January 8, 2011

"The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government..."

The part of the Constitution that by accident was not read in the House's Constitution-reading ritual. Somebody turned 2 pages at once. Intentionally left out was the Three-Fifths Clause. Obviously, the accidental omission was unfortunate, but was the intentional omission wise?

You can read some of the debate on that question at the link. I think it's quite interesting that we list the amendments after the original document instead of integrating them into a new, amended document. Considering how much shame we now feel for the parts about slavery and how much we want to revere the document, you might think we'd have changed our approach to formatting by now. But our traditionalism about the Constitution extends even to the placement of the amendments.

62 comments:

shoutingthomas said...

Considering how much shame we now feel for the parts about slavery and how much we want to revere the document, you might think we'd have changed our approach to formatting by now.

I don't feel any shame about slavery.

I am proud to have been born in a county that fought a great Civil War and sacrificed hundreds of thousand of lives to end slavery.

And, I'm proud to have been born in the very area where Lincoln rode the circuit as a young lawyer in Illinois. I grew up in the great State of Illinois where every father tells his young son the legend of the Great Emancipator.

I don't have a fucking thing to be ashamed about. Speak for yourself, Althouse.

MrBuddwing said...

Seems to me the House Republicans could have taken the three-fifth clause head-on by calling upon Rep. Tim Scott or Rep. Allen West to read it aloud, along with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery.

Word verification: fulgu.

shoutingthomas said...

And, I'll go you one better.

I am proud to consider Chicago my home town.

The wonderful city of Chicago reveres two great black men... Ernie Banks and Muddy Waters.

I grew up in the shadow of these legendary black men.

edutcher said...

Typical of the Gray Lady to carp. Actually, you'd think they'd want to hush up the idea that the Constitution mandated a Republican government.

Have to agree with shout (without the profanity). Slavery was a part of our history, along with the rest of the world. Until the 19th century, it was an accepted part of what many viewed as the natural order of things.

We are the only nation, with the possible exception of Britain, which has been willing to fight to eradicate it. The French and the rest of the Euros very shamefacedly abolished it only during the 1860s after the example of this country's principles were put on display at places like Antietam.

PS Anyone who wants to be ashamed about slavery might want to read this.

Belkys said...

Im writing from a country with "28" constitutions in 200 years. Venezuela was the third country after the USA and haiti to have a Constitution . The first one was made in 1811 with the spaniards and their venezuelan allies fighting back. By 1821 , Venezuela enacted the third constitution. In 1961, was enacted the longest lasting one, 38 years , with only two amendments. The venezuelan Constitution of 1961 established that the amendment will be at the end of the document like in the USA. Why? Because JT Monagas , president of Venezuela ,said accurately that a constitution was a yellow book reformed every year , and violated every day. So to give the image of stability , the amendment are added to the text. But to avoid the Weimar secrets amendments in each article reformed there is an indication of the change with date and number of it.
Only with a reform , a new constitution is published. flybankUsually we refer to a new constitution when it has been only amended

MrBuddwing said...

I am proud to have been born in a county that fought a great Civil War and sacrificed hundreds of thousand of lives to end slavery.

Humph. I was under the impression that the Civil War (or the War of Northern Aggression, take your pick) had absolutely nothing to do with slavery. [writ ironic]

Word verification: plame. (Yes, really.)

AllenS said...

Slaves were brought to these shores before there was a United States of America with its Constitution. I wish there never would have been slaves brought to these shores. I also wish that after the Civil War, this country would have sent the slaves back to Africa.

Belkys said...

Monagas brother abolished slavery in 1854 to deprive his rich opponents of their capital

rdkraus said...

What you mean "we" kemosabe?

Count me in with those who feel no shame at all. The GREAT men who formed this country were men of their time. That time included slavery EVERYWHERE. Later, we abolished it, at great cost to us.

Michael said...

I also grew up in Chicago and even had the pleasure of meeting Ernie Banks two years ago in Mike Ditka's restaurant where Ernie usually can be found at lunch time.

I think the amendments should be kept at the end and annotated, as someone suggested. I see no need to read those sections that have been superseded by amendment. The 3/5 issue is usually misunderstood since few people bother to read the history of the Constitutional Convention. A newspaper reporter confused the Constitution with the Articles of Confederation the other day.

EDH said...

Wasn't the Three-Fifths Clause compromise the result of the Free States who didn't want slaves in the Slave States counted at all?

rhhardin said...

We don't feel shame about slavery.

It was quite common - an beneficial alternative to killing the defeated populations.

It ended when it could no longer be justified, so the arguments in its support became lame, e.g. that blacks are not smart or not fully human and so forth.

The economically justified historical slavery need no such argument. It was we won and they lost, and that was one of the rules of war.

shoutingthomas said...

