Emory President Scans Entire Constitution; Picks That One Offensive Bit About Slaves to Praise
Back when I went to Grinnell the most embarassing thing our president ever did was go for jogs in these teeny-tiny little red running shorts, sometimes with his teeny-tiny little dogs on teeny-tiny little leashes too.
Not so Emory University, where president James Wagner recently used the “From the President” space in the university’s magazine to praise the “pragmatic half-victory” of the Constitution’s framers and their decision to…count slaves as 3/5 of a person each. (You can still scroll down to the original column on their website, but a new apology now appears above it in italics.)
No, seriously. That’s the part he picked to highlight. The article overall is generic mush about compromise in times of divided government and the Constitution’s construction as a work of compromise in the first place, which blah blah blah. But literally the only specific piece of writing from the Constitution that President Wagner mentions, the one shining star of legislative compromise he can point to, is the idea that we’ll count “unfree” members of the population as 60% human and 40% property.
It’s one of those where there’s just no way to figure out what was in the guy’s head. I mean, the whole Constitution is riddled with compromises that left pretty much everyone at the time unhappy, a lot of which we’re still suing each other over. Pretty much the only parts that everyone these days agrees were terrible are the bits about slavery and the brief experiment with Prohibition.
But he went ahead and went with that one — and, as his belated apology notes, never made any mention one way or the other about the actual institution of slavery, and how it was maybe not such a good thing.
I was particularly fond of the part that reads (emphasis mine) “Both sides found a way to temper ideology and continue working toward the highest aspiration they both shared — the aspiration to form a more perfect union.” Just so we’re clear here, the “ideologies” for the respective sides were: Southerners who wanted to keep their slaves as non-voting citizens but use their body count to boost their share of proportional representation in Congress, and Northerners who wanted to keep the slaves firmly non-people in all respects. Not exactly a bunch of white knights boldly standing for what’s right, there.
But hey, each side gave a little, and they came to an agreement! Hooray for compromise and the political wisdom of our founders! Or so sayeth president James Wagner of Emory College, whose own political wisdom is a little questionable.
And yes, he’s an old white guy. Of course he’s an old white guy. Did you even have to ask?