was not abolished even after the Thirteenth Amendment. There were four million freedmen and most of them on the same plantation, doing the same work that they did before emancipation, except as their work had been interrupted and changed by the upheaval of war. Moreover, they were getting about the same wages and apparently were going to be subject to slave codes modified only in name. There were among them thousands of fugitives in the camps of the soldiers or on the streets of the cities, homeless, sick, and impoverished. They had been freed practically with no land nor money, and, save in exceptional cases, without legal status, and without protection”.

Instead of counting the three-fifths of slaves population, of course from this moment on they will be fully counted, so the population of the southern states would grow significantly, because there was a huge quantity of slaves in this part of the country.

 So the Constitution of the United States was a remarkable milestone for both the history of the USA and the history of international democracy. However, it could have been even better if it would have compromised with abolishing slavery and not just delay the issue.


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