I also grew up in Chicago and even had the pleasure of meeting Ernie Banks two years ago in Mike Ditka's restaurant where Ernie usually can be found at lunch time.

The fact that everybody in Chicago calls Mr. Banks "Ernie" is the true measure of the esteem in which the Hall of Famer is held in the Windy City.

Every person who lives in Chicago considers Ernie Banks their friend.

What a truly wonderful man he is.

Trooper York said...

Let's play two!

gtaggart said...

Somebody turned 2 pages at once.

And apparently the other 434 people in the chamber were screwing around on their Blackberries.

Trooper York said...

Wait.

Let's play with two!

edutcher said...

MrBuddwing said...

I am proud to have been born in a county that fought a great Civil War and sacrificed hundreds of thousand of lives to end slavery.

Humph. I was under the impression that the Civil War (or the War of Northern Aggression, take your pick) had absolutely nothing to do with slavery. [writ ironic]


Depends on with whom you're talking.

Michael said...
...

A newspaper reporter confused the Constitution with the Articles of Confederation the other day.

I don't doubt it for a second.

EDH said...

Wasn't the Three-Fifths Clause compromise the result of the Free States who didn't want slaves in the Slave States counted at all?

Believe so.

Big Mike said...

Leave it to, Jesse Jackson, Junior, the Washington Post, and the New York Times to regret that we don't have slavery anymore.

Pastafarian said...

I'd like to pursue this topic of feeling guilt for slavery a little further. It might be worth its own post.

It hits on a lot of Althouse hot-button topics, like race, and underlying motivations behind our attitudes, and law. And I have a feeling that it's a big factor in the formation of many of Althouse's attitudes.

So why should we, modern-day Americans, feel shame over slavery? Althouse didn't own slaves. Even if her ancestors did (and this seems unlikely), are the sins of the father visited upon the heads of the children? That's a rather Old Testament attitude to hold.

Should we feel shame over this because we're white? Or because we're human, and we feel shame whenever another human being does something shameful?

I must admit...looking into the stands at a Colorado Avalanche home game does make me feel some shame at being a human. But not much shame for myself; mostly disgust and anger at them.

Maybe that's the difference between a liberal and a conservative: A liberal looks at someone who's done wrong and feels guilt, because they consider themselves part of a large collective that shares this taint. A conservative looks at the same guy and says "What an asshole."

bagoh20 said...

If we need to do the shame thing, then it should be first with Africans, and their descendants like Obama. You can't have slavery or create a market until you take human beings and make them slaves to be sold. That took place in Africa, and continues to today.

IMHO, there is a greater chance that the average African American has descendants involved in the enslavement of other Africans than that the average European American does.

There is plenty of shame to go around if we really care. I don't - anymore than I care about the atrocities done by my ancestors living in caves.

Nobody alive should be thought responsible or shamed by this past. We should openly talk about it without blame, and deal with it like we would if it was a wrong done by some long gone third party, which it is.

Hagar said...

I have forgotten the arguments over retaining the 3/5ths provision from the Articles of Confederation, so it is perhaps time to read Madison's Notes again.

However, as stated it is a compromise that cuts two ways, i.e., the northern states said, OK, we will give you representation in Congress based on adding "three-fifths of all other persons" to your population, but then you will also pay your share of Federal taxes on that basis.

Otherwise, to try to pretend that history did not happen is indeed bullshit and liable to give rise to much mischief.

Indeed, if we can just state that the past did not happen, what about the present? Anyone here ever read "1984"?

I am an immigrant, but one of my great-great-grand-uncles was suspected of having served time in the United States for the illegal importation of slaves into this country. Perhaps just malicious slander, but it is a fact that he was gone for 10-12 years and would not talk about where he had been.

lemondog said...

Considering how much shame we now feel for the parts about slavery and how much we want to revere the document,

I'm first generation with no connection to the various states past policy of slavery.

My relatives fled to this country from the certainty of genocide for which I am eternally grateful.

I've become inured to the constant decades drumming of 'white guilt' and the current 'white privilege' being pushed.

The Constitution should be read in toto and as it was adopted. It is the brilliance of The Constitution itself that creates for societal evolution.

Freeman Hunt said...

I feel shame over my pre civilization ancestors who were probably killing each other brutally with rocks.

Hagar said...

Also the Mosely Braun thing, "you just don't know what it is like to be the descendant of slaves," sob, sob, is bullshit.
We are all descendants of slaves and slaveowners, since every society known to history have kept slaves; it is at best a question of when.

Freeman Hunt said...

Just imagine that mass of collective evil accumulated from all the lives of one's ancestors. Shame. Shame!

Ann Althouse said...

