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An Important Bicentennial:

On Jan. 1, 1808, it became illegal to import slaves into the United States. Eric Foner reflects about this important, and neglected, anniversary.

Jan. 1, 1808, is worth commemorating not only for what it directly accomplished, but for helping to save the United States from a history even more terrible than the Civil War that eventually rid our country of slavery.

UPDATE: Jack Balkin has more on the end of slave importation here.

Elliot Reed (mail):
Indeed. Let us never forget that the Constitutional right to import slaves included in the original Constitution . . .
1.1.2008 3:54pm
Stephen C. Carlson (www):
So was the federal power to ban it starting 1808.
1.1.2008 4:51pm
TRE:
Wasn't this a great change for people with a lot of slaves?
1.1.2008 5:59pm
b:
how often do give ourselves credit for getting things 1/2 right?

apparently, not often enough, in the professor's opinion.
1.1.2008 6:23pm
gei:
Geo Washington owned 350 of them. That would be well more then today's "small business". Wouldn't it?
1.1.2008 7:01pm
ChrisIowa (mail):

how often do give ourselves credit for getting things 1/2 right?


Facing a political reality and getting things 1/2 right is a lot better than getting things 0 right.
1.1.2008 7:12pm
b.:

Facing a political reality and getting things 1/2 right is a lot better than getting things 0 right.


getting things 1/10th right is a lot better as well. when do we stop congratulating ourselves?
1.1.2008 7:20pm
NI:
I'm sorry, but this is one reason why I cannot take either Constitutional textualism or originalism seriously. Do we really want to be bound by the views of people who either thought that slavery was A-OK or at least that the country could live with it? And don't forget, that much maligned Dred Scott decision was correctly decided as the Constitution was written.

I understand that interpreting it as a living document has problems of its own. But at least under living document jurisprudence liberty tends to expand rather than contract.
1.1.2008 7:30pm
Steven Lubet (mail):

Facing a political reality and getting things 1/2 right is a lot better than getting things 0 right.


The original constitution denied the federal government the power to ban slavery itself, as distinct from banning the slave trade (many slaveholders, especially in Virginia were also in favor of banning importation, but only because that would increase the domestic value of their own slaves). The constitution also required free states to return fugitive slaves to their owners. And it also gave the slave states disproportionate power in both the house of representatives and the electoral college (via the 3/5 clause), thus further protecting slavery.

So when it came to slavery, the constitution got things lots less that 1/2 right.
1.1.2008 7:40pm
Lewis Maskell (mail):
It's just a shame that the nascent United States did very little to actually stop the importation of slaves, despite the law. That should be one of the true reflections of this dates, that laws without enforcement are nothing more than empty words.
1.1.2008 7:45pm
ChrisIowa (mail):

The constitution also required free states to return fugitive slaves to their owners. And it also gave the slave states disproportionate power in both the house of representatives and the electoral college (via the 3/5 clause), thus further protecting slavery.


The Fugitive Slave Act was a legislative act, not part of the constitution.

The 3/5 clause was adopted instead of the alternative of counting slaves 100% which would have given slave owners even more power.
1.1.2008 7:50pm
alias:
But at least under living document jurisprudence liberty tends to expand rather than contract

Right... so long as the judges interpreting the law happen to be fans of liberty, and so long as one person's liberty is never expanded at the expense of another's.
1.1.2008 8:00pm
Steven Lubet (mail):
ChrisIowa: See Article IV Section 2:


No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, But shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.


The Fugitive Slave Acts (1793 and 1850) implemented the Constitutional provision.
1.1.2008 8:02pm
Gaius Obvious (mail):

And it also gave the slave states disproportionate power in both the house of representatives and the electoral college (via the 3/5 clause), thus further protecting slavery.

So you think slaves were less than 3/5th of a person? Just how much of a person do you think they were, if any?
1.1.2008 8:02pm
David.net:
What effects did the federal law have? Most slave states had already outlawed importation long before. Bringing in Africans did not suit the feudal society slaverholders wanted.
1.1.2008 8:04pm
dwlawson (www):
It is easy, in hindsight, to malign the founders. Even fashionable, it seems. They were not perfect men...who is? What policies do we have in place that people 230 years from now will condemn us for?

I, for one, have a deep thankfulness and respect for what the founders did accomplish. These men had no need to rebel. They, for the most part, enjoyed positions of rank and power in the colonies.

They risked all of that and more to create a country of the likes never seen before. A country where the government serves the people, not the other way around.

