Constitution of the United States

Start Free Trial

How did the original version of the U.S. Consitution address slavery?

What I mean: was slavery legalized/made illegal/how was it mentioned/addressed?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The words "slavery" and "slave" do not appear anywhere in the Constitution.  However, the Constitution did have three provisions that were directly related to slavery.  These all simply assumed that slavery was legal without ever coming out and saying so.

The three provisions were:

  • The Fugitive Slave Clause in Article 4.  This says that a person "held to Service or Labour" in one state who escapes to another state must be returned.
  • The three-fifths compromise in Article 1, Section 2.  This said that three-fifths of "all other persons" (other than free persons or Indians not taxed) would be counted for the purposes of representation.
  • The clause in Article 1, Section 9 that says that the slave trade cannot be banned until at least 1808.

All of these provisions simply assumed that slavery was legal without actually saying so.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial