The importance of understanding history

I am writing to you in response to a letter to the editor dated July 13, written by Norman Spencer. (“Political Compromises in the Const...



I am writing to you in response to a letter to the editor dated July 13, written by Norman Spencer. (“Political Compromises in the Constitution.”) After reading the letter, it seems to me that his motivation was to correct a historical inaccuracy. Yet, in trying to do so, he stated something as a fact which is in fact wrong.

Discussing the 3 / 5ths clause of the Constitution, he wrote: “The problem was that the abolitionist states in the North wanted slaves to be fully counted … while the states in the South sought to reduce their taxes in. .. omitting the slaves from … their numbers.

This is a generalization, but in reality the southern states wanted to fully count all enslaved people even though enslaved people of African descent did not have citizenship rights, because by counting them, the states of the South received more representatives in Congress, more direct tax funding and more votes in the Electoral College.

The northern states did not want to count slaves in the population because by counting those without citizenship rights, the southern states would have more political power. For example, the population of “free people” in Pennsylvania and Virginia in 1790 was almost identical. By adding 3 / 5ths of the enslaved population in Virginia, Virginia’s power in Congress and Electoral College increased, and the percentage of direct taxes received also increased.

Thus, the Constitution created a system which granted more political and economic power to the slave states; we see this political imbalance in the fact that four of the first five presidents were not only slavers, but were also all from Virginia. As Governor Morris, one of the “founding fathers,” said, “The inhabitant of Georgia and South Carolina who goes to the African coast” and “tears his fellows out of their dearest ties and condemns them to the most cruel servitudes, will have more voice in a government. instituted for the protection of mankind.

This story is important and it is important to get it right. In a cultural time when Republican legislatures are attempting to fashion legislation that prohibits educators from discussing racism as a systemic problem, it is important that we get the right story – a story that includes a constitution, at the heart of our systems, which, until the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments included protections for the institution of racial slavery (although the 13th Amendment essentially allows this…).

Our story is important because it shapes our present and our future and it is important that we realize it when we can.

Michael Lawrence-Riddell lives in Florence.



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Newsrust - US Top News: The importance of understanding history
The importance of understanding history
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