The Anti-Slavery Constitution

The Anti-Slavery Constitution (Source It’s become an article of faith on the left that America was founded by racists who wrote the Constitution in part to preserve slavery. Historian David Waldstreicher calls it “a proslavery constitution, in intention and effect.” Yale law professor Akhil Amar labels the Constitution “pro-slavery.” Author Ibram Kendi claims that the Framers “embraced Black inferiority” and “enshrined the power of slaveholders and racist ideas in the nation’s founding document.” And the New York Times’ “1619 Project” purports to “reframe” American history by positing not only that the United States was founded “as a slavocracy” but that “nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional” is the result of “slavery — and the anti-black racism it required.” The idea that America is premised on white supremacy has been a commonplace of political debate ever since it was proffered by pro-slavery intellectuals in the 1830s. In his 1857 Dred Scott ruling, Chief Justice Roger Taney claimed that when the Founding Fathers said “all men are created equal,” they really meant only white men. One side of that debate argued with much plausibility that slavery was already unconstitutional, decades before adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. Those amendments represented the vindication of the views of pro-Constitution abolitionists who sought to defend what they saw as a “glorious liberty document” against the pro-slavery spin that southern intellectuals were putting on it — and who, after the war, revised the nation’s fundamental law to erase those anti-freedom misinterpretations. Abolitionist constitutional thought was a vibrant movement in the pre–Civil War era. To one degree or other, it was endorsed by such luminaries as John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Sumner, Chief Justice Salmon Chase, and Frederick Douglass. And it left its lasting mark on the Constitution, in the form of the Reconstruction amendments that remain the law today.

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