Does the U.S. Constitution Exclude Blacks from Its Civil Rights Protections?

Frederick Douglass

By Keith Hardine

A Black History Month Essay:

Frederick Douglass, a former slave once stated that:
“There is no negro problem. The problem is whether the American people have loyalty, honor, and patriotism enough, to live up to their own Constitution.”
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This was quite a radical statement coming from a former slave who lived during a time when slavery and racism were both terrible problems in early America. But is it fair today, to perpetuate the progressive narrative that the US Constitution institutionalized slavery and still demeans black people? In fact, the Constitution and other Founding documents can serve as our greatest weapons for resisting such tyranny, and confirming the value of all people, which paved the way for freeing the slaves, and appropriating civil rights equality for American black People.
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In Federalist #54 we find James Madison who himself had slaves, actually defending their Natural Right to be represented as whole Persons in the US Constitution.
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The “southerner” goes on to explain that while slaves are forced in their bodies to work for, and be chastised at the will of the master, and have no standing in a court of law, their lives are still protected by the [“Laws of Nature,”] so that even their masters cannot kill them without consequences and that if a slave kills another he too is held accountable before the same [“Laws of Nature,”] as are free Persons.
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James Madison

Madison continued, “we must deny the fact that slaves are considered merely as property, and in no respect whatsoever as Persons. The true state of the case is, that they partake of both of these qualities: being considered by our laws, in some respects, as Persons, and in other respects as Property.”

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In an essay which then-Congressman Madison wrote in 1788 for a New York newspaper, he connects the idea of property rights as commonly understood to be EVERY PERSON’S Natural Right, which culminates in the human conscience. Madison argued—as did most of the American Founders—that “every Person” including an African slave—“has an equal Property in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them. Conscience is the most sacred of all property…the exercise of that, being a Natural and Unalienable Right.”
http://online.hillsdale.edu/file/constitution-courses-library/constitution-101/week-5/On-Property.pdf
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This was evident by the fact that most African blacks had over a period of time, become assimilated into America’s Founding Principles, and had thus chosen to remain in the US after they were emancipated, instead of fleeing back to their mother countries.
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For example, in 1777, a petition was made by a great number of Negroes being detained in a state of Slavery who wrote:
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“To the Honorable Council and House of Representatives for the State of Massachusetts-Bay in General Court assembled January 13th, 1777. The Petition of a great number of Negroes who are detained in a state of Slavery in the Bowels of a free and Christian Country—humbly showing that your Petitioners apprehend that they have, in common with all other Men, a Natural and Unalienable Right to that freedom, which the Great Parent of the Universe hath bestowed equally on all Mankind, and which they have never forfeited by any compact or agreement whatsoever.”
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But they were unjustly dragged, by the cruel hand of Power, from their dearest friends, and some of them even torn from the embraces of their tender Parents—in Violation of the Laws of Nature and of Nations’—brought hither to be sold like Beasts of Burden. And like them, condemned to slavery for Life Among a People professing the Religion of Jesus.”
http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/fourpetitionsagainstslavery.html
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At that time there were large populations of FREE blacks in both the north and south. And the Constitution regarded “The People” not based on skin color, but on their legal situation. Furthermore, the Constitution, in the three fifths clause, defines slaves as “Persons” with a capital P, the same terminology used for free Persons. Finally most people when paraphrasing this part of the Constitution say that the Constitution counts blacks as three fifths of a person, but it actually says that three fifths of the slaves, or sixty percent are to be counted, which is an important distinction.
https://layers-of-learning.com/federalist-paper-number-fifty-four/
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For example, Article 1, Section 2, says: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined BY ADDING TO THE WHOLE NUMBER OF FREE PERSONS, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths OF ALL OTHER PERSONS.”
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The three fifths Clause in Article 1, Section 1, of the US Constitution deals only with representation, not the worth of any slave. Southern slave-holding States saw an opportunity to increase their political advantage over the free Northern States with fewer populations. So, a final compromise, that is, 3/5’s, or 60%, of all slaves would be counted to calculate the number of southern representatives to Congress. This restrained the Democrats from spreading Slavery throughout the country as new states entered this Union.
* “Setting the Record Straight”
P. 11-13.
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In a speech on March 26, 1860 in Glasgow, Scotland, Frederick Douglass asked the real question that still looms in debate circles today:
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“Does the United States Constitution guarantee to any class, or description of people in this country the right to enslave, or hold as property, any other class, or description of people in this country?” Douglass’s answer:
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“If the Constitution was intended to be—by its Framers and adopters—a slave holding instrument, why isn’t there any reference to that idea found in it? [But] take the constitution according to its plain reading, I defy the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it. On the other hand it will be found to contain principles and purposes, entirely hostile to the existence of slavery.”
  * The Constitution of the United States: Is It Pro-Slavery or Anti-Slavery? Teaching American History
http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/the-constitution-of-the-united-states-is-it-pro-slavery-or-anti-slavery/
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In 1865, the 13th AMENDMENT was passed by all of the 118 Republicans in the US Congress, along with 19 Northern Democrats, out of 82, thus, abolishing Slavery. And how did the Southern Democrat majority respond to this? They denied the rights of citizenship to blacks in those former southern slave states.
* Setting the Record Straight, P. 37
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 So the Republicans pass a 14th AMENDMENT In 1868. The 14th Amendment was ratified in

