US Constitution on Slavery (1787)

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.

INTRODUCTION

The original US Constitution, adopted in Philadelphia in September 1787 and ratified in the spring of 1788, addressed the issue of slavery in several ways, but never mentioned the word itself even once.  The three clauses below represented the most direct examples of this awkward dance –the so-called three-fifths clause, African slave trade clause, and the fugitive slave clause.   Historians disagree over what that tension illustrated.  Some see it as an example of systemic racism at the core of America’s founding.  Yet others point to the hard fought battle waged by slavery’s opponents in the 1780s and 1790s to limit slavery’s sphere of influence mainly to southern states, clearly in hopes that  all states in the new nation would eventually –and voluntarily– abolish the evil institution.

SOURCE FORMAT:   Government document (excerpt)

WORD COUNT:  170 words


Article 1, Section 2
Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among 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.

Article 1, Section 9
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.

Article 4, Section 2
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.

CITATION: US Constitution, September 17, 1787


SEMINAR QUESTIONS

TBD

FURTHER READING