Friday, July 6, 2018

What the Constitution may become a century hence, we know not; we speak of it as it is, and repudiate it as it is.

On July 4th, I  began to post the text of Wendell Phillips' documentation that the real character of the United States Constitution, far from its reputation as a landmark in freedom was, actually, a corrupt bargain between the slave holding class of aristocrats and those aristocrats in the North who, though they got their wealth in other ways benefited from the slave labor of the slave economy, mostly concentrated, but not exclusive to the South.  At the time the Constitution was adopted, I believe slavery was practiced in very one of the 13 original states, including the one I live in, a part of Massachusetts until 1820.

Before continuing with Phillips' excellently argued introduction, I will point out that the benefits to the slave holders was only a subset of the general purpose of the Constitution, the corrupt bargain that Phillips' documented was made by two groups of aristocrats, those who held slaves and those who didn't.   The Northern money interests had the same goal as the slave owners did, in protecting and perpetuating their position as an aristocratic ruling class who explicitly sought to benefit themselves through the Constitution they were writing and to protect themselves against an inconvenient rising of egalitarian democracy.   I have come to see the entire history of the United States, ever since, of being a struggle by people oppressed by aristocracy, by the wealthy and against the Constitution of the United States,  Slaves, Women, Poor White Men, Native Americans, Latinos, Asians, members of minority religions and ethnicity have had to struggle against the Constitution that sought to empower the wealthy and succeeded in inserting all kinds of safety valves to inhibit people seeking equal rights and equality under the law. 

In a lot of cases the few sections of the Constitution and, especially, in the reluctantly adopted and, in so many ways botched Bill of Rights, the common people, members of beleaguered minorities and others have had to make recourse to those things in the Bill of Rights which were put there for the convenience of the aristocrats and, more so, to appeal to the populations of states where, for example, large numbers of Catholics or Baptists lived - the aristocrats who were pushing the Constitution needed it to be ratified through state legislatures, which were more likely to contain people who were not and never would be of the aristocratic class who wrote the thing.   The real balancing act was not to achieve a balance but to write something that would favor the power and interest of the aristocratic minority while giving just enough, in just such a way so as to get the legislators in the various states to adopt the thing. 

Phillips continued by listing those provisions in the Constitution that were explicitly written for and which had the effect of installing slavery as a permanent aspect of the American Constitutional government.   As I have argued, the abolition of de jure slavey after the Civil War was quickly followed by a reimposition of slavery, in fact though not in name and with slight modification, by the end of Reconstruction under Rutherford Hayes* and which courts ratified by using the Constitution to support the Jim Crow system in the South and, in reality, elsewhere in the United States.   The Roberts court, following on the efforts of the Rehnquist Court, is abolishing the means by which the court for a few decades ended Jim Crow using the language of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to do so.

As Phillips answered those Constitutional mythologists and romantics of his day, the proof is in what courts, the Congress, the Executive branch have done and gotten away with.   Now that the Court is siding with those who want to install a permanent Republican rule even when they consistently don't get a majority of the vote, facing the dangers of the parts of the Constitution they cite to come up with their transparently false excuses to do that is vital.  Until those are changed, they will always be a danger of being put to the use that the Federalist fascists on the court have put them to.

Starting with the first of the slavery empowering Articles cited in the book.

ART. 1, SECT. 2 -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.

ART. 1 SECT. 8.  - Congress shall have power . . . to suppress insurrections. 

ART. 1, SECT. 9. - The migration or importation of such persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight:  but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars each person. 

ART. 4, SECT. 2.  - No person, held in service or labor 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 labor;  but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.

ART. 4, SECT. 4 - The United States shall guarantee to every State in the Union a republican form of government; and shall protect each of them against invasion; and, on application of the legislature, or of the executive, (when the legislature cannot be convened,) against domestic violence. 

The first of these clauses, relating to representation confers on a slave-holding community additional political power for every slave held among them, and thus tempts them to continue to uphold the system:   the second and last, relating to insurrection and domestic violence, perfectly innocent in themselves, yet being made with the fact directly in view that slavery exists among us, do deliberately pledge the whole national force against the unhappy slave if he imitate our fathers and resist oppression - thus making us partners in the guilt of sustaining slavery:  The third, relating to the slave trade, disgraces the nation by a pledge not to abolish that traffic till after twenty years, without obliging Congress to do so even then, and thus the slave trade may be legalized tomorrow if Congress choose:  the fourth is a promise on the part of the whole nation to return fugitive slaves to their masters, a deed which God's law expressly condemns and which every noble feeling of our nature repudiates with loathing and contempt.  

