In this episode of Constitutionally Speaking, Jay and Luke discuss the role that slavery played at the Constitutional Convention. The delegates, as they note, were never prepared to abolish slavery in 1787, in no small part because southern states dominated the proceedings, and the northern nationalists depended upon their support to radically revise the Articles of Confederation. Moreover, slavery in 1787 was not nearly the dominant institution it would become after the invention of the Cotton Gin transformed the economics of the South.
At this point, many southerners were frankly embarrassed by it, and George Mason of Virginia denounces it in uncompromising terms at the Convention. The real battle over slavery occurs not over the infamous 3/5ths clause, but in debates over the transatlantic slave trade, at which point delegates like Rufus King and Gouverneur Morris denounce slavery in ways that anticipate the abolitionist movement that was still decades away.
- Gouverneur Morris, Speech of July 13, 1787
- Gouverneur Morris and Rufus King, Speeches of August 8, 1787
- George Mason, Speech of August 22, 1787