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Constitutional Agreement during the Drafting of the Constitution: A New Interpretation

Listed author(s):
  • Ben Baack
  • Robert A. McGuire
  • T. Norman Van Cott
Registered author(s):

    We provide a new interpretation of one of the "great" but in our view "failed" North-South agreements during the U.S. Constitution's drafting. In 1787, lower South delegates to the Constitutional Convention reputedly settled for a simple-majority congressional vote for commercial regulations in exchange for northern delegates reputedly agreeing to limitations on national slave import restrictions and an export tariff prohibition. We document that the overall South gained little from the agreement because (1) import taxes are de facto export taxes, (2) the simple-majority rule was costly to southern interests, and (3) the slave import provision was limited. The agreement represents serious economic and political miscalculation by southern framers. Because the agreement was at a constitutional level, it endowed the nation with decades of unforeseen and unintended constitutional and sectional conflict that played a critical role in American public finance and southern secession and has important implications for contemporary constitution making. (c) 2009 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/597327
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    Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal The Journal of Legal Studies.

    Volume (Year): 38 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 2 (06)
    Pages: 533-567

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    Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:38:y:2009:i:2:p:533-567
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLS/

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    1. Smith, Adam, 1776. "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number smith1776.
    2. Robert A. McGuire & T. Norman Van Cott, 2002. "The Confederate Constitution, Tariffs, and the Laffer Relationship," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 40(3), pages 428-438, July.
    3. Beard, Charles A., 1913. "An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, edition 127, number beard1913.
    4. Anderson, Gary Michael & Rowley, Charles K & Tollison, Robert D, 1988. "Rent Seeking and the Restriction of Human Exchange," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(1), pages 83-100, January.
    5. McGuire, Robert A., 2003. "To Form a More Perfect Union: A New Economic Interpretation of United States Constitution," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195139709.
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