Thank you for not banning the slave trade

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I knew about the 3/5 compromose, but John Steele Gordon's An Empire of Wealth points out something I don't remember learning in American Civics. Article I, Section 9, Clause 1 prohibits banning the slave trade until 1808:
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.

But here's the really amazing part. Check out Article V:
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; 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; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate. (emphasis mine))

For reference, the fourth Clause is the prohition on income taxes.

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2 Comments

I was stunned the first time I read the Constitution to discover the 1808 section. It's where the guilty consciences of the Founders come out most clearly.

I'm not at all certain I agree. At the time of the writing of the Constitution, the North was progressively emanicipating its blacks. The Southern states needed some sort of guarantee that their surrender of sovernty would not immediately result in their financial ruin, or they would never go along.

Note that the 1808 clauses were a mere 20 years away at the time of the ratification debates. This was far from permanent enshrinement. It was like the Bob Dole fix for social security--push it off to the next generation.

At the time of the ratification, slavery was in decline. The NW Territories act (passed by the first Congress) banned slavery in the territory. Which is good enough reason for the Southern states to be wary.

Then came the invention of the cotton gin.

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