Date of this Version
Court Review, Volume 46, Issue 4, 116-117
The seeds for the Civil War were first planted at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 according to Northwestern University Law Professor Steven Lubet, in his new book, Fugitive Justice. Lubet provides detailed accounts of important trials and of the persecution of a judge after a controversial ruling, as well as the historical context necessary for the reader to better understand this volatile period in American history.
The first chapter, “Slavery and the Constitution,” demonstrates that slavery became a topic of debate when attempting to determine the size of the House of Representatives. Were they to measure a state’s size based on the number of “free” inhabitants or on property value? And if so, should slaves be counted as property? The Southern delegates made it clear that slaves would have to be counted for an agreement to be reached. The North felt that giving the Southern states more delegates because of their slaves rewarded the abhorrent practice of slavery. In addition, they argued, if they were going to be counted for representation, why not make them citizens and give them the right to vote? A compromise was drafted by James Wilson of Pennsylvania, a well-known opponent of slavery, and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina, a bold defender of slavery. Known as the Wilson-Pickney proposal, it eventually became the three-fifths provision, counting three-fifths of the population of slaves for enumeration purposes.