U.S. Constitution: Articles I, II, IV, V

The included excerpts from the United States Constitution offer indirect protection of slavery.
James Madison
Grade Level

This text is part of the Teaching Hard History Text Library and aligns with Key Concept 3.

Relevant Passages in the United States Constitution: 

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 15 

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; 

Article 2, Section 1, Clause 2  

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector. 

Article 4, Section 4  

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this 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. 

Article 5  

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate. 

This text is in the public domain. Retrieved from https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution-transcript.
Text Dependent Questions
  1. Question
    One pervasive fear among slaving societies was the possibility of revolts by enslaved people. Which of the excerpts provide governmental protection? How so?
    The following allows local militias, as well as compels the federal government, to combat external and internal violence (i.e., revolts).
    Art. 1, Sect. 8, Clause 15: states that militias can “suppress insurrections.”
    Art. 4, Sect. 4: states the US government will help protect the states from “domestic violence."
  2. Question
    For calculating population, enslaved people were counted as three-fifths of a person (Art. I, Sect. 2, Clause. 3). How does this give disproportionate power to slave states? (See Art. I, Sect. 2, Clause 2).
    Though enslaved people were considered property, and thus not able to vote, they are being counted towards proportioning elected officials. In this regard, white male voters in slave states receive disproportionate influence, both in Congressional and presidential elections.
  3. Question
    Article 5 requires three-fourths of the states in order to ratify a Constitutional amendment. How did this protect slavery?
    By requiring such a majority, slave states could prevent any constitutional changes from being made regarding slavery, as long as more than one quarter of the states were slave states.
  4. Question
    What could impact Article 5’s protection of slavery?
    If free states outnumber slave states so as to have a three-fourths majority, slave states would no longer be able to block a Constitutional amendment.
  5. Question
    How might opponents of slavery interpret these indirect protections?
    Answers may vary: Some protections of slavery in the Constitution were seen as compromises needed for ratification. Students may interpret this as indicating the slavery system’s power in the US government’s founding. The protections also contributed to its perpetuation.
Reveal Answers
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