Slavery and the Founding Fathers

Slavery and the Founding Fathers

1. Federalist Paper #42 - James Madison

2. Constitutional Convention (1787)

Slavery was an issue that could not be resolved at the Constitution Convention (1787). There was agreement on a provision to end the slave trade. The new Constitution declared a provision giving the Federal Government the authority to end the slave trade after a 20-year period. The Constitution does not use the term slavery, but there are provisions in the Constitution that recognized slavery. A curious arrangement was written in to the Constitution by which for voting purposes slaves would be counted as 3/5s of a person. Many delegates believed or at least hope that slavery would gradually die out as individuals states abolished it. While the Constitution recognized slavery, it did not authorize it. Rather the Constitution established the principle that powers not specifically delegated to the Federal Government become the jurisdiction of the states. Thus authority over slavery and voting rights fell under the jurisdiction of each state. And this could only be changed by amending the constitution. And because of the difficult amendment process, the Southern slave states could block any effort to abolish slavery through amending the Constitution.

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3. Thomas Jefferson: While strongly opposed to the slave trade, as president Jefferson in 1806 successfully called on Congress to pass legislation to end it, which he signed.

4. Jefferson as POTUS: February 19, 1803

Ohio officially becomes the seventeenth state of the Union. It is the first state to prohibit slavery by law at its inception.

5. Abolishing the Slave Trade (1808)

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