The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article V, Section 1: “[This provision in the Constitution] Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article….” The southern states had already compromised about the importation of slaves; this provision guaranteed that there would be no changes made to their agreement.
“The states which depended on the slavery system were determined to postpone the enforcement of any federal laws on the subject of slavery for twenty years. Having previously agreed that the federal government could prohibit the importation of slaves after 1808, they did not want the amendment clause of the constitution to be used to contravene the prior agreement. This is the reason for the present provision.” (See W. Cleon Skousen in The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 649.)
Matthew Spalding of The Heritage Foundation explained: “Toward the end of the Constitutional Convention, after previous clauses concerning slavery had been settled, and in the midst of the discussion about the process of amending the Constitution, John Rutledge of South Carolina said that `he never could agree to give a power by which the articles relating to slaves might be altered by the States not interested in that property and prejudiced against it.’ An addition to the clause was immediately agreed to that forbade amending the so-called Slave Trade Clause (Article I, Section 9, Clause 1) and the Direct Taxes Clause (Article I, Section 9, Clause 4) prior to 1808, after which Congress could regulate the slave trade.
“This provision calls attention to the delicacy and precariousness of the compromises involved in these two clauses….” (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p. 287.)
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