Communique "Robert E. Lee was an A**hole" 5-9-2021
Ready to tackle a big ticket Constitutional item that I was under the impression was no longer open to legitimate historical debate? Well then, let’s take a look and a ponder at whether using the words of the document itself, the US Constitution protected slavery.
Let’s start with what I would argue is still the most visible, albeit confusing at times and now notorious Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution also commonly referred to as the Three-fifths Compromise (the “Compromise”).
“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.” (emphasis added).
At first glance the Clause seems somewhat innocuous. Notice neither the words “slave” nor “slavery” are included within the definition of what class of persons affected by compromise being produced by excluding those whole citizens/persons whose rights to vote and under the Bill of Rights were not to be affected, leaving fairly obviously, those now 3/5th persons, but still without civil or voting rights as under the evil yoke of slavery, primarily in the Southern States.
As a mechanism of governing, the Clause would appear aimed at redefining persons for purposes of representation and proposed individual State taxes to be paid to the Federal government. Still no sign of aiding and abetting slavery, but this is where the Clause gets “tricky”.
Keeping in mind the 3/5th of persons have no voting rights, the additional numbers of “voters” who would not vote, added to the power of the Southern States who favored maintaining, if not expanding slavery, at the ballot box for purposes of representation in the Federal government.
Therefore, as a direct result of the Clause, the Constitution added additional legislative clout towards protecting the rights of the individual States to continue their already economically shaky at best and on its way to no longer economically feasible, natural expiration and replacement by methods mostly of the industrial revolution, you know machinery replacing humans, way of farming.
It might help if we analogize today’s industrial revolution in the marketplace of replacing workers on the assembly lines with automated arms with limited, but suited for the task artificial intelligence. Think of the Federal government voting to provide funds to those manufacturers to pay for its workforce while at the same time rebuffing at least the economic challenges of competing with competitors who use a wholly robotic workforce.
History has shown these techniques might cure some of the short-term livelihoods of working average blue collar employment, but in the long run, capitalism insists on the superiority and adoption of policies that include new, better, innovative and cheaper labor as part of the mix toward lower prices at the consumer level.
In short, more representation in Congress translated to additional legislative opportunities to further and possibly even extend the rights of slave states to if not flourish, at least temporarily extend the unholy as it gets institution of slavery within its borders.
Important to our conversation, keep in mind Congress also had the right under the Commerce Clause to regulate International Trade issues including those relevant to the still continuing until 1808 international slave trade under which slaves were considered “property” as opposed to persons thereby giving additional means and ways of protecting slavery as a viable economic model.
Speaking of means, by assigning each slave 3/5th status for purposes of tax collection as opposed to merely admitting there is no such thing as 3/5th of a person, made the tax burdens placed upon slave owning states lower, with 2/5th of slave labor, well, I guess free for the plantation owners who undoubtedly would seek and receive relief from their state tax burdens collected to pay the individual State proposed taxes to the soon to be formed Federal government.
Are we getting a more rounded picture of what was going on during the Constitutional Congress of 1787? Trying to build a more perfect union by proposing the creation already divided over the divisive issue of involuntary servitude? I would argue many if not a majority of the Founding Fathers were aware they were building a house divided, yet voted to include several clauses in addition to the “Clause” protecting slavery at what was soon to become the highest level of government.
So why did they do it? Why did no less than George Washington, already a major political figure whether he liked it or not and soon to be our uncontested first constitutional president? The answer is more obvious than not at least in the world of politics. He wanted to make a deal.
The “deal” was to include as many of the existing States (and beyond) or at least “may be included” or to use another word, qualify for inclusion as part of the United States of America as possible. The Framers were looking for as many incentives as possible, including concessions to the international and domestic market for those who to wish to continue the practice and trade of slaves, with issues related to the morality of the nation to be decided at a later date.
