The Complex Legacy of Slavery and the Constitution

Michael P. Zuckert , Howe Whitman III & Daniel Wiser, Jr.

June 12, 2023

Slavery's relation to the American Constitution has always been a point of great contention. The debate has never been resolved because the reality is complex: The Constitution did lend legal support to the practice of slavery, but it did not lend the institution legitimacy. The difference has a lot to tell us about the American political tradition.

Guest Michael Zuckert joins us to discuss why the Constitution was "admittedly imperfect, but not evil. Given the task of constitution-making as the founders conceived it, and given the mark that history had already made on the continent, it was what it had to be."

Michael Zuckert is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Notre Dame and clinical professor at Arizona State University. His latest book is A Nation So Conceived: Abraham Lincoln and the Paradox of Democratic Sovereignty.

This podcast discusses themes from Michael's essay in the Spring 2023 issue of National Affairs, "Slavery and the Constitution."


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