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Shall we have a debate about the Founding Fathers and slavery?


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Initial post: Mar 6, 2011 10:06:00 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Apr 13, 2011 8:31:44 AM PDT]

Posted on Mar 6, 2011 11:10:34 AM PST
Moses says:
Got the T-shirt.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 6, 2011 11:27:45 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Apr 21, 2011 9:32:21 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 6, 2011 11:37:04 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Apr 13, 2011 8:31:46 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 6, 2011 11:37:33 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Apr 13, 2011 8:31:46 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 6, 2011 11:46:45 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Apr 21, 2011 9:32:22 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 6, 2011 11:54:09 AM PST
sully says:
well I'll throw a bone in the circle:

Fourteenth Amendment
"A constitutional amendment giving full rights of citizenship to all people born or naturalized in the United States, except for American Indians."

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 6, 2011 12:02:56 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Mar 6, 2011 3:23:38 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Mar 6, 2011 4:55:38 PM PST
Mark bennett says:
"so I'd like to see a debate about the Founding Fathers, the birth of America, and slavery. And how it all caused, or possibly at least contributed to the Civil War."

Anything other than the course pursued would have meant two or more countries rather than one.

1) There was no political consensus for abolishing slavery
2) The consent of the slave states was necessary to form the union in the first place and without that consent there is no country.
3) At the founding of the country, the northern states lacked the power to destroy slavery by force.
4) Forming the union by force would have by its nature resulted in a very different form of government.

Its easy to make a moral case against slavery and the decisions made at the time of the constitution. But its not so easy to come with a realistic alternative to what happened that would both create the union and abolish slavery.

And its vaguely possible that a purely slave country made up of the southern states would have been worse than a united states with slavery and civil war.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 6, 2011 5:05:19 PM PST
Mark bennett says:
The purpose of the 14th amendment was to make slavery comprehensively illegal and to prevent to being recreated at the state level. Citizenship was important because saying some people (i.e. slaves) were not citizens would have been one path toward re-creating slavery in a new form. The other part of the 14th amendment which constrained state governments to operate under the limits and protections of the bill of rights closed the other path to re-establishment.

The 14th amendment did work for what it was intended to do (i.e. stop slavery under the law) but it couldn't make those in washington or in the states pass or enforce necessary laws under it to solve other problems.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 7, 2011 6:45:31 AM PST
Moses says:
Lol,
Yup, English bone china.
I still love how we inherited the English institution of slavery from the Caribbean sugar mercantile system and when it's flaws became apparent, they abandon the practice and look at the new Americans with disdain as we became addicted to using it.
A drug dealer who looks with contempt on those he has enticed to enrich himself.

People read 'new' history with the strange idea that the founders of our little enterprise in self governance were not aware of the glaring inequity of a Constitution which granted that all men were created equal and were comfortable with the discrepancy it placed between free and the enslaved. Their thought on the subject are numerous.

They chose the only path open that would lead to forging a bond between the various states to a concerted effort to remove British dominance. Had they introduced the slavery issue into the mix, that bond would have never occurred. They rightfully deferred the issue to be solved later.

It tragically was.

Posted on Mar 7, 2011 7:00:06 AM PST
Moses says:
Apologies to my British cousins, but a grain of truth with much cheek in the first position.
We colonials were not helpless victims in having the infernal institution thrust upon us...

Save your ire and vitriol for my claim that you are entirely responsible for foisting the idiotic Benny Hill on our sainted shores.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 7, 2011 7:05:14 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Apr 21, 2011 9:32:25 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 7, 2011 7:06:45 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Mar 7, 2011 10:02:03 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 7, 2011 8:05:31 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 7, 2011 9:35:58 AM PST
sully says:
Moses says:
...glaring inequity of a Constitution which granted that all men were created equal and were comfortable with the discrepancy it placed between free and the enslaved.

