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Reading US Constitution in Congress 2011

Updated on August 23, 2011

Stunt or Getting Grounded

Last week to start the 112th congress, the US constitution was red in congress. Some suggest this was a stunt. Others suggest this was to ground members on the meaning of the constitution. I like to hope this was not the first time for some of these members to have read this document.

My sense is that this was not a stunt. If you look at the CSpan Video below, you can see that the reading was certainly bipartisan...something not seen on any scale these days. Therefore it would suggest that this was something that was done with sincerity.

There was however one thing that bothered me a bit, some of the passages were omitted from the reading. The reason given was that these passages were rendered not relevant because of amendments later passed. They wanted to read it as it applied to today's life. I guess I'm fine with that but the cynic in my wonders if there might be another reason.

Some things left out included procedural things such as direct election of senators, setting times when congress is required to meet and election of the president etc. Others were of more significant consequence such as succession of the presidency and the entire 18th amendment regarding prohibition on liquor.

Remaining items include such issues as the 3/5 compromise and return of escaped slaves clause. These were made irrelevant by 13th amendment. But one has to wonder if it was these two passages were left out because the were too inflammatory while the others were simply just bystanders caught up in a political climate where nobody wants to get anyone upset.

History of 3/5 Compromise

For those who do not know, the 3/5 compromise in the constitution was between northern and southern states regarding how to count 'other' not included in the census. Those others were slaves. The Northern states who wanted to do away with slavery wanted these others to count for 0. The southern states wanted them to count for 1 full person.

Why you ask would the northern states want to make slaves count for 0 in apportionment? If the slaves were not included in census counts, then the number of seats in congress allocated to southern states would be reduced. That would mean that northern states who wanted to do away with slavery would have more legislative advantages and give them the power to deal with the problem legislatively.

The compromise was reached because both the Northern and Southern states needed one another and both knew it was in their best interest to come to an agreement. This was the agreement.

My problem here is I believe this is a teachable moment. Looking through the prism of 20th century thinking, the idea that someone could be worth 3/5 of a person is unthinkable. We can not reconcile such an idea with the idea of freedom. Back at the time when this was written, it was a highly tactical political move to solve what could have been an intractable problem. Sure there was more to this, as there were revenue implications and another clause added for return of escaped slaves but it was also something which should be studied by future generations to see how compromise is made. For now it will have to be a lost opportunity.

In the end, it was good to have these people who serve us, the voting public, to remember who put them there. This document is what keeps us from devolving in to anarchy. It's words must be preserved as they were intended otherwise, they mean nothing. My hope is that these men and women who serve on our behalf take heed from what they have read and act as our founders intended.


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    • Tom T profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom T 

      7 years ago from Orange County, CA

      @jEmSSnn01 - Thanks for stopping by. I hope your blog keeps true to the original intent of the founders. I firmly believe providence was smiling upon them when this Constitution was created.

    • profile image


      7 years ago from NY

      Great hub, you provided me valuable input for my research on constitution. I totally agree with one comment that every country need a constitution and strong implementation. 

    • Tom T profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom T 

      7 years ago from Orange County, CA

      James, thanks for supporting the truth. The left is about the acquisition of power, if the truth in inconvenient they won't use or cherry pick instances where it serves their purpose. The day has come where the truth is easier to in your hubs! Thanks for stopping buy.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      7 years ago from Chicago

      Great Hub! You are so right about the 3/5 compromise. It is used today by the Left to mean the opposite of what it really meant, as you pointed out so well. Of course, the Left always lies about nearly everything because they do not believe in Truth period. Therefore, to them, a lie is as good as the truth.

      Well done!

    • Tom T profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom T 

      8 years ago from Orange County, CA

      @kasmir56 - Thanks for coming by. Maybe we should only let them meet once they read it and limit them to meeting only a couple times a year! Limits the damage they can do...

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great hub and great idea, i think they should be read it every time they meet so they all can remember it and understand it .

      Awesome and vote up !!!

    • BJBenson profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      I was able to download it on my Nook!

    • Tom T profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom T 

      8 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Fitnezz Jim - Thank you for commenting and adding to the conversation. I guess the taxation part would serve as a disincentive to have slaves, thought I have not studied that particular aspect, but I do think that the North and the South had different reasons for accepting the compromise.

      A reading from the debates over ratification of the Constitution suggests that slavery was one of the principle dividing factors between the north and the south, suggesting the south wanted to preserve slavery as part of the Constitution process. For example Madison said the states were divided, 'principally from the effects of their having or not having slaves.'

      Though both parties had different reasons for making the agreement, it seems clear that ratification of the Constitution was the driving force to come to some kind of agreement both sides could live with.

      Again, thanks for helping along the conversation and I appreciate the thoughtful comment.

