April 2012 Vol. 110 No. 6 THE REVIEW

Race and Constitutional Law Casebooks: Recognizing the Proslavery Constitution

Juan F. Perea

Just as the Constitution's protections for slavery were debated at the time of its framing and ratification, the relationship between slavery and the Constitution remains a subject of debate. Historians continue to debate the centrality of slavery to the Constitution. The majority position among historians today appears to be that the Constitution was proslavery, in the sense that slavery and slavery protection played a central role in the formation of the Constitution. Furthermore, these historians argue that several of its provisions protected and promoted slavery. As George Van Cleve, the author of A Slaveholders' Union, concludes, the Constitution "was pro-slavery in its politics, its economics, and its law" (p. 270).

Despite this majority position among historians, the authors of constitutional law casebooks sometimes ignore or, more generally, minimize the proslavery interpretation of the Constitution. Certain casebook authors, while acknowledging the importance of slavery before and after the Constitution's ratification, adopt a more benign interpretation of the Constitution itself as "neutral" on slavery. Accordingly, a significant divergence exists between the proslavery interpretation held by many historians and the interpretation promulgated by many constitutional law casebook authors. As this Review explores, the failure of many constitutional law casebooks to engage prominently with the proslavery interpretation of the Constitution has important consequences for our understanding of the relationship between slavery and the Constitution and our understanding of how these origins of the Constitution may make a difference today.

   //  VIEW PDF
& Other Current Events

Protecting Whistleblower Protections in the Dodd-Frank Act

In 2008, the United States fell into its worst economic recession in over seventy years. In response,...

A Comprehensive Administrative Solution to the Armed Career Criminal Act Debacle

For thirty years, the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA") has imposed a fifteen-year mandatory minimum...

Rethinking the Timing of Capital Clemency

This Article reviews every capital clemency over the last four decades. It demonstrates that in the majority...

The Political Safeguards of Horizontal Federalism

For decades, we have debated whether "political safeguards" preserve healthy relations between the states...

A Solution to Michigan's Child Shackling Problem

Detained children routinely appear before Michigan's juvenile courts shackled with handcuffs, leg irons,...
MAILING LIST
Sign Up to Join Our Mailing List