The Constitutional Convention not only deliberately excluded the word “slavery,” but it also quashed the proslavery effort to make slavery a national institution, and so prevented enshrining the racism that justified slavery.The property question was the key controversy. The delegates could never have created a federal union if they had given power to the national government to meddle in the property laws of the slave states. Slavery would have to be tolerated as a local institution. This hard fact, though, did not sanction slavery in national law, as a national institution, as so many critics presume. This sanction was precisely what the proslavery delegates sought with their failed machinations to ensure, as Madison wrote, that “some provision should be included in favor of property in slaves.” Most of the framers expected slavery to gradually wither away. They would do nothing to obstruct slavery’s demise. …Far from a proslavery compact of “racist principles,” the Constitution was based on a repudiation of the idea of a nation dedicated to the proposition of property in humans. Without that antislavery outcome in 1787, slavery would not have reached “ultimate extinction” in 1865.
September 20, 2015 at 12:00 PM EDT