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Was Federalism Designed to Protect Slavery?

Was federalism set up to promote slavery in the US Constitution? Professor Michael McConnell discusses the deep ideological divergences on slavery at the time of the Founding, and argues that the federalism adopted by the Constitution was the first step toward abolition. The Constitution created a nation with the potential of eventually abolishing slavery, which it did via the amendment process. The Fourteenth Amendment made the national government principally responsible for civil liberties, but the state governments still have a role to play. These competing power centers together work to promote liberty. https://youtube.com/watch?v=IRJtG572JJI


You know, of course, at the founding, there were deep differences on a number of different dimensions, but none was deeper or more contentious than that of slavery and if the Founders had not found a way to form a nation that accommodated both sections' views upon slavery, there wouldn't have been a nation. In a sense, you could say that the federalism that they adopted was the first step toward abolition, rather than just protecting slavery. It created a nation with the potential of eventually abolishing slavery. All of the civil liberties issues connected with slavery; slavery itself, but also freedom of speech and of press and of religion and movement connected with opposition to slavery, showed that the state governments were more dangerous, really, than the national government. And when you think about it, this is also the theory that James Madison put forward in Federalist 10, uh in particular, in which he argued that the extended union would be safer for individual liberty than individual states. The reason for that being that states are more likely to be homogeneous with respect to particular religions or interests or ideologies. The national government would be more diverse and therefore less likely to align itself with any particular oppressive ideology. And the constitutional solution to that, after a civil war and and made possible by the Civil War, was the adoption of amendments like, most importantly, the 14th Amendment, which now make the national government the principal protector for civil liberties, rather than the states. Although maybe the more accurate way to think about it is that we have a system in which both the national government and the state governments both have a role in protecting civil liberties and the division of power, not only between the three branches of the federal government, but also between the national government and the 50 states. It exerts a pull away from the potential for tyranny.

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