All Other Persons
At the Constitutional Convention, the delegates were concerned with the survival of the young nation. Many delegates called for strong protections for slavery, while many others hated the idea of putting into the Constitution the idea that there could be property in people. With the goal of forming a Union, they reached a compromise. Slave states would count 3/5ths of their slave populations towards their state populations to calculate taxation and representation in Congress. Additionally, Congress could not outlaw the international slave trade until 1808. The debate over the federal government’s power to regulate slavery continued through the Civil War.
James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, and Andrew Johnson, who served as President of the United States in the years immediately before, during, and after the Civil War, each had different approaches to the constitutional powers of the President, if any, to interfere with the spread of slavery.
Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address - Find it on ConstitutionBee.org
In this speech, Abraham Lincoln defended his Republican Party’s view of slavery—that Congress had the power under Article I to control slavery in new territories—as identical to the view of the majority of the signers of the Constitution. He referred to the prohibition of slavery in the new territory of the Northwest Ordinance (passed in 1787 and reauthorized by the First Congress in 1789) as further proof that Congress was understood to have the power to ban slavery.
He intoned, “The sum of the whole is, that of our thirty-nine fathers who framed the original Constitution, twenty-one - a clear majority of the whole - certainly understood that no proper division of local from federal authority, nor any part of the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government to control slavery in the federal territories…Such, unquestionably, was the understanding of our fathers who framed the original Constitution; and the text affirms that they understood the question ‘better than we.’”
Lincoln discussed federalism and acknowledged that the national government did not have the power to free the slaves in the states then existing. But he appealed to citizens’ courage and responsibilities of citizenship in ending slavery in the new territories: “[L]et us stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively.” He delivered the speech as an undeclared presidential candidate, hoping to express his views to the public and gain support for his election.
Missouri Compromise - Find it on ConstitutionBee.org
The Missouri Compromise provided that, except for Missouri itself, slavery would be banned in territories contained within the area of the Louisiana Purchase above 36°30’ north latitude. Missouri would be admitted to the union as a slave state.
The Missouri Compromise was repealed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) and was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court case Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857) where the Court held that Congress lacked the power to ban slavery in the territories.
Compromise of 1850 - Find it on ConstitutionBee.org
Henry Clay presented the Compromise of 1850 with the help of Stephen Douglas, in order to reconcile several issues related to new states and slavery.
According to the series of bills that made up the compromise, the question of slavery in the new lands acquired by the war with Mexico would be deferred. Embracing a position known as “popular sovereignty,” the voting residents of those territories would be free to take a position on slavery when they applied for statehood. Slavery would be permitted in Washington, DC, but the slave trade would be abolished within the borders of the district. Finally, California would be admitted as a free state. This new free state upset the balance in Congress between free and slave states. In order to mollify those in favor of slavery, the Fugitive Slave Act was passed.
Years later in 1865, the question of slavery would not be settled once and for all until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.
Fugitive Slave Act - Find it on ConstitutionBee.org
This Act was the most controversial part of the package of bills making up the Compromise of 1850. This law required citizens—including those within free states—to assist in returning escaped slaves to their masters, and denied jury trials to fugitive slaves. It resulted in the growth of the Underground Railroad, a network of people providing shelter and other assistance for escaped slaves traveling north.
This provision may have been contrary to Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution, which provides for the return of escaped slaves “in consequence of any law or regulation” of the state to which they escape.
Years later in 1865, the question of slavery would be settled once and for all with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment.
Thirteenth Amendment - Find it on ConstitutionBee.org
Slavery is illegal throughout the nation.
The Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Abraham Lincoln, was a precursor to the adoption of this amendment. Many Americans including Frederick Douglass and Angelina Grimke also fought for an end to slavery by exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech, press, assembly and petition.
Fourteenth Amendment - Find it on ConstitutionBee.org
Listed below are the relevant sections of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Fifteenth Amendment - Find it on ConstitutionBee.org
The national and state governments cannot use peoples’ race to stop them from voting. This amendment gave black men the right to vote.
Want to learn more?
The resources contained on the ArticleII.org website are just the beginning! The Bill of Rights Institute curriculum, Presidents and the Constitution, explores how various presidents understood and exercised their constitutional powers. By exploring constitutional crises in American history, these interactive, hands-on lessons encourage students to analyze the actions of Presidents in light of the Constitution.
Students will engage with:
▪ 15 ready-to-use, interactive lesson plans
▪ Strong focus on primary source activities
▪ Solid content including historical narrative in each lesson
▪ Scholarly thematic essays that introduce each unit
▪ Contemporary application highlighted with an “Issues Endure” portal in each unit
Jimmy Carter was the first person from the deep South elected President since Zachary Taylor in 1848.