While appearing on the September 12, 2008 episode of “The View,” John McCain was asked about his opposition to the 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion decision. The question relates to the type of judges he would nominate to the Supreme Court. McCain insisted that he would support judges who took a strict constructionist view of the Constitution whereby they would interpret it in light of its founding principles. Showing her ignorance, Whoopi Goldberg (Caryn Elaine Johnson) then asked, “Do I have to worry about becoming a slave again?” (read the exchange here).
First, Goldberg was never a slave. Second, the original Constitution does not mention slavery. The words “slave,” “slavery,” and “involuntary servitude” were not added to the Constitution until after the War Between the States in Amendments XIII (1865) and XIV (1868). Third, if there is need for a change in the Constitution, it makes provision by an amendment process (Article 5) which is part of a “strict constructionist” view. This was not done with abortion. Seven of nine unelected judges sanctioned the killing of pre-born babies by judicial fiat. So even if the Constitution did officially sanction slavery, the above amendments now prohibit the practice. Fourth, not every Black person in antebellum America was a slave.
Goldberg and others get away with constitutional misinformation because the American public is generally ignorant about the Constitution. This can best be seen when an appeal is made to the “three-fifths clause” of Article 1, section 2 as empirical evidence that our founding document was racist by definition. It reads as follow:
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.
This is often interpreted to mean that the Constitution classified black people as only three-fifths of a human being.
Contrary to what millions believe, the “three-fifths clause” is a clear indication that a number of our constitutional founders wanted to end slavery constitutionally. The clause was not designed to make a statement about personhood. The logic behind the clause is compromise. The Northern states did not want to count slaves, whereas the Southern states hoped to include slaves in the population statistics so as to acquire additional representation in Congress. The compromise was to count non-citizens as “three-fifths” of a person for representation purposes. Keep in mind that representation in the states is based on population. This is why Virginia (11) has more representatives that Rhode Island (2).
The goal of the Northern delegates, at least on this issue, was to dilute Southern voting strength so as to outlaw slavery by constitutional means. “The struggle that took place in the convention was between the Southern delegates trying to strengthen the constitutional supports for slavery and the Northern delegates trying to weaken them.”1 If none of the slaves had been included in the population count for representation, as Northern delegates wanted, the slave states would have had only 41 percent of the seats in the House. If all the slaves had been counted, as Southerners wanted, the slave states would have had 50 percent of the seats. By agreeing to count “all other persons” (slaves) as three-fifths of a person for representation purposes, the Southern slaveholding states ended up with a minority voting position—47 percent. Robert L. Goldwin concludes:
[T]he point is that the “three-fifths clause” had nothing at all to do with measuring the human worth of blacks. Northern delegates did not want black slaves included, not because they thought them unworthy of being counted, but because they wanted to weaken the slaveholding power in Congress. Southern delegates wanted every slave to count “equally with the Whites,” not because they wanted to proclaim that black slaves were human beings on an equal footing with free white persons, but because they wanted to increase the pro-slavery voting power in Congress. The humanity of blacks was not the subject of the three-fifths clause; voting power in Congress was the subject.2
Distorting the facts of history is reprehensible. Americans are being made to feel guilty for the actions of men taken hundreds of years ago. Much of the guilt is built upon misinformation. The founders were not perfect. But never let it be said that they did not struggle with the ethical dilemmas of their day.
It’s rather appalling that Goldberg, a black woman, can support abortion on demand with such vigor when other blacks have described the bloody business as “black genocide” (also see here and here). She can get away with spouting off her ignorance because her audience is ignorant.
Gary DeMar is the President for American Vision.
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