It was a glorious time for America when the dream of the great American Experiment was finally coming to fruition. Subsequent, the sunset of Antebellum transformed into a bright new horizon in the name of Reconstruction. Could this be the “America” theorized about, if only in Word?
“All men are created equal and endued with certain inalienable rights, that of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Thomas Jefferson
To the Liberated, these words became the song that the angels sing. Later quoted by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, and others brings a moment of pause. Why was it even necessary for others to remind Americans of these words two centuries later; the sweetness of the taste of these words rolling off the tongue seemed to be followed by a nasty aftertaste.
The aftertaste brings us back to Reconstruction. Lasting only twelve years of Black leaders participating in democracy on all government levels, Reconstruction identified America as a multiethnic democracy. Also, the government enacted a series of laws to protect the rights of African Americans. Reconstruction led to a redefining of the south as America grappled with bringing the confederate states back into the union. A memorable quote, especially in recent history, says, “elections have consequences.”
Henceforth the Compromise of 1877 was the aftertaste that marked the end of Reconstruction. Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina’s Compromise allowed the Republican party to solve the disputed 1876 election. By agreeing not to block the election of Ohio’s Republican Rutherford B. Hayes’s results, Hayes brokered a compromise to become the United States’ nineteenth president. As a critical component of this negotiated agreement, Republicans agreed to withdraw all federal troops out of the southern states.
In a short time, the aftertaste diminished to volatile acid reflux of hatred at the expense of the Three-Fifths Compromise victims. White Backlash from the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacy hate groups, quasi-slavery in the name of sharecropping, segregation, and Jim Crow Laws shaped the America that endures to this day. Why? America has never come to grips with its systemic compromise problem.
President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act (forerunner to The Treaty of New Echota and the Trail of Tears) narrowly passed thanks to the southern states’ inflated legislative representation due to the Three-Fifths Compromise. In America, institutions from the public, private, to religious sectors have been complicit.
Scripture reminds us, “For the mystery of iniquity does already work:” 2nd Thessalonians 2:7a, and the mystery is the question. What is the default that causes individuals and social orders to do what they do when religion, philosophy, or so-called moral code suggest differently?
A reset, rededication, and repentance are paramount to reimagine a new and sustainable Reconstruction within all of the above institutions. America’s original possibilities in the Declaration of Independence never included marginalized people harshly bound to the Three Fifths Compromise’s aftermath but words matter.
The government is currently investigating the January 6th Insurrection. Questions raised about the many divisive rhetorical messages communicated over the past months, in person, and over multiple social media platforms reemphasize that words matter.
Possibilities abound in the words people write and speak. What to believe, who to believe, and why should we believe are questions that have no easy answer. America and all within its borders need to be accountable for their words. In a world of confusing messages, Three-Fifths Magazine speaks with a voice of clarity. We bring attention to honest depictions of history and the agents of truth both now and in the past. We write from the world view of transparency and gravitas.
Compromise is an excuse for exploitation when certain groups continually fall on the wrong side of these compromises. Reimagined Reconstruction must give everyone a seat at the table.