Saturday, July 02, 2011

The Constitution and Slavery (note qualification added)

The Constitution was not perfect, but it was moving toward abolition. Thus, the founders (as their ideas were represented in the Constitution) were working to end slavery eventually. Thus, Michele Bachmann's comments about the founders working to end slavery were essentially correct (but not in every detail), despite the fact that the Constitution in itself did not end the institution.

4 comments:

mike said...

Doug, you're absolutely right. And if Bachmann had taken this approach in her later explanation of her words, I never would have had any problem with anything she said.

But she didn't do that.

She tried to talk it off as if John Quincy Adams was a founding father. You and I both know that 1) he wasn't and 2) he didn't do anything about slavery until decades after his presidency.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

Oh, come on. The Founding Fathers did not work "tirelessly" to end slavery.

I'd have immensely more respect for you and for Bachmann if you and she would simply admit her claim was false. Everybody misspeaks; it's not a big deal. The big deal is the phony attempt to justify a silly claim.

MC said...

Bachmann said that the founders "worked tirelessly" until slavery was abolished in the United States, naming a non-founder (Quincy Adams) as one of the said founders who worked tirelessly to accomplish that task. (Quincy was 9 years old when the constitution was written.)

The Articles of the Confederation said nothing about abolition.

It appears that you're confusing intent with effect, and even so, the effect wasn't even there until we had a civil war.

hobie said...

Foster's article indicates his understanding of the effects of the Framers' crafting of the three-fifths compromise; however, there is little question that the original intent of the Framers was to create a Constitution, not initiate abolition. The Framers, great though they were, were politicians who sought to master the art of the possible; abolition would not have created a nation in 1788. Lincoln was very much in the mind of the Framers when he stated to Horace Greeley that if he could preserve the Union and keep slavery he would do it (I think Lincoln was not proud of this statement later, but that's beside the point). I think that Bachmann was far too generous to the Framers: even if, as Foster believes, the Framers' actions moved the nation toward abolition, it is hard to believe that this was something more than a happy accident. And MC is correct that if the Framers had been really intentional about this, we might have avoided the nation's most terrible war.