Friday, March 08, 2013
George Kenney: "Slavery & the U.S. Constitution w/ Dr. Paul Finkelman" @ Electric Politics
It's difficult to overstate the importance of considerations to do with the institution of slavery during the deal the founders hammered out in Philadelphia. The Constitution, in its law, in its economics, and in its politics is a determinedly pro-slavery document. It is, literally, a deal with hell. Oddly, perhaps, this has not been much appreciated throughout most of American history. Indeed, only in the last few decades have scholars begun to methodically describe how slavery shaped the fundamental structures and processes of American government and how these effects persist intact well beyond the elimination of the institution of slavery itself. My own view is that there is still more we do not know about this history and its effects than what we do, but what we've already learned is shocking enough. (And for those who learned their American history twenty or thirty years ago in graduate school, this is really new news.)
Dr. Paul Finkelman, a student of John Hope Franklin, has been working on these questions throughout his professional career. In his view, as he wrote recently in the New York Times, the deal in Philadelphia wasn't worth it -- the North would have been much better off on its own. I emphatically agree. And I believe we need to revisit those issues in a serious fashion if we're to make any sense out of our contemporary political crisis.
As always, if you like the program please forward the link!
Thanks for listening!