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The Convention Debate on Slavery

Background: During the beginning of the Revolution, there had already begun a movement against Slavery. The Continental Congress called for abolishment of slave trade in 1774. In 1775, the Quakers formed first anti-slavery society in the world. Some Northern states decided to abolish slavery all together or allow for gradual emancipation in their State Constitutions. Despite being free, they often were still barred from owning property (so they could not vote). Laws were still harsh and discriminatory whether you were a slave or emancipated. No States south of Pennsylvania did anything about slavery except preserve it and continue it. The Articles of Confederation allowed the States individual sovereignty allowing the Southern States to make their own decisions regarding Slavery. There was no federal governing power that could enforce an abolishment of the slave trade or slavery. Fast-forward to the Constitutional Convention. The North was largely a manufacturing and trading hub in the urban areas such as Boston and New York City. In the rural areas, many engaged in farming. The population was a majority white and had a small slave population and even smaller free black population. In the South, the opposite was true. They had a large slave population. While they also had fairly large centers of commerce like Charleston, most of the economy was centered on plantation agricultural, which required lots of land and slaves. For the North, slaves were not essential to the economy or really to the society. It was not uncommon for a member of the elite to own a slave or two however. But the slaves were not an economic necessity to the North. They were more of a luxury and symbol of status to some. To the South, slavery was absolutely necessary to keep the plantation system working. It was an economic necessity to them. It also was part of society. Rich plantation owners got rich from having as many slaves and as much land as they could get. The richer they were the more slaves they had and the more slaves working around their house they could afford. When determining the structure of the Constitution, the Southern delegation realized the potential of northern domination of the government if representation in the House of Representatives and number of electoral votes was based on the free population. The North easily had more free people and so would have much more power in the House and in determining a President. The Southern delegation realized this could threaten the slave system and/or the slave trade. For the North, the slave system was not a necessity so what would guarantee that the North would not use its power to abolish slavery at the expense of the South? Therefore, the South sought certain protections of slavery in the Constitution, the biggest being the 3/5th Compromise. Assignment: The class has been divided into two teams, the Northern Delegation and the Southern Delegation to the Constitutional Convention. The Northern team is to represent the interests of the North and the South the interests of the South. The South is going to propose the 3/5th compromise to the Constitutional Convention. The goal of the debate is to win the vote which

will determine whether the 3/5th compromise is adopted in the Constitution or not. The goal of the North is to prevent this from happening and the goal of the South is to get it adopted.

The Debate: The Northern delegation will sit in a row on the left hand side of the moderator and face the middle of the room towards the Southern delegation who will be in a row to my right facing the middle of the room also. 5 minute opening statement: Southern Delegation 3 students must make up to 2 minute long statements 5 minute opening statement: Northern Delegation 3 students must make up to 2 minute long statements 4 minute Rebuttal: Southern Delegation Any number of students may make statements or ask questions of the Northern delegation in response to Northern opening. 4 minute rebuttal: Northern Delegation Any number of students may make statements or ask questions of Southern Delegation in response to Southern rebuttal and opening. 3 minute rebuttal: Southern Delegation Any number of students may make statements or ask questions of Northern Delegation in response to Northern rebuttal 3 minute rebuttal: Northern Delegation Any number of students may make statements or ask questions of Southern delegation in response to Southern rebuttal. 2 minute final rebuttal: Southern Delegation Any number of students may make statements in response to Northern rebuttal. 5 minute Summary: Northern Delegation 3 students must make up to 2 minute long summaries of their arguments against 3/5th compromise, CANNOT introduce new material! 5 minute Summary: Southern Delegation 3 students must make up to 2 minute long summaries of their arguments for 3/5th compromise, CANNOT introduce new material! Judgement: Vote of the delegates to determine outcome of 3/5th compromise. Moderator receives tie-breaking vote if necessary.

Rules: Students must refer to opposing team at all times as “my opponent” and must be respectful of one another at all times. No interruptions, distractions or talking while another person is speaking. Once you are done talking “yield” your time to either another person on your team to speak or to the moderator. Absolutely no going over time allotment, once timer rings speaking is over