Collectively, as a country, we feel shame over slavery. We have dealt with that and we continue to deal with it. It's not something that any of us individually chose to do, but it is part of the history of our country, and it is something shameful. What is the point of denying that?

The fact that there are other things that you are proud of, such as rising above slavery, doesn't change that. Indeed, it is incoherent to express pride for these things which you also didn't do personally and not to step up to the shame as well.

sunsong said...

I don't hold it against the Founders that they lived in the times they did. I am sorry that we had slavery. I am sorry for the treatment of Native Americans. I am sorry for the treatment of women.

But I realize that human awareness and understanding is evolving. We are more aware now than they were in 1776. Many still don't get it about gays - that gays are human beings just like them. That's the human rights issue of our times. And 200 years from now I don't think the people of those times will hold it against us that we took so long to 'get it'.

I think it is wonderful that we do keep growing and becoming more. I think it's wonderful that we care that much to change and to be more responsible in the way we treat each other.

G Joubert said...

This subject is much more complicated than just the issue of slavery per se. First there's the 1:1 race factor: white people owning black people. You also have to include the 100 years of Jim Crow and the entrenchment of systematic discrimination against and debasement of blacks that followed, which led to a practical permanent social and economic underclass. All in a country that has always held itself out as the land of the free. Do I feel white guilt? No, but I can't just sweep all that under the rug either.

HDHouse said...

oh please. if Obama had done it or the democrats they would have been accused of trying to get communism as the form du jour.

Whey do you insist on asking questions to which you know the answer as does everyone else.

Trooper York said...

White liberal guilt is one of the least attractive things to see lying out in the road.

It's sort of like liver.

HDHouse said...

sunsong said...
"But I realize that human awareness and understanding is evolving."

Right on. Ask any Tea Party member.

woof said...

They should have gotten Haley Barbour to read the three fifths part.

Trooper York said...

Or liver spots. Just sayn'

Freeman Hunt said...

I don't feel any individual pride at slavery having ended. I made no contribution to that; I hadn't even been born.

I feel proud of those people who ended it, and angry at those people who perpetuated it, but all those people are dead. And no, shame isn't in there. You have to feel guilt about something to be ashamed of it. I don't know why you'd feel guilty about something you had nothing to do with.

Freeman Hunt said...

And I don't think we can collectively feel things. I think that's an illusion.

woof said...

shame - the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.

Freeman Hunt said...

Merriam-Webster does not agree with your definition.

Alex said...

White liberal guilt explains why Kanye West can behave like a black Nazi and face no consequences.

Trooper York said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trooper York said...

You know what? Woof was a lot tougher when he was on Star Trek.

Klingons just aren't what they used to be back in the day. They got soft.

reader_iam said...

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona reportedly has been shot in the head at a constituent event and reportedly a number of others were shot as well (so far, reports range from 5 to 11, but remember that this is breaking news).

/OT

Hagar said...

Well, the language the Professor uses above does indeed certfy that she is a genuine Democrat at the bottom, regardless of whom she might attract as posters on this blog.

I frankly have no idea what she is talking about, which is probably what makes me a Conservative and, in this country, a Republican.

And it may again be time to remind everyone hereon that it was the Abolitionists and Free Soilers that formed the fire-breathing core of the Republican Party at its inception in 1854.

Paddy O said...

I don't feel shame about slavery. It was a terrible evil, but it was a terrible evil that wasn't recognized as such by most generations throughout history. It is one of those ethical issues which seems so utterly clear to us now, that wasn't so clear even 200 years ago to so, so many. And still isn't clear to many people in the world today, as slavery still exists in countries who would dare to try to remind us of our historical lapses.

The Constitution was forged in compromise, and a Civil War fought that cost the blood of many and many (including my own ancestors, who fought and died for Indiana regiments). It was amended, as it needed to be, and that was a great moment in our history we should be proud of. We fixed what was clearly a wrong.

What I am ashamed of is how this fix, the amending that supposedly gave full rights and citizenship to all, no matter their color, was so utterly ignored in the applications in society, leading to a persistent, malevolent institutional racism.

It's the last 150 years of this post-Civil War racism that still lingers and causes problems and should cause shame. We, as Americans, did not reflect what we knew was right and enshrined in our own Constitution, and we still deal with the resonance of that persistent, institutionalized evil, and will for probably a few more generations.

Mine is the first generation which did not grow up with racism enshrined in actual laws and institutionalized by words and deeds. That's a shame. We're better than that.

And the Constitution points to exactly why we're better and how to continue to be better.

woof said...

Merriam-Webster does not agree with your definition.

Yeah, I got it from dictionary.com.