They did so at a great loss for many. Not all founders enjoyed the fruits of their labor. If you track the personal histories of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence, many ended poorly.
1.1.2008 8:04pm
alias:
getting things 1/10th right is a lot better as well. when do we stop congratulating ourselves?

That's an odd question. You could just as easily say that the US got it less than "half right" when it eventually eliminated slavery because (1) it was one of the last civilized countries to do so, and (2) the freed slaves remained second-class citizens for another hundred years afterward.

The headline of Foner's article is "Forgotten Step Toward Freedom." It's not "giv[ing] ourselves credit for getting things 1/2 right" to assert that the step of banning the importation of slaves was a step in the right direction, or that it was as significant a step as some other steps that get more attention.
1.1.2008 8:07pm
alias:
Foner also makes the point that, had the slave trade continued much longer, the Union might not have survived the Civil War. I don't think that has much to do with giving credit for getting something half right.
1.1.2008 8:10pm
dwlawson (www):
The founders did not agree on slavery. Some wanted it gone but that would have prevented the formation of our country. We'd probably have ended up separate mini-countries and perhaps absorbed into some other nation or empire.

The prevalent belief among people like Jefferson, was that slavery would 'die on the vine.' Indeed, it was proceeding that way until the invention of the cotton gin revived its economic viability.
1.1.2008 8:16pm
dwlawson (www):
The founders did not agree on slavery. Some wanted it gone but that would have prevented the formation of our country. We'd probably have ended up separate mini-countries and perhaps absorbed into some other nation or empire.

The prevalent belief among people like Jefferson, was that slavery would 'die on the vine.' Indeed, it was proceeding that way until the invention of the cotton gin revived its economic viability.
1.1.2008 8:16pm
Lewis Maskell (mail):
What effects did the federal law have? Most slave states had already outlawed importation long before. Bringing in Africans did not suit the feudal society slaverholders wanted.

Initially very very little. The US didn't set up any real attempts at enforcement, and UK intercepting slaves ships was one of the reasons behind 1812 - though a less well-known one as it strikes against the American mythos of that war. Even following the peace of the war of 1812 American refused a right of reciprocity of search that had been offered by the UK, though they did eventually get round to setting up their own anti-slavery squadron eventually. That did help cut down the illegal importation, though smugglers did still manage to get through. Ultimately the American slave trade only finally came to an end after the Civil War (incidentally, the British slave trade also only eventually was finished off after the total abolition of slavery in 1833 - until the state of slavery itself was illegal there was almost always bound to be a black market - pun intended).
1.1.2008 8:16pm
dwlawson (www):
I think slavery would have ended violently with or without the Civil War. In some states, slaves outnumbered whites. That kind of trend begs for revolution.
1.1.2008 8:20pm
AntonK (mail):
Also, on this day in 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation took effect.
1.1.2008 8:23pm
Steven Lubet (mail):
It does not "malign" the founders to recognize their great failures when it came to slavery. The study of history needs to be honest, not idealistic, and the fact is that the Constitution protected slavery (and it was touted that way by its supporters during the ratification debates in the south).
1.1.2008 8:44pm
Peter Wimsey:
Gaius writes:
So you think slaves were less than 3/5th of a person? Just how much of a person do you think they were, if any?



Well, since the slave-holding states treated them as property, they obviously thought that they were not a person at all. So slaves shouldn't have been considered "a person" at all for representative or electoral college purposes. It's not like the slaves could vote.
1.1.2008 9:11pm
Ruddyoak (mail):
For what it's worth in the credit department, Simon Schama notes that the legislation banning the importation of slaves, although effective on Jan. 1, 1808, was actually passed prior to Britain's ban in 1807.
1.1.2008 9:12pm
ChrisIowa (mail):

So you think slaves were less than 3/5th of a person? Just how much of a person do you think they were, if any?


Slaves were 3/5 of a person to determine representation in Congress, and only for determination of representation in Congress. To count slaves as 1 would have given the slave MASTERS more power, which would have been against the interests of the slaves as (possibly someday free) people. It wasn't a question of worth as people, it was a question of political power and who would exert it. Those who thought slaves counted as people thought that a slave should count as 0 for determination of political power.
1.1.2008 9:30pm
Beran Panasper:
But at least under living document jurisprudence liberty tends to expand rather than contract.

Only if one equates "government power" with "liberty", a definition the Founders would have found baffling.

Foner also makes the point that, had the slave trade continued much longer, the Union might not have survived the Civil War.

