The End of Slavery and the Reconstruction Amendments
The interests of Northern and Southern states grew increasingly divergent. Eleven states eventually seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America. After the Civil War, Congress required that the southern states would approve the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments as a condition of their re-entry into the union. The Thirteenth Amendment banned slavery throughout the United States. The Fourteenth Amendment granted citizenship to formerly enslaved people and banned states from passing laws that denied the privileges and immunities of citizens, due process, or equal protection of the law. The Fifteenth Amendment extended the right to vote to black men. The Fourteenth Amendment in particular was a dramatic departure from the Founders’ Constitution, and set the stage for dramatic increases in the size, scope, and power of the national government decades later.
Slavery and the Constitution
Today there are few more controversial topics in the study of American history and government than the issue of slavery and the Constitution. On the surface, the Constitution seemed to protect slavery in the states, prohibited Congress from banning the slave trade for twenty years, and required that fugitive slaves, even in the North, be returned to their masters. Because of these apparent constitutional protections, a bloody Civil War was fought to free the slaves and win ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to end slavery in the U.S. forever. The Constitution, therefore, in the eyes of some scholars, seems to be a contradiction to the universal ideals of liberty and equality in the American Founding and the Declaration of Independence which proclaimed “all men are created equal” and endowed with “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”