From Cambridge Dictionary Online:

n uncomfortable feeling of guilt or of being ashamed because of your own or someone else's bad behaviour.

Other online dictionaries also leave out the someone else's bad behavior part as well.

Fr Martin Fox said...

I don't care that they didn't read the parts that were repealed or superseded. I wouldn't have cared had they chosen to read them.

It's so funny that so many on the left have chosen to complain or mock this exercise, or see something ominous in it. How stupid!

If the Republicans want to say, "we love the Constitution," the right response is, "and we love it too," not grim-faced muttering or snark.

In years to come, the GOP will point to these spontaneous reactions from many on the left and say, see they really don't like being limited by the Constitution; they mock it as a "sacred text"; and lefties will complain how unfair...but they did it to themselves.

woof said...

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona reportedly has been shot in the head at a constituent event and reportedly a number of others were shot as well (so far, reports range from 5 to 11, but remember that this is breaking news).

She's a Democrat. I wonder if someone took Sharon Angle's 2nd amendment solution seriously.

Freeman Hunt said...

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona reportedly has been shot in the head at a constituent event and reportedly a number of others were shot as well

That's terrible.

woof said...

She and six others are dead.

lemondog said...

2:15 p.m. ET: Giffords has died, the Pima County Sheriff's office tells reporter Mark Moran of NPR's KJZZ in Phoenix.

Synova said...

woof, you're obscene.

Completely obscene.

Here we, or at least woof, has something to be ashamed of.

NotYourTypicalNewYorker said...

Sometimes the P.C. just sort of squirts out of the professor.

woof said...

"I hope that's not where we're going, but you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies. They're saying: My goodness, what can we do to turn this country around?" Sharron Angle

MayBee said...

Sometimes Freeman is such a genius.

John said...

I think they should have read the entire constitution every word. Our Constitution is unique in that nothing has ever been taken out. Some things have been superseded eg 3/5ths, slavery, prohibition, but nothing has ever been taken out.

Another thing that makes the US exceptional.

I would also point out that slavery went from being universal in the world in 1800 to being almost non-existent by 1900.

Everywhere else it was abolished without war. Perhaps some military/police actions such as interdiction of the slave trade but nothing like our War Between the States. 600,000 dead, effects that are still felt 150 years later.

What a waste.

Surely it would have been possible to get rid of slavery without it.

John Henry

Hagar said...

Churchill called it the most necessary war ever, but I think I agree with John Henry. I do not see how the South could have held on to slavery for more than 20-30 years more max., if they had succeeded in seceding. It also was a pretty bad misjudgment that they thought the North would not fight, they should have seen that they would, and if they did, there was no way that the South could win.
So, yeah, if they had their senses with them, there would not have been any war, but people rarely act sensibly.

yes said...

The Congressman who accidentally skipped a page was Jerrold Nadler of the NYC Upper West Side, who had complained about the reading:

“They are reading it like a sacred text,” He called the “ritualistic reading” on the floor “total nonsense” and “propaganda” intended to claim the document for Republicans. “You read the Torah, you read the Bible, you build a worship service around it,” said Nadler, who argued that the Founders were not “demigods” and that the document’s need for amendments to abolish slavery and other injustices showed it was “highly imperfect.” “You are not supposed to worship your constitution. You are supposed to govern your government by it,” he said.

The funny part is that the Left has been claiming that the GOP "left out the parts they didn't like" by reading the Constitution in its current form, i.e. omitting the passages that were, you know, amended OUT. Then Nadler, who hates the whole idea in the first place, actually does omit passages that are IN.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

I grew up in the shadow of these legendary...

Everywhere you go you are walking in the shadow of someone better than you, ShootingTestosterone.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

And I don't think we can collectively feel things. I think that's an illusion.

I see illusions...

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

If you don't feel shame over the Founders' permission of slavery then you have no right to feel pride for what you claim they did right. Unless you have a massively inconsistent blind spot, of course.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

Racist attitudes just plain used to be an accepted view of the world, and that's the way it was. But that doesn't mean that slavery selectively for those deemed inferior on account of skin color wasn't a remarkably glaring injustice and source of incoherence when it came to how we were viewed versus what we proclaimed to the world.

We overcame that, which is worth feeling proud of - to a rational person, of course. But the retrogrades would just like to pretend all progress away so as to allow them to better focus on the things worth feeling proud about from long ago. As I said, it's fine to feel proud about ancient accomplishments but the lack of anything worth feeling proud about in how the constitution allowed slavery requires someone to acknowledge the progress later forged on this front.

Leo Ladenson said...

I always amend and restate.

RichardS said...

James Madison, of course, wanted amendments to be added to the proper section of the Constitution, and the amended text removed:
http://www.constitution.org/bor/amd_jmad.htm