Does Our Constitution Support Slavery?

Like many of you, I thank God that I live in a country where our basic freedoms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (which our founders considered as property) are guaranteed by our Creator, rather than by the whims of human beings in the name of government. Yet, it seems that a hallmark of being human is to abuse these basic rights in order to obtain advantage over others. To their credit, our founders recognized this and created our Constitution to use competing self-interest within specific enumerated powers to help insure that government would never completely dominate our lives enough to infringe upon or take away these freedoms. Our Constitution was revered the world over for its proclamation that those that govern must be held accountable to the people, if individual freedom is to be established and endure. It was therefore ironic and a terrible tragedy that slavery, the antitheses of those freedoms expressed in our Declaration of Independence was allowed to continue.

But, contrary to what some believe, it was not because the Constitution was a pro-slavery document. Frederick Douglas, a former slave and the premier proponent for abolishing slavery said on July 5th, 1852 (less than ten years before the beginning of the Civil War),

“…the Constitution according to its plain reading and I defy the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it. On the other hand it will be found to contain principles and purposes, entirely hostile to the existence of slavery. (from “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” by Frederick Douglas recorded in Douglas Papers, Vol II.)

Rather, it was because of the beliefs expressed in the Declaration of Independence and codified in the Constitution that slavery in America was finally erased. Frederick Douglas also observed on May 14th, 1857,

“I know of no soil better adapted to the growth of reform than American soil. I know of no country where the conditions for affecting great changes in the settled order of things, for the development of right ideas of liberty and humanity, are more favorable than here in these United States. The very groundwork of this government is a good repository of Christian civilization. The Constitution, as well as the Declaration of Independence, and the sentiments of the founders of the Republic, give us a platform broad enough, and strong enough, to support the most comprehensive plans for the freedom and elevation of all the people of this country, without regard to color, class, or clime. “ (from “Speech on the Dred Scott Decision” by Frederick Douglas recorded in Life and Writings, Vol II.)

Within ten years after his speech, we had paid a terrible price in American blood (both white American and African American) for that offense against the very God from which our freedoms come. Abuses of our individual freedom has and will continue to come, but it is not supported nor justified by our Constitution. It is in spite of it.

May God bless and keep you all,

Len Edwards

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