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

The included excerpts from the United States Constitution offer direct protection of slavery.
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 I, Section 2, Clause 3 

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.  

Article 1, Section 9, Clause 1  

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 for each Person. 

Article 1, Section 9, Clause 4 

No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken. 

Article 4, Section 2, Clause 3 

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. 

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
    For what two purposes do enslaved people count for three-fifths of a person? How does this appeal to both the North and the South?
    Representation and taxation.
    The South will have more congressional representation by counting enslaved people, thus benefitting them politically. However, thy South will also be taxed according to their population, thus counting enslaved people at all will increase how much they are expected to pay, which appealed to the North.
  2. Question
    What are the limits to proposing a Constitutional Amendment, per Article 5?
    Proposals must have 2/3 of both Houses to agree. (Ratification requires 3/4 be in agreement). The proposal cannot be about the slave trade or taxes thereof, unless after 1808.
  3. Question
    What does the Constitution say about Congress’ ability to impact the slave trade? How does this protect the slave trade?
    Congress cannot prohibit or change the existing slave trade until after 1808.

    By not allowing Congress to change the existing slave trade, this places Constitutional protection on it until 1808. At that time, Congress can pass laws in regards to the slave trade, but the Constitution does not specify that it must (i.e., it does not provide a framework to reduce or put limits on the slave trade).
  4. Question
    How are runaway enslaved people to be handled, according to the Constitution?
    It states that if an enslaved person escapes from a slave to a free state, they must be delivered back to their enslaver.
  5. Question
    How does the Constitution directly protect the institution of slavery?
    Though the Constitution does not completely forbid legislating on slavery in the future, no laws could be passed to infringe on the slave trade for a significant period of time. Additionally, the fugitive slave law maintains that an enslaved person is still subject to being returned, even if in a state where slavery is outlawed.
Reveal Answers
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