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May 11, 2004

Diluting Democracy

Reading Steven den Beste's entry on the causes of the Civil War today lead me to a realization. The very system that the South sought to preserve, the agrarian society based on slave labor, doomed them to fail in political attempts to maintain their system within a democracy in which slaves could not vote. This was due to the nature of the U.S. Congress combined with the low voter census in areas which used large numbers of non-voter slaves to maintain their economies. Where slavery was abolished, the labor force all could vote (all males, that is, but both North and South were alike in that regard). And the population of the Northern states was rising faster overall due partly to the availability of jobs resulting from the absense of slave-labor.

Den Beste points out the consequences of the population (of voters) imbalance, but not that the chattel system did most of the work in creating that imbalance. One could almost suspect that some of the brighter minds involved in writing the Constitution, who set to one side the issue of slavery as unresolvable politically at the time of their work, may have understood the implications of the system they created, but carefully did not point them out for fear it might destroy chances of adoption of what has proven to be a resilient and effective system of governing free people.

Den Beste mentions the fight to ensure as many slave states entered the union as did free states to ensure the balance remained constant in the Senate. He also points out that this tended to increase the imbalance in the House over the long run, but not this (of several) reason why. Even if the population in a slave state is equal to its Northern counterpart, the number of voters would be significantly lower, and thus its representation in the House would be smaller, due to the swelling of population by slave, non-voting labor.

Posted by dan at May 11, 2004 11:17 AM | TrackBack
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