"Around 1776, certain important people in the English colonies made a discovery that would prove enormously useful for the next two hundred years. They found that by creating a nation, a symbol, a legal unity called the United States, they could take over land, profits, and political power from favorites of the British Empire. In the process, they could hold back a number of potential rebellions and create a consensus of popular support for the rule of a new, privileged leadership.
When we look at the American Revolution this way, it was a work of genius, and the Founding Fathers deserve the awed tribute they have received over the centuries. They created the most effective system of national control devised in modern times, and showed future generations of leaders the advantages of combining paternalism with command." ( quote by Zinn. )

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 7, 2011 8:12:16 AM PST
Mark bennett says:
You forgot to attribute the quote to Zinn.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 7, 2011 8:47:46 AM PST
And that is Zinn's opinion, nothing more, nothing less. Quite frankly, I am more interested in our institutionalization of revolution in the form of regular elections; an idea what was the precursor for Trotsky's idea of permanent revolution. To answer Zinn, I would argue that, after the Coercive Acts and the refusal to grant the American Colonies any representation in Parliament, it had become clear to a plurality of colonists that they were going to be treated as second class citizens in the Empire regardless of their economic or social standing.

Now, anyone who has studied the issue knows that the only way to form a "United States" was to postpone the issue of slavery. Many of the founders, Benjamin Franklin et al. despised the institution but, in order to get the Southern Colonies to agree to independence, they had to forgo principle for political expediency.

Posted on Mar 7, 2011 12:29:52 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Apr 13, 2011 8:31:51 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 7, 2011 12:33:03 PM PST
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Posted on Mar 7, 2011 6:21:32 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 7, 2011 6:24:50 PM PST
Lysander Spooner, one of my favorite (if forgotten) American political thinkers, had a few relevant words on slavery. I'll save time by pulling up an excerpt talking about Spooner on slavery...

Most knowledgeable modern Americans assume that the
Constitution condones slavery and that only the extreme
violence of war could have ended it. However, in 1845,
Lysander Spooner published a pamphlet called The
Unconstitutionality of Slavery. Its thesis would gain
strength and power through the 1850s.

In modern times, historian Edmund Morgan has advanced
the compelling argument, discussed in Part One of this series,
that the Constitution reveals in its very language that slavery is
repugnant and antithetical to American principles. Spooner took
a similar line to its logical conclusion. Slavery, he explained,
was and always had been, unconstitutional. The Constitution
and Bill of Rights, as written, without the need for addition or
amendment, made it so.

Of course slavery had long existed in the United States but, by
Spooner's argument, never legally. Before independence,
colonial charters had never allowed slavery. Colonial
legislatures had never been empowered to enact laws (such as
slave laws) that contravene English law. And colonial attempts
to enact such laws anyway defined "slave" in vague and
unsatisfactory terms. So, though slavery certainly existed, it was
never legal.

Following independence, the new state constitutions did
not allow slavery. At the national level, first the Articles of
Confederation and then the Constitution use "free" to mean
"freeholder," not to mean non-slave, so the implication of
slavery does not exist. The three passages in the Constitution
said to allude to slavery (without mentioning it by name) have
other possible interpretations. And since those other
interpretations are in the spirit of the Constitution while slavery
is most certainly not, the other interpretations must be taken as
valid. Spooner summarizes,

"Slavery neither has, nor ever had any constitutional existence in
this country; that it has always been a mere abuse, sustained, in
the first place, merely by the common consent of the strongest
party, without any law on the subject, and, in the second place, by
a few unconstitutional enactments, made in defiance of the
plainest provisions of their fundamental law."

In 1856, Senator Albert Brown of Mississippi, with the kind of
honest and manly admission rare among intellectuals protecting
their own ideological turf, said,

"If [Spooner's] premises were admitted, I should say at once it
would be a Herculean task to overturn his argument."

The premise that Senator Brown is referring to is the idea that
slaves are human. This Mississippi legislator essentially
admitted, in other words, that if one accepted that slaves were
human, then slavery was unconstitutional. The Spooner
argument put the ball in the proslavery court, put on pro-slavers
the burden of proof. To preserve the constitutionality of slavery
they had to prove that slaves were not human, a task that can
only descend into absurdity if faithfully pursued.

(a couple paragraphs later...)

The power of Spooner's argument was such that honest
Southerners had to admit that making slaves of humans was, in
fact, unconstitutional. Their only remaining defense, then, was
to deny that slaves were human, a defense so patently absurd it
could not have stood for very long once the Spooner thesis had
worked its way into the mainstream.

Of course the constitutional challenge to slavery was
made moot when slavery was ended through war. But the
challenge was real and part of a complex of forces that likely
would have brought slavery down without the need for war or
the cycles of suspicion and hate engendered by war.
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Discussion in:  History forum
Participants:  7
Total posts:  21
Initial post:  Mar 6, 2011
Latest post:  Mar 7, 2011

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