Sen. Jacob Howard

1868 to protect the “Unalienable  Rights” of native-born Black Americans, whose rights were being denied as recently-freed slaves. In 1866, Senator Jacob Howard clearly spelled out the intent of the 14th Amendment by stating:

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“Every person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of ‘Natural Law’ and national law a citizen of the United States…This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons. It settles the great question of citizenship and removes all doubt as to what persons are or are not citizens of the United States. This has long been a great desideratum in the jurisprudence and legislation of this country.”
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This understanding was reaffirmed by Senator Edward Cowan, who stated:
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“[A foreigner in the United States] has a right to the protection of the laws; but he is not a citizen in the ordinary acceptance of the word…”
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The phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” was intended to exclude American-born persons from automatic citizenship whose allegiance to the United States was not complete. With illegal aliens who are unlawfully in the United States, their native country has a claim of allegiance on the child. Thus, the completeness of their allegiance to the United States is impaired, which therefore precludes automatic citizenship.
http://www.14thamendment.us/birthright_citizenship/original_intent.html
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 * Setting the Record Straight, P. 53
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Then in 1870, again Republicans only, passed a 15th AMENDMENT granting voting rights to blacks without a single Democrat’s support; either from the north or south.
* Setting the Record Straight P. 68
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SO, DOES THE US CONSTITUTION REALLY EXCLUDE BLACKS FROM ITS CIVIL RIGHTS PROTECTIONS?
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The answer can be found in the finished work of the Constitution itself. The signers from the North and South in 1787 unanimously agreed that only Persons should be represented in Government, and that property should be taxed. Being primarily persuaded that slaves are both persons and property is what became commonly understood and accepted by most Americans, thanks to Madison’s arguments in 1788, connecting the idea of Property Rights, to Natural Rights.
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Today every American citizen possesses them; which culminates in the human conscience, and so ought to be counted for representation as well as taxation. And please keep in mind, that this Constitutional protection originally sprang from the idea of preventing the slave-holding south from expanding its despotic power to the north.
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“Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.” – Thomas Jefferson 
 

Keith Hardine is a Self Defense Civics Instructor and Natural Rights activist. He works as a Los Angeles Unified School District-Campus Aide, supervising and mentoring K-12 students throughout the city of Los Angeles. In addition, He is a personal Self-Defense Instructor and anti-bullying trainer.

Keith Hardine, Self Defense Instructor, 323-708- 4647,  k.hardine@icloud.com

https://www.facebook.com/keith.hardine.5

 


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2 Responses to Does the U.S. Constitution Exclude Blacks from Its Civil Rights Protections?

  1. Citizen Reporter February 13, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    I thought that Mr. Hardine laid it out quite clearly that even the original Constitution afforded blacks some rights, never specifically addressed slavery. It specifically guaranteed full rights w13th/14th Amendments.

    Reply
  2. William Hicks February 13, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    1) Coming from Frederick Douglass, It’s reasonable to wonder about how the Constitution viewed Blacks in America. That still doesn’t mean Douglass was even correct.

    2) Wasn’t Civil War fought and years of political achievements made that would negate any semblance of exclusion of Blacks, or am I missing something beyond the obvious?

    Reply

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