Explain if you think the U.S. Constitution would still exist without the slavery compromises made during the Constitutional Convention.

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

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If I understand the question properly, it is asking if the Constitution would exist in its same form without the compromises on slavery made during the Constitutional Convention.  I think that a couple of points need to be made to this end.  The first would be that I am not sure that the compromises on the slave trade and the 3/5 Compromise did much to resolve the issue of slavery.  They represented measures through which the Convention would "get through" the slavery issue but not resolve it.  Far more intense debate was present on the issue of representation with the Virginia and New Jersey Plans.  It seemed that after these intense debates, there was little impetus remaining to seek to solve the issue of slavery.  The Constitutional Convention ratified a document that did not address the issue of slavery.  This would mean that the document that comes out of the convention was guaranteed to face some level of change as the issue of slavery becomes more intense and increases the division in the nation.  The document would not have existed in the same form as it was when it left the convention because of the intensity of discourse and eventual disagreement on the issue of slavery.  In the end, I think that the question presumes that the Constitution's compromises on slavery were effective.  I am not sure this is the case.  This means that I don't feel that the Constitution would have existed in the same form once the issue of slavery became so apparent and so evident about seven or eight decades after its initial ratification.  Its form was bound to change as the nation changed.  It was to exist, but in a different form.  Within this, one sees the fundamental greatness of the document in that the framers in 1787 understood that the notion of to "form a more perfect union" meant that American democracy was always going to be an experiment, one in which change would be the only constant.  The compromises on slavery were only to be the first in a document whose strength and existence is predicated on being able to adapt to change in the  American political landscape.


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