U.S. Constitution And Slavery: From 1789 To The 13th Amendment

Abstract

By the time the Constitution of the United States of America came into effect in 1789, the slave population was left out of its protection. The American Constitution went through the first series of amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, which were ratified until 1791. The 10 amendments guaranteed personal freedoms, limited the government’s power, and gave some power to the states and free citizens.

Slavery was a common practice in the Thirteen British Colonies due to the economic growth and need for cheap labor. As the economy grew, so did the slave population, which was a little less than 4 million by 1861. By the time the Constitution of the United States of America came into effect in 1789, the slave population was left out of its protection. The American Constitution went through the first series of amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, which were ratified until 1791. The 10 amendments guaranteed personal freedoms, limited the government’s power, and gave some power to the states and free citizens. Additionally, the Constitution went through two revisions in 1791 and 1803, but slavery wasn’t addressed until the end American Civil War in 1865. From its institution as the supreme law of the United States of America until the introduction of the Thirteenth Amendment, the Constitution failed to provide protection to the slaves in the U.S.A.

The Constitution from 1789 protected the white population, and gave leverage and power to the South when the Three-Fifth Clause came into effect, under Article 1, by means of Congressional representation. Another example was the Fugitives from Labor Clause, under Article 4, which stated that people held under service or labor had to be returned to their employer if they escaped to another state. Furthermore, slaves were legally seen as property, so they weren’t protected under the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

The slave population lived and grew under the constitutional law, and power of the South. By contrast, the North had started to abolish slavery, stimulated by the Declaration of Independence. As a result, the American Civil War commenced in 1861 with slavery and its expansion at the heart of it. At the end of Civil War, following the Emancipation Declaration by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified by the states conforming the newly reconstructed Union. The first Reconstruction Amendment abolished slavery, prohibited involuntary servitude, with the exception of punishment for a crime, and nullified the Three-Fifth Clause and Fugitives from Labor law. These changes in the Constitution gave freedom and a sense of persona to about 4 million black people that lived under slavery in the south.

The introduction of black people into the free population started with the gradual abolishment of slavery in the North, and came to a conclusion with the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865 which made slavery illegal under constitutional law. After they became free citizens, they received the protection stemmed from the Bill of Rights, thus giving the black population the rights, but also the responsibilities of being citizens of the U.S.A.


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