He did? Where?
1.1.2008 9:39pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I recall reading somewhere that the slave states wanted slaves to count as zero, or a low fraction. Population determined both seats in the House of Reps AND apportionment of taxes among the states. With Revolutionary War debts to be paid off, and abolitionism hardly a big concern, they valued lowering taxes more than gaining power in the House.
1.1.2008 9:50pm
dearieme:
I suspect that most of your Founding Fathers were utter scoundrels, but I don't criticise them over the place of slavery in the Constitution: how else were they to get 13 colonies/states to agree, save by compromise?
1.1.2008 9:59pm
MnZ:

It does not "malign" the founders to recognize their great failures when it came to slavery. The study of history needs to be honest, not idealistic, and the fact is that the Constitution protected slavery (and it was touted that way by its supporters during the ratification debates in the south).


Yes, it does malign them as there were abolitionists amoung the Founding Fathers. However, the abolitionists did not hold enough sway to ban slavery in the Constitution.

As you say, the study of history needs to be honest, not idealistic, and the fact is that people like Ben Franklin and Gouverneur Morris wanted to ban slavery (but they had to be realistic about what they could achieve).
1.1.2008 10:18pm
Steph (mail):
Dearieme that is a good question but one no longer asked because it makes the US look good. Peter Wimsey I hope you are not named after the fictional character of that name that had a first in history at Oxford. A lot of people didn't have the vote after the revolution and they counted for apportionment of representatives. The US is and was a republic not a democracy. Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. Most of the posters here are showing their ignorance and unearned self righteousness
1.1.2008 10:33pm
Gaius Obvious (mail):

Well, since the slave-holding states treated them as property, they obviously thought that they were not a person at all.

No, they thought they were 100% a person and wanted them counted 100% towards apportionment. Just as today felons in prison are 100% a person, but without many rights, and lacking the right to vote, but the states still want to count them towards apportionment. It was the anti-slavery folks who wanted them not to be counted as persons at all.

So slaves shouldn't have been considered "a person" at all for representative or electoral college purposes. It's not like the slaves could vote.

Neither could women at the time. Do you consider women not persons? Or more recently, undocumented migrants -- they can't vote either. So should we not count them when determining apportionment?
1.1.2008 10:35pm
dearieme:
Did white indentured labourers count as 1 or three-fifths?
1.1.2008 10:52pm
MarkField (mail):

What policies do we have in place that people 230 years from now will condemn us for?


Most of the conservative policies of the last 25 years.


Neither could women at the time. Do you consider women not persons?


This isn't very persuasive or exculpatory. Counting women and children didn't change the political power because they were proportionately distributed throughout the states. That wasn't true of slavery. In any case, it's not much help to defend the Founders from one injustice by citing another.


It was the anti-slavery folks who wanted them not to be counted as persons at all.


As stated, this is absurd. The anti-slavery Framers recognized that slaves were persons, they just didn't see the benefit in letting the oppressors cynically use that very humanity to tighten the chains.


I recall reading somewhere that the slave states wanted slaves to count as zero, or a low fraction. Population determined both seats in the House of Reps AND apportionment of taxes among the states. With Revolutionary War debts to be paid off, and abolitionism hardly a big concern, they valued lowering taxes more than gaining power in the House.


I don't know where you read this, but it's wrong. Some of the Southerners wanted to count slaves for purposes of apportionment, but NOT for purposes of taxes. Now THAT'S chutzpah. Most didn't go that far, but they very much wanted the 3/5 clause. It was an essential part of the bargain for them.


Did white indentured labourers count as 1 or three-fifths?


One: "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 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."
1.1.2008 11:00pm
RowerinVa (mail):
NI says, "I understand that interpreting it as a living document has problems of its own. But at least under living document jurisprudence liberty tends to expand rather than contract." What liberties, exactly? In some areas, the freedom to do certain things has expanded; however, this means that the freedom to prevent those things has contracted. In other areas, the freedom to do certain things (or expect certain non-interference from the government) has contracted rather starkly: if we look at Kelo, it appears that the liberty interest of preventing the state from seizing one's home has contracted, and in most large cities, the freedom to own a gun has contracted (we'll see what the SCT says about that soon). In both situations, the local officials doing the contracting tend to be "living" Constitution proponents. My point is not to take a position on these specific issues but to emphasize that a "living" Constitution does not tend to expand liberty. Imagine if people on the right said that given modern medical understanding of conception and early-term viability, all abortion should be illegal if it stops a beating heart, and a fetus should be a Constitutional person? What in the living Constitution doctrine would prevent this? I don't advocate this, mind you, but you need to understand that two sides (or more) can play the scary living Constitution game. You could easily image a living Constitution dissipating very fundamental rights during times of crime, terrorism, etc.
1.1.2008 11:10pm
MarkField (mail):
I need to correct my response to Dave. In fact, SC and GA did argue for counting slaves entirely even though that would mean extra taxation. VA, NC, and MD opposed this, as did the other states. Previously, in the Confederation Congress, the Southern states had generally opposed counting slaves at all because there the count only affected their proportionate share of government expenses.
1.2.2008 12:45am
theobromophile (www):

