Bain: America needs a post-Confederate Constitution
South Carolina’s battle flag may soon come down from the capitol flagpole, but other symbols of the Confederacy’s ideology remain in place.
For example, consider the U. S. Constitution, which is another kind of symbol as well as a law.
All copies of the Constitution promulgate detailed instructions for the recapture of slaves who have run away from their owners. They also specify that slaves are to be counted as three-fifths of a person in the Census, giving a boost to the slave-owning states in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College.
One might justify this presentation of our national charter by saying that it commemorates an earlier time or instructs students on the nation’s political history. That kind of thinking has prevailed for a long time in Charleston, only recently yielding in the face of an atrocity.
We would all be better off if all such language were consigned to the back of the document, and Americans were presented with a modern constitutional text that truly portrays our system of government as it exists in the 21st century—a Constitution that deserves to be read aloud each year when the House of Representatives begins its session.
I write on this subject with considerable feeling, since I have spent several years studying the Constitution and reorganizing it to suit our modern era.
Americans need a straightforward, well-organized statement of American constitutional government, enabling readers to learn about the Constitution from its own words. In my own work, I have ended the constitutional text with a chapter titled “The Constitution of the Past,” in which appear all references to slavery and other egregious or at least embarrassing episodes of our history, such as Prohibition.
Also included are many long-obsolete housekeeping clauses, like the one that would’ve allowed President Harry S. Truman to run for a third term.
I hope that the coming generation of students, along with applicants for citizenship, lawyers, and ordinary citizens, will take an interest in this new and different edition of the Constitution and learn from it, noticing that slavery is at the back of the book where it belongs.
Henry Bain is a constitutional expert, government researcher and author of “The Constitution of the United States of America. Modern Edition. Rearranged and Edited for Ease of Reading.”
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