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Examine what “We the People” meant in the Constitution of the United States for...

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nautica | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted November 21, 2012 at 2:59 PM via web

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Examine what “We the People” meant in the Constitution of the United States for Native Americans and African- Americans in the new nation.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 21, 2012 at 3:11 PM (Answer #1)

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I don't think it's completely out of line to suggest that the opening words to the Preamble in the Constitution of "We, the People" does not necessarily include African- Americans and Native Americans.  It becomes clear that "the people" are the members of the Constitutional Convention in 1787.  Summoned to Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation and find a form of government that would work for the new nation, the delegates felt compelled to speak for the nation.  Essentially, they spoke for the majority who held power and had a voice.  This resulted in them speaking for White men who were wealthy and politically influential.  At the time of the Constitution's writing, there was a distinct representation as to who was on this "inside" realm of wielding power and who was on the "outside."  Poor people were on the outside. Women were on the outside.  Native Americans were not even included in the calculus, as they were seen as "the other."  The members of the Constitutional Convention did not seek to speak for them.  African- Americans, still enslaved, were also on the outside.  It can be fairly recognized that "We, the people" does not speak for African Americans because the issue of slavery was left undecided by the delegates of the Constitutional Convention.  The 3/5 Compromise made clear the idea that African Americans were considered to be less than a human being.  They were seen as 3/5 of a person, to be exact.  In this light, the phrase that introduces the Constitution is a statement that speaks for some, and refuses to acknowledge others.  It was over time, in fulfillment of another premise of the Constitution in "forming a more perfect union," that more voices became a part of the tapestry of American Government.  Yet, in the final analysis, the original drafting of the words, "We, the people" spoke for a narrow few, of which Native Americans and African- Americans were not seen as a part.

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