I'm an American citizen, and I think this country is a pretty good place to live. As Winston Churchill said, "...democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." And I think the American economic system's opportunities are part of the reason so many people have been trying to break into this country.
Having worked with people who had escaped to America, I appreciate what a fine place this is for someone who's willing to work with the system. But: Perfect? This is firebase Earth. Don't expect perfection here.
Doing research for another post, I ran into some details (or trivia - you decide) about the slavery compromise of 1787 or thereabouts, and the Dred Scott decision. It didn't quite belong in that post. But, I don't like letting research go to waste, so here it is.
There are people who seem to be 'too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.' And people who want to be so 'spiritual' that they can't soil their hands with mundane affairs. I'm not talking about cloistered orders here, but 'nice' people who think it's 'not nice' to discuss controversial issues or unpleasant topics.
If giving a rip about what happens to people means I'm not 'nice,' I can live with that.
And from what I've learned, the Catholic Church isn't very 'nice' either.
Neither was its founder, for that matter. You may have heard about the disturbance Jesus caused in Jerusalem's temple (John 2:14-16). Or his distinctly counter-cultural approach to adultery (John 8:1-11).
So here's what I dug up about one of America's very messy problems. Before diving into that, though: a reminder.
There have been a few notable events since 1787 and the slavery compromise, including:
- The Dred Scott decision
- The War Between the States
- Ratification of Amendment XIII: Prohibition of Slavery
- Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Slavery is a really bad idea
- The Dred Scott decision was a mistake
- It's wrong to consider people as more or less valuable based on
- What they look like
- Who their ancestors were
These excerpts are not in the order in which they appear in the Dred Scott decision.
"...Hence it follows, necessarily, that a slave, the peculium or property of a master, and possessing within himself no civil nor political rights or capacities, cannot be a CITIZEN. For who, it may be asked, is a citizen? What do the character and status of citizen import?"
"By the references above given it is shown, from the nature and objects of civil and political associations, and upon the direct authority of history, that citizenship was not conferred by the simple fact of emancipation,..."
"We give both of these laws in the words used by the respective legislative bodies, because the language in which they are framed, as well as the provisions contained in them, show, too plainly to be misunderstood, the degraded condition of this unhappy race. They were still in force when the Revolution began, and are a faithful index to the state of feeling towards the class of persons of whom they speak, and of the position they occupied throughout the thirteen colonies, in the eyes and thoughts of the men who framed the Declaration of Independence and established the State Constitutions and Governments. They show that a perpetual and impassable barrier was intended to be erected between the white race and the one which they had reduced to slavery, and governed as subjects with absolute and despotic power, and which they then looked upon as so far below them in the scale of created beings, that intermarriages between white persons and negroes or mulattoes were regarded as unnatural and immoral, and punished as crimes, not only in the parties, but in the person who joined them in marriage. And no distinction in this respect was made between the free negro or mulatto and the slave, but this stigma, of the deepest degradation, was fixed upon the whole race."
"But there are two clauses in the Constitution which point directly and specifically to the negro race as a separate class of persons, and show clearly that they were not regarded as a portion of the people or citizens of the Government then formed."
"In the opinion of the court, the legislation and histories of the times, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence, show, that neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves, nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were then acknowledged as a part of the people, nor intended to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument."
"And still further pursuing its legislation, we find that in the same statute passed in 1774, which prohibited the further importation of slaves into the State, there is also a provision by which any negro, Indian, or mulatto servant, who was found wandering out of the town or place to which he belonged, without a written pass such as is therein described, was made liable to be seized by any one, and taken before the next authority to be examined and delivered up to his master -- who was required to pay the charge which had accrued thereby. And a subsequent section of the same law provides, that if any free negro shall travel without such pass, and shall be stopped, seized, or taken up, he shall pay all charges arising thereby. And this law was in full operation when the Constitution of the United States was adopted, and was not repealed till 1797. So that up to that time free negroes and mulattoes were associated with servants and slaves in the police regulations established by the laws of the State."
('Lectric Law Library)
However, defining a 'non-free' person as 3/5 of a person is in the American Constitution. How the slavery compromise of 1787 is presented depends, I think, on how the particular college or university wants students to feel about America.
The Emory University School of Law has a pretty good copy online, with interesting sidelights, like "Amendments never ratified." The "3/5" ratio is in Section 2, Clause 3 ("Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned ... 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.2...") (Constitution for the United States of America, 1787)