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Slavery and the Constitution

After four months’ discussion, and after all parties had given up some of their ideas and wishes to please the rest, the present Constitution of the United States was drawn up. It was called the “new roof,” because it was to serve as a shelter in time of storm for all the states who chose to take refuge under it.

This Constitution provided that the lawmaking part of the government should be carried on by a new Congress, consisting of two houses. One was to be called the House of Representatives. The men forming it were to be elected by the people, who at first had a representative for every thirty thousand inhabitants, though they now have only one for about six times as many people. But it was then agreed that as there were many slaves in the South who could not vote, the Southerners should consider five slaves equal to three white men in taking the census; or counting the population. At the same time, to please the men of the South, the North agreed that Congress should not forbid the importing of slaves until 1808.

The other house of Congress was called the Senate, where each state, large or small, was to send two members, called senators.

After a new law had been talked over and voted for in both houses, it was to be sent to the President for him to sign. If the President did not wish to sign the law he was not obliged to do so, and if he vetoed it,—that is, if he said, “I forbid it,——the law was to be sent back to Congress. There it was to be talked over again, the votes of the houses taken once more, and if, on counting, it was found that two thirds of each house still thought the law was best for the country, it was to be put in force without the President’s consent.