    • FitnezzJim profile image


      8 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      My understanding regarding the three-fifths compromise was that it was incentive for the South to do away with slavery. The anticipated end result would be more representatives for the South, and the folks they represented would all be free.

      It is interesting that it took less than eighty years to go from intermediate compromise to final solution (1787-1865), and that it is taking well over 140 years to treat it as history (1866-2011). I assume this is because there is an extraordinary political weight associated with misrepresenting the original compromise.

      This one argument could serve well as a teaching example for why folks should not lock into a single perspective.

    • Tom T profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom T 

      8 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Alexander Mark - Thanks again for stopping in. I did know about the compromise but I did not fully appreciate how difficult a political issue it was to overcome. This was a huge issue between the North and the South. The fact that they did come to an equitable compromise suggest they were both statesmen and deep thinkers.

    • Alexander Mark profile image

      Alexander Silvius 

      8 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      I learned something significant from your article today. I did not know why the South and the North compromised and more importantly what they wanted and then also why.

      It's incredible especially when, in our time, all you hear about the 3/5ths law is that blacks were not considered people and that it was another way of putting them underneath the whites. That wasn't the case at all. From what you showed us here, it was a compromise that preserved the economy while simultaneously advancing the cause of freedom. I am stunned.

      This only confirms that educated people 100 to 200 years ago were much deeper thinkers than Americans are today.

    • Tom T profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom T 

      8 years ago from Orange County, CA

      @larryprice5372 - Thanks for stopping by. The "Can't understand why" and "Liberals" from your comment seem to go hand in hand for many things beside the constitution but I agree with your point.

    • larryprice5372 profile image

      Larry Wade Price 

      8 years ago from Long Beach, California

      Great subject. I like your take on it.

      Can't understand why liberals want to marginalize the Constitution.

      It's certainly not made of playdough.

    • Tom T profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom T 

      8 years ago from Orange County, CA

      @FGual - I'm all for them taking it to heart.

      @MarcellaGlenn - Thank you and I appreciate you stopping by

      @Ms Dee - Agree completely. Sometimes we look back and think it was such a wonderful time. It was not. The constitution was ratified after a number of hard fought battles better those who wanted a republic and those who wanted a strong centralized federal government. Compromises were made that resulted in our constitution. The wisdom of those men and the compromises they made on both sides to get something that would hold together this country has been replaced by hubris and arrogance of those who think they know better. I hope this brings us back to a more sane approach to government but I am still vigilant. Thanks for sharing.

      BJBenson - True True True. I hope it is not the first time. I hope that even those who have never read it will take the time to listen to it in the video above. My greatest wish is it will inspire those who have never looked or heard much about our constitution to look into the history of it and start to understand what it really means...but at this point it is only a hope.

    • BJBenson profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      It may have been a first for some of them. I think it was a good idea for all of us. It what we stand for,and some die for.

    • Tom T profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom T 

      8 years ago from Orange County, CA

      @ Dennis A. I agree I to hope they will make the right decisions guided by the Constitution.

      @Sherrylou - Thank you for your comment, I'll leave you with this quote from Thomas Jefferson, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever."

      @vrajavala - Very correct...too much activism

      @dahoglund - Agreed. Constitution is the glue that holds us together. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 

      8 years ago from Texas, USA

      Appreciate your article and the point that a teachable moment was missed; probably several. I'm concerned that effort to understand the context back then, when the constitution was written, is not expended enough and thus avoided. Without a good grasp of that former context we don't understand as well the Constitution's intent and purpose as accurately.

    • profile image

      Marcella Glenn 

      8 years ago from PA

      Excellent article.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I think it's a great thing that they recited the constitution, they should do it every time they have a meeting. If they memorize it they will take it to heart and be more concerned when taking a vote

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      The constitution is the base on which our country is built.It is what make it possible to be a society that assimilates many people.Some countries are bound together by a common religion. Others are held by traditions that date back thousands of years. But for us we need the constitution and must preserve it.

    • vrajavala profile image


      8 years ago from Port St. Lucie

      Great idea.. Too much actvism and disrespect for We the People

    • sherrylou57 profile image


      8 years ago from Riverside

      The constution is based on a godly foundation of men praying and Godly men seeking the face of, Jesus. They need to bring the 10 commandments back into the halls and court houses and people need to live by them. This is what our Country was based on. In God we trust. Who cares is we offend people. Get over it! Thank you for the great hub

    • Dennis AuBuchon profile image

      Dennis AuBuchon 

      8 years ago

      Good article.

      I feel the reading of the Constitution is a good thing. It remains to be seen if the new Congress will tackle the tough issues our country is facing. Those newly elected will face difficult decisions during their term in office and it is my hope they will make the right decisions.


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