And it also gave the slave states disproportionate power in both the house of representatives and the electoral college (via the 3/5 clause), thus further protecting slavery.

ChrisIowa beat me to it. He is entirely correct that the 3/5th clause diminishes the power of slaveholders. Women, unlike slaves, were distributed evenly among the states in relation to men, so counting them or not counting them would be a wash. Furthermore, there was at least the theoretical possibility that women could leave their own state and move to another if not content with its laws; the Fugitive Slave Clause prevented slaves from exercising the same right. It would be entirely perverse, however, to give more power to those who oppress people, on account of the oppression. Representation would actually encourage slavery and discourage any laws that would allow slaves their freedom (which most would use to get themselves to free states, if allowed to and with the opportunity to do so).
1.2.2008 1:41am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I understand that interpreting it as a living document has problems of its own. But at least under living document jurisprudence liberty tends to expand rather than contract.
Except when it doesn't, such as if you're a gun owner or property owner. Or, some would argue, if you're a fetus.

As you say, the study of history needs to be honest, not idealistic, and the fact is that people like Ben Franklin and Gouverneur Morris wanted to ban slavery (but they had to be realistic about what they could achieve).
And Jefferson wanted to condemn it in the Declaration, but couldn't get traction for that.
1.2.2008 7:20am
dearieme:
Thank you, MF.
1.2.2008 8:27am
Elliot Reed (mail):
It is easy, in hindsight, to malign the founders. Even fashionable, it seems. They were not perfect men...who is?
They were a lot worse than imperfect. Chattel slavery as practiced in the American South was one of the most evil institutions in human history, surpassed only by things like mass murder and the even more brutal form of slavery found in the Caribbean. No doubt other things can be added to the list, human creativity being what it is.

To say that they did not know any better might be a defense of their character, but it is no defense of their wisdom or moral judgment. Nor is it even true, given that abolitionism was a well-known alternative at the time. A fair number of the Founders were opponents of slavery, but the number of slavers among them was of the same order of magnitude (I don't know the precise numbers). It is hardly an adequate defense of the Framers to point out that not all of them were evil.

Slavery was a political reality, and I will defer to the political judgment of the abolitionists among the Framers, who thought the Constitution was the best deal they were going to get. They were there and I wasn't. But that is just to say that the Constitution was the best that could be done at the time, not that it was good in some absolute sense. (The point being that since we've established that the Constitution had some pretty horrendous flaws and many of the Framers were apologists for evil, deference to the purported wisdom of the Framers is a very bad argument.)

And criticism of the Founders isn't "fashionable". It is a continuous tradition that goes back to the day William Lloyd Garrison called the Constitution a covenant with death and an agreement with Hell. And further back than that, to the anti-Federalists.
1.2.2008 9:12am
Elliot Reed (mail):
The obnoxious thing about calling your opponents' views "fashionable" is that it connotes, without actually saying, that their views are a recent trend that will swiftly pass, that they're adopting their views for superficial reasons, that they're generally superficial elitist types, and so forth. But because you haven't actually said any of those things, you can't be called on it.
1.2.2008 9:32am
Bretzky (mail):
NI:


I'm sorry, but this is one reason why I cannot take either Constitutional textualism or originalism seriously. Do we really want to be bound by the views of people who either thought that slavery was A-OK or at least that the country could live with it? And don't forget, that much maligned Dred Scott decision was correctly decided as the Constitution was written.

I understand that interpreting it as a living document has problems of its own. But at least under living document jurisprudence liberty tends to expand rather than contract.