These are the articles of the "Compromise,"  so much talked of between the North and South.

We do not produce the extracts which make up these pages to show what is the meaning of the clauses above cited.  For no man or party, of any authority is such matters, has ever pretended to doubt to what subject they all relate.  If indeed they were ambiguous in their terms, a resort to the history of those times would set the matter at rest forever.  A few persons, to be sure, of late years, to serve the purposes of a party, have tried to prove that the Constitution makes no compromise with slavery.  Notwithstanding the clear light of history; - the unanimous decision of all the courts in the land, both State and Federal - the action of Congress and the State Legislature; - the constant practice of the Executive in all its branches;  - and the deliberate aquiescence of the whole people for half a century,  still they contend that the nation does not know its own meaning, and that the Constitution does not tolerate slavery!   Every candid mind, however, must acknowledge that the language of the Constitution is clear and explicit. 

Its terms are so broad, it is said, that they include many others besides slaves, and hence it is wisely (!) inferred that they cannot include the slaves themselves!  Many persons besides slaves in this country doubtless are "held in service and labor under the laws of the States,"  but that does not at all show that slaves are not "held to service;"  many persons beside the slaves may take part "in insurrections,"  but that does not prove that when the slaves rise, the National Government is not bound to put them down by force.  Such a thing has been heard of before as one description including a great variety of persons,  - and this is the case in the present instance. 

But granting the terms of the Constitution are ambiguous - that they are susceptible to two meanings - if the unanimous, concurrent, unbroken practice of every department of the Government, judicial, legislative, and executive, and the acquiescence of the whole people for fifty years, do not prove which is the true construction, then how and where can such a question ever be settled?   If the people and the courts of the land do not know what they themselves mean, who has authority to settle their meaning for them?  

If, then, the people and the courts of a country are to be allowed to determine what their own laws mean, it follows that at this time, and for the last half century, the Constitution of the United States has been, and still is, a pro-slavery instrument, and that any one who swears to support it, swears to do pro-slavery acts, and violates his duty both as a man and an abolitionist.  What the Constitution may become a century hence, we know not;  we speak of it as it is, and repudiate it as it is. 

The idiocy of the common belief on the left that all kinds of obvious corruption, such as corporate person hood, such as the declaration by Republican justices such as Scalia that there is no right to vote and by the Republican majority of the present court that there is no right to have your vote matter, should just be accepted as settled once the Supreme Court cites the Constitution to impose that corruption is one of the worst habits of thought on the alleged left.   As the abolitionists pointed out from the beginning of the struggle, clear injustice and clear immorality should never just be accepted because some 18th century aristocrats wrote some words and sold them to others in the 18th century,  All Men, all White Men doing the writing, mostly at least White Men aspiring to wealth in the legislatures that adopted them.   The immorality of much of the Constitution was known, even as it was being adopted, there was certainly not unanimous agreement on its adoption, especially within state legislatures where some of the dissent was on the basis of the immorality and inequality that was and still is a part of the document.   That's why I'm posting this, to help people break out of that ACLU, as seen in the movies and made for TV movies and heard on NPR and PBS legalistic romanticism about the document INCLUDING THE IDOLIZED BILL OF RIGHTS which is being used by Republican-fascists to destroy egalitarian democracy which, for a brief few years, managed to win out over the Constitutional corrupt deal. 

Remember that the next time you hear Nina or someone else waxing piously about the Court, the "rule of law" and the Constitution on NPR or PBS or some other venue of the media.   The biggest mouthpiece for "freedom of speech" these days are fascists and overt neo-Nazis, white and male supremacists.  You can thank the likes of Nat Hentoff and Joel Gora and Oliver Wendell Holmes jr. and all manner of alleged liberals in the media and academica for making that possible.

*  I will never stop pointing out that Rutherford Hayes, the man who ended Reconstruction and started the period of American apartheid and de facto reimposition of slavery, came to power through the Electoral College, one of the inventions of the aristocrats to prevent democracy from happening.   The same provision that led to Bush II and now Trump can hardly be held to be a dead letter or something that can be safely accepted.   AND IT SHOULD NOT BE FORGOTTEN THAT ALONG WITH OUR DOMESTIC BILLIONAIRES, PUTIN PLAYED THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE TO PUT HIS STOOGE IN THE WHITE HOUSE.  Its abolition is a necessity if egalitarian democracy is not to be turned to fascism.  

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