Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


                    The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article I.9.1:  "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."  In other words, Congress did not have power to stop any of the "existing" states from importing slaves or bond servants until 1808, but legislators could impose a tax of not more than $10.00 for each person.  This clause in the U.S. Constitution now serves only as a historic note and a reminder of the many compromises made in order to become the United States of America.

                    "This provision was the first milestone on the long road back from slavery.  This delay of twenty years was the price ten of the states were willing to pay in order to insure that the original union would include the three states of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.  Even in these states there was a growing sentiment in favor of emancipation, but they wanted more time to phase out their economic dependence on slavery.  South Carolina and Georgia were particularly adamant on the point.  North Carolina was open to persuasion.
                    "Originally, all of the colonies had slaves and bond servants.  (The slave market in Boston was located on the Boston Common.)  Several thousand free blacks also had slaves.  However, many of the religious leaders had been campaigning against the importation of slaves almost from the arrival of the first boatload in 1619 when a cargo of captured Africans was brought to Jamestown in a Dutch ship."  (See W. Cleon Skousen, The Making of America - The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p 466.)

                    The importation of slaves and bond servants into the United States was not permitted after 1808; however, the "institution of involuntary servitude" (Skousen) continued in operation until it was ended by the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

                    Numerous Founders had strong feelings about the need to end slavery and found it necessary to compromise their feelings for the sake of the Union.  When Thomas Jefferson first drafted the Declaration of Independence, one of the grievances listed against the King was "the fact that they would not allow the American colonies to outlaw the importation of slaves" (Skousen).  The fact that the Founders were willing to wait twenty years to stop importing slaves shows that they obviously wanted everyone to know that they desired the end to slavery and were writing the conditions to end it.  Americans in most of the original states understood that slavery was morally wrong, but they had many questions about making it an economic reality.

                    "It is significant that the words slave and slavery are not used in the Constitution of 1787, and that the Framers used the word person rather than property.  This would assure, as Madison explained in The Federalist No. 54, that a slave would be regarded `as a moral person, not as a mere article of property.'  It was in the context of the slave trade debate at the Constitutional Convention that Madison argued that it was `wrong to admit in the Constitution the idea that there could be property in men.'
                    "Although Southern delegates hoped opposition would weaken with time, the practical effect of the clause was to create a growing expectation of federal legislation against the practice.  Congress passed, and President Thomas Jefferson signed into law, a federal prohibition of the slave trade, effective January 1, 1808, the first day that Article I, Section 9, Clause 1, allowed such a law to go into effect."  (See Matthew Spalding, The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p 151.)

                    The Founders wanted to stop slavery but knew the abolition of it would take time.  Meanwhile, they allowed import taxes to be imposed.  "Import taxes were both a revenue-raising device and a means of regulating the kind and quality of persons coming into the country.  The southern states agreed to a tax to cover expenses of an inspection to exclude convicts and undesirable persons, but insisted that the tax be limited to $10 so that it would not become prohibitive and restrict importation altogether."  (See Skousen, The Making of America, p 471.)

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