Basis for American Slavery
American slavery was fundamentally all about free labor. Generally, American slaves were not prisoners of war captured in a war in which America was engaged; that is another type of slavery that occurs in some lands. Slaves brought to America may have been sold by Africans fighting against other Africans; but, that is different from America fighting a war with Africans. In any case, prisoner type of enslavement/servitude is markedly different than the American type of Slavery under consideration.
Moreover, the erroneous doctrine of blacks not being fully human was largely contrived to justify slavery for free labor. It was not the fundamental reason for slavery. The reason for American slavery was money. As the Bible says the root of all evil is the love of money.
US Constitution and Slavery
There are three places in the US Constitution which people have traditionally interpreted as applying to the enslaved in general and Blacks in particular. These may be found in Article 1 and Article IV.
First we have Article 1 Section 2 which says in part:
“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”
Then we have Article I Section 9 which says in part:
“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.”
Then we have Article IV Section 2 which says in part:
“No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.”
Article I Section 8 has bearing on the above in that it speaks to citizenship as it says in part:
“To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;”
The Bible clearly allows a form of master-servant relationship involving a measure of involuntary servitude (e.g., Exodus 21:2-11; Deuteronomy 15:12-18; Leviticus 25:39-55).
It appears that the US Constitution like the Holy Bible does not
condemn all kinds of master-servant relationships.
Both the Bible and the US Constitution does regulate to some degree the institution of master-servant relationships. From this it is reasonable to conclude that governments have the responsibility to enforce and adjust those regulations as necessary.
The Bible does condemn the American cruel/barbaric implementation of the master-servant relationship in the form of what we know as American Slavery. The term slavery used in this document refers to American Slavery unless otherwise indicated.
Unfortunately the US Constitution does not forbid the American form of Slavery. For example, the Bible forbids killing of servants but the US Constitution does not explicitly forbid such; in giving them the benefit of the doubt perhaps they hoped people would look to the Bible for that restriction.
I believe the founders knew that for many the American slavery practice was cruel/barbaric and was not compatible with the Declaration of Independence and the goals of the USA.
I hold that the US Constitution does in a rather ingenious way set the framework/foundation for ending or abolishing the institution of slavery as practiced by many in America. Yet, for nation-building sake the founders lacked the faith to end it out rightly.
Article I Section 8 speaks to issue of naturalized citizenship and therefore bears on application of the above especially given that it is in the same Article as Section 9 concerning migration or importation.
Article 1 Section 9 calls for Congress to regulate Persons migrated or imported into the USA after January 1, 1808. Section 8 was clearly about free persons. Thus the word import is reasonably applied to non-free persons which of course includes enslaved Blacks forcibly brought to the USA.
Hence, Section 9 is a delayed application of Section 8 to the enslaved. Once the delay expired slaves were to come completely under the equitable naturalization and other citizenship rules set by Congress for all other persons, white and otherwise.
Notice that Article 1 Section 2 refers to free persons bound to service for a number of years as distinct from the three/fifths persons such that the three/fifths persons are considered to have referred to the enslaved.
Further notice that Article IV Section 2 uses this same terminology. That is the word “Service”. Thus one can conclude that Article IV Section 2 refers to not only to the enslaved but also to free persons who left to break their contract before it properly ended.
The US Constitution gave Congress the constitutional authority to regulate naturalization and slavery per Article I Sections 8 and 9. The authority to regulate naturalization implies the authority to regulate all citizenship questions including native born citizenship questions.
As of 1808 Congress indeed had the US Constitutional authority to declare all Blacks in America naturalized or native-born citizens without any legally necessary constitutional amendment.
Therefore, with respect to the Civil War the USA did not violate the Constitution in seeking to end the institution of slavery by considering all enslaved to be citizens of these United States of America and therefore not subject to Article IV Section 2.
The 13th Amendment merely hard coded explicitly that Congressional authority so all would be clear about this nation’s intent concerning ending the institution of slavery forever in the United States of America.
In a sense the founders laid an ingenious foundation for complete abolishment of slavery within these United States of America. Thus as of 1808 no one could claim constitutional authority to enslavement. They could only claim Congressional authority and Court authority to the extent Congress and the courts continued to support the slavery industry. But the US Constitution no longer required them to so support after 1808.
Unfortunately, many in Congress and many in the courts continued to support the slavery industry. This included the infamous wrongly decided Dred Scott Case in which the US Supreme Court Justices failed follow the founders in riding the USA of slavery after 1808. This failure of US authorities continued until passage of the 13th Amendment on January 31 1865 and then continued in the form of various racist acts that clearly violated the spirit of the 13th Amendment.
Justifiability of Slavery Was Taught and Was the Prevailing Law
I must consider that if Confederate Generals were alive today would they change their mind about slavery?
They lived in a day in an environment where they had been taught that slavery was good economic sense and good nation-building sense. It was the same attitude the founders held as outlined in the US Constitution, Article 1 Section 9.
I believe these generals were men of courage and men of integrity who had been taught wrong; they were not your average person on the street. It is possible most if not all of them would change their mind about supporting slavery if they were alive today and had learned better. But that is my hope and something I don’t know for sure.
Yet, I am mindful that Malcolm X once thought all white folks were devils; he thought all white folks were against black folks. When he learned better he changed his mind. Do we not want White Folks to forgive him? Should streets named after him be renamed? I know, some will say that he didn’t kill any white folks. Yes, that is a good point. Killing black folks is certainly a more severe sin than hating or distrusting white folks.
I am also mindful that the highest court in the land in 1857 in the Dredd Scott Case had declared Black Americans not citizens of the USA. This was just four (4) years before the Civil War started. Indeed, secession started in 1858, just one year after the highest court in the United States of America, not just the highest court in the South, validated Black Americans not been citizens of the USA.
Thus, the prevailing law of the land was seemingly against African Americans. This law not only applied to the South but also to the North. So perhaps one can understand how those in the South thought as they did although their thinking was wrong. My point is that the nation’s attitude toward Blacks as less than fully human and therefore according to their logic deserving to be enslaved did not begin with those alive in the South at that time. As indicated above it began for economic reasons and goes back to the founding of the nation.
One Possible Reason the North Had No Problem Abolishing Slavery
The article here suggests that the North had no problem abolishing slavery because they had become less dependent on slavery over a period of time. On the other hand, the South was still dependent on slavery. I don’t cite the article to justify the South position. I cite it for informational purposes and to provide greater insight into what may have been going on in 1861 when the Civil War began and why secession had begun a few years earlier.