Yes, actually I do. Because those same people gave us, the heirs of the system they created, the power to do what we did in the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments (i.e., to correct the mistakes they made). The argument that an adherence to original intent necessarily sets the US Constitution in stone for all time is simply wrong. We are not forever beholden to the views of the Framers, because we have the power to amend the system they created (something Americans have done 27 times, or 18 if you wish to count the Bill of Rights just once). We even have the power to completely scrap it if we so choose.
1.2.2008 10:23am
alias:
Balkin discusses the op-ed here.
1.2.2008 10:44am
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Without the compromises on slavery, there would have been no United States of America.

The world would be far worse off.

Whatever evil we tolerated in 1789 has been compensated by the evil we have stopped, and continue to stop.
1.2.2008 11:46am
Adeez (mail):
"there would have been no United States of America. The world would be far worse off."

Perhaps, if by "world" you mean to exclude the natives who lived here before the colonists arrived.
1.2.2008 12:01pm
newscaper (mail):
Gaius Obvious said:

Neither could women at the time. Do you consider women not persons? Or more recently, undocumented migrants -- they can't vote either. So should we not count them when determining apportionment?


As someone else said, all the states were the same in that regard. Further -- unlike women &children, slaves were not "stakeholders" in any real sense, no sort of rights whatsoever. And a wife, voter or not, sure as hell had more influence than a slave field hand.

Since the slave owners on a practical basis considered the slaves property and not truly "persons", their attempt to have them counted same as a free man was hypocritical on their own terms. Trying to call them on it, and not let the victims be used to empower the oppressors, was clearly the right thing to do.
1.2.2008 12:25pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

Perhaps, if by "world" you mean to exclude the natives who lived here before the colonists arrived.


The pushing westward of American Indians had started well before there was a United States of America. It would have happened either way.

But why exclude them? Compare our treatment of them to that of the Spanish.

Are the "natives" better off today in the USA or in Peru or Columbia or even Mexico?
1.2.2008 2:21pm
Sean Hirschten (mail) (www):
The states were not equal in the number of women they contained, if you count the western states that came in right after ratification. Those states (KY, TN) were heavily male. Eventually, many New England states became disporportionately female, so counting non-voting women for apportionment purposes helped the east at the expense of the west.

That the constitution was ratified mostly by easterners should hardly surprise anyone. We tend to forget about the intense east/west divide, a divide that was not eased until the acquisition of New Orleans in 1804.
1.2.2008 2:29pm
mischief (mail):

Chattel slavery as practiced in the American South was one of the most evil institutions in human history, surpassed only by things like mass murder and the even more brutal form of slavery found in the Caribbean.


As opposed to chattel slavery elsewhere?

The slave population in the USA increased owing to the birth of slave children. There are a lot of places where the slaves were so brutally treated that the population always decreased.
1.2.2008 4:25pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Chattel slavery as practiced in the American South was one of the most evil institutions in human history, surpassed only by things like mass murder and the even more brutal form of slavery found in the Caribbean.
As compared to Roman slavery, where POWs were tattooed on the face to identify that the tax on them had been paid, and the men were worked to death in mines where, after all the gold had been extracted, the slaves would pull out the timbers holding up the mountain, so that a river could be diverted over the remains. Sometimes they got out before the shafts collapsed; sometimes they didn't. Women slaves were sold into prostitution, where many lived short and miserable lives.

There's plenty of evil to point to in Southern slavery, and as you point out, it was even worse in places like Jamaica, where newborns were routinely thrown into ditches to die, because it was cheaper to buy fresh adult slaves than to raise babies. But there's plenty of evil involving slavery throughout human history. The South is somewhat remarkable in being one of the places in the New World where slaves were so well fed that they successfully reproduced. This doesn't make it okay--but there were English abolitionists in the 19th century who acknowledged that the poorest, most oppressed working class Britons were not as well fed or clothed as Southern slaves.

The cutoff of the import of slaves in 1808 was not perfect, of course. The first execution for slave trading does not take place until 1862, because the law provided for trials to take place in the U.S. District Court closest to where the slave ship was intercepted--which would almost always be a slave state. Nonetheless, the prohibition on legal importation dramatically reduced the number of slaves brought into the United States. On the other hand, as the proportion of slaves who had been born free dwindled, it also meant that the number of slave revolts declined. People who have known nothing but slavery seem to be a bit more tolerant of it than those who remember what it was like to not be property.

One other point: American slaves were property, but they were also persons. This created enormous difficulties for the Southern courts, who felt the need to defend both positions. Thus, while the murder of a slave was often not punished, it was a criminal offense, and there are people who were convicted of murdering slaves. (The prohibition on slaves testifying against whites severely impaired most prosecutions, of course.)