So, would it be fair to say that when it came to including the Southern States as part of the United States, the Northern States bent over backwards to protect slavery as an incentive to join? The answer can only be yes.
Not convinced? Well then, let’s look at the 2nd Amendment and think imagine state sponsored well-regulated militias going across state lines without fear of being denied their right to bear arms while seeking to bring back runaway slaves who had managed to escape their captivity and seek freedom in the North. Starting to get a little bigger picture of the lengths our Founding Fathers went to in its effort to protect slavery?
However, those Founders that believed in abolition, and there were many, we not without some guile of their own when negotiating the terms of the Constitution and its somewhat predictable (it proved wrong) future effect on the rights of slaveholders and the institution itself.
The best example of this is found in Article 1, Section 9, (1808 Clause) prohibiting Congress from banning the importation of slaves until 1808 in tandem guarantees included within Article 5 prohibiting the 1808 Clause from further amendment.
At first glance the 1808 Clause would appear to lengthen, and thereby protect the slave trade, but the reality was without the prospect any additional importation of slaves, the 10-year period was thought to furnish an amortization period (slaves still being considered as property) during which the slave states could transition out of slavery and into a newer, more economically feasible working model for farming, including those areas of agriculture still mostly dependent on slave labor.
Ultimately, this gamble failed as the good guys failed to account for the fierce racism built into southern culture that led to once the international market for slaves dried up, the South decided there was nothing wrong with turning the slave trade already in America in a series of breeding farms, sorry but we tell the truth here, all in an effort to keep the inferior by nature black men and women in eternal servitude as the best way no longer to run a business enterprise, but to assure that racism, at least in the South, whether in writing or not, remained the law of the land.
Some of the better continuing disregard for “minority” rights at the legislative level came in form of the Fugitive Slave Laws of 1793 and 1850. Both of these laws continued to deny slaves the guarantees of individual rights under the Bill of Rights, including denying slaves, any rights to a fair trial, due process of law, or the right to prove their “alleged” freedom in court.
In would not be until December 18, 1865 when 13th Amendment, officially, or at least on constitutional paper, abolished slavery. Pursuant to the 13th Amendment came the Civil Rights Law of 1866 enacted to afford the newly freed slaves all the rights afforded to all free men and women as citizens of America. Interestingly, this 1866 law was not subject to serious amendment until 1965 despite the failure of southern reconstruction and the proliferation of the infamous “black laws” morphing into the Jim Crow separate but equal era of southern legislative repression.
Make no mistake, history has repeatedly shown us racism dies hard. In fact, you may have recently heard in the news a great deal of when it comes to slavery, the blatant and wholly unsupportable claim(s) of the overall benevolence of the south and the advantages afforded to slaves, including I kid you not, that most slaves were glad to be slaves, taken care of and offered a life including opportunities they could not have previously imagined in their wildest dreams. I kid you not.
I suppose if you are completely out of your mind but a diehard racist and history denier you could make an argument that 3/5th of a person is better than none, and if you want to make yourself giddy, slightly more than 1/2 of a person at that. However, when reality hits, there simply is no credible evidence the 3/5th Clause was meant to do anything but aid plantation owners in slave states to maintain slavery as a part of a viable economic model. You know, with government help, also known as socialism, or as we so rightfully call it today, corporate welfare.
There is a reason they call it a noble, but lost cause. Me? I leave out any nod to nobility and just say as do the majority of We the People of the United States of America, your cause was lost when a group of traitorous Americans lost the Civil War and now, it’s time to lose, not promote a legacy of intolerance, resulting in violence, hatred, and the desecration of humanity, not subject to a fantastical revisionist history no matter how many half-truths and flat out lies are fabricated to preserve a past that never was.
Oh, and for the historical record, Robert E. Lee was a traitor of the highest magnitude, a slave holder who was notoriously callous when it came time to breaking up slave families and generally, not a nice guy and quite frankly an a**hole. That’s reality and I suggest we all get used to it.
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