Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Is the Constitution racist?



Some in NYC seem to think so. It's a common meme. "The Constitution says that slaves were only 6/10 of a man!" "The Constitution allowed slavery!" Etc etc.

Anyway. I came across the following collection of quotes on the subject. Read of them what you will.

“I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it [slavery].”
—George Washington

“[M]y opinion against it [slavery] has always been known… [N]ever in my life did I own a slave.”
—John Adams, Signer of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. President. The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1854), vol IX pp. 92-93. In a letter to George Churchman and Jacob Lindley on January 24, 1801.

“[W]hy keep alive the question of slavery? It is admitted by all to be a great evil.”
—Charles Carroll, Signer of the Declaration of Independence. Kate Mason Rowland, Life and Correspondence of Charles Carroll of Carrollton (New York and London: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1898), Vol. II, pg. 231.

“As Congress is now to legislate for our extensive territory lately acquired, I pray to Heaven that they …[c]urse not the inhabitants of those regions, and of the United States in general, with a permission to introduce bondage [slavery].”
—John Dickinson, Signer of the Constitution and Governor of Pennsylvania. Charles J. Stille, The Life and Times of John Dickinson (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1898) p. 324.

“That men should pray and fight for their own freedom and yet keep others in slavery is certainly acting a very inconsistent as well as unjust and perhaps impious part.”
—John Jay, President of Continental Congress, Chief-Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and Governor of New York. Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, Henry P. Johnston, editor (New York and London: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1891), Vol. III, pp. 168-169. In a letter to Dr. Richard Price on Sep. 27, 1785.

“Christianity, by introducing into Europe the truest principles of humanity, universal benevolence, and brotherly love, had happily abolished civil slavery. Let us who profess the same religion practice its precepts… by agreeing to this duty.”
—Richard Henry Lee, President of Continental Congress and Signer of the Declaration of Independence. Memoir of the Life of Richard Henry Lee and His Correspondence With the Most Distinguised Men in America and Europe (Philadelphia: H.C. Carey and I. Lea, 1825), Vol. I, pp. 17-19. The first speech of Richard Henry Lee in the House of Burgesses.

“t ought to be considered that national crimes can only be and frequently are punished in this world by national punishments; and that the continuance of the slave trade, and thus giving it a national sanction and encouragement, ought to be considered as justly exposing us to the displeasure and vengeance of Him who is equally Lord of all and who views with equal eye the poor African slave and his American master.”
—Luther Martin, Constitutional Convention Delegate. James Madison, The Records of the Federal Convention, Max Farrand, editor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911), Vol. III, pg. 211.

“Domestic slavery is repugnant to the principles of Christianity… It is rebellion against the authority of a common Father. It is a practical denial of the extent and efficacy of the death of a common Savior. It is an usurpation of the prerogative of the great Sovereign of the universe who has solemnly claimed an exclusive property in the souls of men.”
—Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration of Independence. Minutes of the Proceedings of a Convention of Delegates From the Abolition Societies Established in Different Parts of the United States, Assembled at Philadelphia, on the First Day of January, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety-Four… (Philadelphia: Zachariah Poulson, 1794), p. 24. “To the Citizens of the United States.”

“Slavery, or an absolute and unlimited power in the master over life and fortune of the slave, is unauthorized by the common law… The reasons which we sometimes see assigned for the origin and the continuance of slavery appear, when examined to the bottom, to be built upon a false foundation. In the enjoyment of their persons and of their property, the common law protects all.”
—James Wilson, Signer of the Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court Justice. James Wilson, The Works of James Wilson, Robert Green McCloskey, editor (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967), Vol. II, pg. 605.

But more of this soon. RLK.

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