What better way to celebrate America’s independence than trying to trivialize its founders? If it sounds odd, just know that that’s what ABC News did during its Fourth of July weekend coverage.
In a “This Week” piece regarding the Constitution and referencing the founders, ABC’s John Donvan made this curious statement:
The reality is that the framers – posed in paintings as though frozen on an American Olympus – they were not gods, they were guys – guys who didn’t give women the vote and let slavery stand for the time being and who, by the way, were trying to create at the time a stronger central government, of course not too strong, leaving to us a Constitution that we could fix, as needed, – sorry, make that amend – which we’ve now done 27 times.
What Donvan doesn’t seem to understand is that the founders were brilliant enough to create a document that could expand. That was the point. The amendment procedure was essential to the Constitution, and was utilized early on to create the Bill of Rights. And it was through that process that women were given the right to vote.
Donvan also doesn’t seem to understand the three-fifths compromise. Many try to use that section of the Constitution — which counted the slave population as three-fifths* — to show the founders were decidedly pro-slavery. But actually, the controversial segment was used to help defeat slavery. That’s because the slave states wanted to count the slaves as full people in order to gain more power. But if that happened, it could have had severe consequences in enshrining slavery in the country forever. So the “compromise” was reached to only count the entire slave population* as three-fifths, thus creating a more even balance of power.
Additionally, as Noel Sheppard points out over at NewsBusters, the piece comes as TIME magazine wonders how relevant the Constitution is. But it also comes as CNN’s Fareed Zakaria asked recently if the document needs to be updated, citing Iceland as an example and characterizing its original creation as an ancient relic created by a bunch of old guys behind closed doors.
Is there really any doubt that our Constitution is under fire?
Blaze reader Troy from Memphis reminded me of the exact history surrounding the compromise, which has led me to change this sentence to note the entire population was counted as three-fifths, not each individual slave:
Though you are correct about the reason for including the 3/5 compromise you are incorrect in stating that slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person. This is a common misunderstanding and has led to many believing that the founders did not consider black slaves as people. Now, quoting from the Constitution:
“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”
It clearly states that three fifths of all other persons are to be counted, not that all other persons are to be counted as three fifths of a person. There’s a subtle but huge difference there. The end result is the same – the south get less representation in Congress – but the means to get there are not exactly what you stated.