Equality and Civil Rights: a Chronology of Black History di Giulia Tomasi Cont, Davide Pignata

The slave trade in the Constitution of the United States

Looking Ahead

After the end of this section, you will be able to:

- talk about the slave trade in the US Constitution.

On April 13, 1783, Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris that officially ended the Revolutionary War.

When the American Revolution began there was no central government for the 13 states. Yet some form of control was needed. In 1776, the Second Continental Congress had suggested that each colony set up its own government. Most colonies wrote constitutions and then formed governments that followed their constitutions. But these were not enough. A government was needed that could act for all the states. In 1776, the Second Continental Congress named a committee to develop a plan for such a central government. Congress approved the plan, known as the Articles of Confederation, in 1777. Until 1789, the central government of the new nation was based on the Articles of the Confederation.

Many Americans realised that the Articles of Confederation had serious weaknesses. It did not provide for a central system of courts. It did not give the central government control of interstate commerce or the power to set taxes or enforce treaties. Under the Articles, Congress found the problem of the new nation almost impossible to solve. Meetings among the states in 1785 and 1786 to discuss trade problems convinced them that changes had to be made in the Articles. The Annapolis conference of 1786 recommended a convention of all the states to make the needed changes. The original objective of the convention was to revise the Articles of the Confederation. But it soon became clear that the Articles had to be put aside for a new constitution. The result became the [E] US Constitution.

In 1787 the American Constitution stated that Congress might not ban slave trade until 1808.

Article I Section 9

The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.

Congress could not forbid the importing of slaves into the U.S. until 1808. Congress could, however, tax such imports as much as $10 a person. The word slave is not used. This clause as part of the compromise reached in writing the Constitution.

In 1787 slavery is made illegal in the Northwest territories.

Looking Back

- How is the slave trade treated within the US Constitution?

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