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