Those who insist on bringing up the 3/5ths rule have already been pretty well corrected here. Let me emphasize that it was the Northern states, where slavery was either gone, being phased out, or relatively rare, that most fought to have the slaves counted as 0/5ths of a person, and the slave states that wanted them counted as a full person.

Those who are so intent on maligning the Framers for putting up with slavery should be aware that in 1787, there was a pretty general belief that slavery was probably on its way out. James Breen's Tobacco Culture makes the point that many slave owners recognized the inconsistency between slavery and their ideology. Quite a number of slave owners did free their slaves during and immediately after the Revolution, and some started to make the transition from tobacco (a high labor crop that justified slavery) to wheat (which was much lower labor, and recognized as better suited to freemen). If not for the invention of the cotton gin, slavery might well have faded away--at least, to the point where the number of slaves left would have been so few that a gradual emancipation plan such as a number of the Northern states adopted would have been feasible.
1.2.2008 5:19pm
dwlawson (www):

They were a lot worse than imperfect.


Disagree.

Judging them by today's standards is unfair. Judged by the standards of their day, they represented a great leap forward.

They successfully implemented a form of government based upon enlightenment ideals. Unfortunately it only lasted a decade or two.
1.2.2008 6:40pm
Aleks:
Re: UK intercepting slaves ships was one of the reasons behind 1812

Maybe, but back then there was no humanitarian impulse behind those seizures. Slavery was still legal for another twenty odd years in British colonies. How many of those slaves were returned to freedom in Africa as opposed to ending up in the slave markets of Jamaica and Barbados, if not at the bottom of the sea?

Re: So slaves shouldn't have been considered "a person" at all for representative or electoral college purposes. It's not like the slaves could vote.

Women were counted in censuses and apportionment, as are children and aliens today. Only Native Americans were ever wholly excluded.

Re: Counting women and children didn't change the political power because they were proportionately distributed throughout the states.

Non-citizen immigrants (including illegals) are not evenly distributed, and back in the 19th century they tended to cluster in Northern cities (rather few ended up anywhere in the South, the New Orleans Irish being about the only exception).

Re: Chattel slavery as practiced in the American South was one of the most evil institutions in human history

I rather disagree. Oh, yes, American slavery was evil, no doubt there. But compared to much of what came before, it was a little evil not a huge one. Read about the plight of ordinary Roman slaves (not celebrated ones like Caesar's secretary or some such). Or any number of other oppressed people. American slaves suffered much, but the very fact that we have a substantial Black population today is proof that the Peculiar Institution was far less brutal than most other slavery systems. The Middle East took millions of slaves out of Africa too, and a great many also from Northern Europe before 1000AD. So where are all the Black or blond Middle Easterners we might expect to have descended from those people?

Re:But why exclude them?

Because in principle they were citizens not of the US but of their own sovereign tribal nations. Hencet he 14th Amendment also excluding them from birth citizenship by its "Subject to the jurisdiction thereof" condition.

Re: That the constitution was ratified mostly by easterners should hardly surprise anyone.

Indeed: there were no non-Eastern states in 1787, and nearly the whole population lived east of the Applachians.
1.2.2008 6:56pm
MarkField (mail):

Non-citizen immigrants (including illegals) are not evenly distributed, and back in the 19th century they tended to cluster in Northern cities (rather few ended up anywhere in the South, the New Orleans Irish being about the only exception).


All of which is irrelevant to 1787.
1.2.2008 8:07pm
Lewis Maskell (mail):
Aleks - UK intercepting slave ships - in fact the motive was humanitarian and those slaves thus liberated were not taken the colonies in the West Indies. The majority of liberated slaves ended up in the free colony of Sierra Leone.
1.2.2008 8:57pm
louisvillelawyer (mail):
"Are the "natives" better off today in the USA or in Peru or Columbia or even Mexico?"

Well....the indigenous peoples of Latin America weren't shipped off their land to wasteland reservations, and their children weren't taken away from their families in huge numbers to be culturally reprogrammed. The Spanish wanted converts to Catholicism and cheap labor. Americans wanted cleared lands and no more Indians. Not surprisingly, there are a lot more indigenous people left in Latin America. I also don't think there is a Trail of Tears in Latin America, but please correct me if I'm wrong.
1.3.2008 10:27am
louisvillelawyer (mail):
PS: Not to say the Spanish did not treat indigenous people brutally -- but they wanted to rule them, not get rid of them.
1.3.2008 10:38am