30 Howard L.J. 975 (1987)
The United States Constitution and the Revolution of the Legal Status of Black People: Citizenship and Equality

handle is hein.journals/howlj30 and id is 1001 raw text is: The United States Constitution and the
Revolution of the Legal Status of
Black People: Citizenship
and Equality
ALBERT E. SMITH*
The United States Constitution is an interest specific document.
It was conceived and drafted in 1787 as a contract between a north-
eastern bourgeoisie and a southern aristocracy to protect and rational-
ize their property interests. Charles A. Beard made the most
convincing argument in this regard. His critically acclaimed volume,
An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States'
observed that the Framers of the Constitution were professional and
propertied men with extensive interests in land, shipping, manufactur-
ing, public securities and slaves.
At the Constitutional Convention, the status of African slaves
was the most notable of these interests. It shaped the agenda and gave
rise to the central debates which ensued. In the end, slavery would
shape the legal status of Black people in the United States well into the
late twentieth century. This essay will address the principles of prop-
erty as they relates to citizenship, the constitutional rationalization of
slavery and the constitutional amendments granting Blacks citizenship
status previously denied.
The foundation of citizenship and liberty in the United States is
the Lockean theory of private property.2 Lockean theory asserts that
individuals have a natural right, according to natural law, to acquire
and to accumulate private property. Carrying a rather sacrosant qual-
ity, this right gave men of capital and trade the license to appropriate
* Albert E. Smith is president of South Carolina State College in Orangeburg, South
Carolina.
1. C. BEARD, AN ECONOMIC INTERPRETATION OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED
STATES (1913).
2. J. LOCKE, Two TREATISES OF GOVERNMENT (Mentor Press ed. 1975).

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