This column presents facts regarding the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Wisconsin State Constitution, and various other documents in reference to modern topics. Mark hopes to encourage interest in those works so that others can consider whether our government is practicing within its constitutional limits. In the last category, he may indicate his opinion. Mark is a resident of New Berlin. Readers are encouraged to visit the following sites for more information on the United States Constitution and Thomas Jefferson's views on politics and government.
From the speech by Martin Luther King Jr., Speech at Civil Rights March on Washington, August 28, 1963
"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today."
Racial bias vs. The Constitution
Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,…
US Constitution, Article 1, Section 2
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. (The previous sentence in parentheses was modified by the 14th Amendment, section 2
US Constitution, Article I, Section 9
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.
US Constitution’ Amendment 9 –
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Quoting James Madison in Federalist 38:
THE second class of powers, lodged in the general government, consists of those which regulate the intercourse with foreign nations, ….. to regulate foreign commerce, including a power to prohibit, after the year 1808, the importation of slaves, and to lay an intermediate duty of ten dollars per head, as a discouragement to such importations.
It were doubtless to be wished, that the power of prohibiting the importation of slaves had not been postponed until the year 1808, or rather that it had been suffered to have immediate operation. But it is not difficult to account, either for this restriction on the general government, or for the manner in which the whole clause is expressed. It ought to be considered as a great point gained in favor of humanity, that a period of twenty years may terminate forever, within these States, a traffic which has so long and so loudly upbraided the barbarism of modern policy; that within that period, it will receive a considerable discouragement from the federal government, and may be totally abolished, by a concurrence of the few States which continue the unnatural traffic, in the prohibitory example which has been given by so great a majority of the Union. Happy would it be for the unfortunate Africans, if an equal prospect lay before them of being redeemed from the oppressions of their European brethren!
We the People:
The founders defined the primary role of government as to secure the inalienable rights of the people. That simple concept is still unique. But to implement this fully, the founders had to compromise as they wrote the US Constitution in order to form the union. Slavery was not banned immediately, but they placed provisions in it that would ensure its demise. Since representatives were assigned based on population, the three-fifths clause in Article I, section 2 reduced the power of the states that allowed slavery. In addition, slave importation was curtailed per Article I, Section 9. So it was just a matter of time until our young nation would end slavery.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the right person at the right time to help us finish securing those inalienable rights. The people must make sure our government always recognizes that all are created equal, and that it bestows no citizens with exclusive privileges.