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Did You Know? . . . Slavery Compromises

He [God’s servant] will not grow faint or be crushed
    until he has established justice in the earth;
-Isaiah 42:4

From the beginning of our nation, white men compromised with white men over enslaved people to assure a country where white people could live comfortably and prosper. No one consulted with the enslaved.

In the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson called for an end to slavery, describing it as a crime against humanity. However, lacking enough support, that provision was deleted.

At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, three compromises were directly connected to slavery. First, the Three-fifths compromise counted each black slave as 3/5 of a person, rather than not count them at all, as originally proposed. This increased the number of Representatives for states with large populations of enslaved people. Second, even though ten of the thirteen states had already outlawed the international slave trade, a lengthy debate resulted in agreement that Congress shall not prohibit the migration or importation of slaves before 1808. This would give slave owners sufficient time to plan and prepare for life without slaves. Finally, slave owners, concerned that northerners wouldn’t actively pursue or return fugitive slaves, lobbied for, and won, the right to directly pursue those who had escaped into the North.

As the nation expanded, the question of slavery’s expansion kept arising.  In order to keep the United States intact and avoid open conflict, three land compromises were enacted. First was the Missouri Compromise of 1820. The second was the Compromise of 1850. And finally, the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. Each set boundaries where slavery might expand and each intensified the arguments and concerns about the practice of enslaving human beings.

In 1861, the nation ran out of compromises, and the bloodiest war in its history began.