Compromise: Good or Bad?

Our national history is full of compromises from the beginning. Indeed The constitution has its share of them. The small sates believed the representation should be by state. The large states believed that representation should be by population. So, they compromised. The House is representation by number. The Senate was representation by state.

Perhaps the most well known compromise was about slaves. The south wanted the slaves to count in the census but they did not want them to be represented. The North threw a fit. First, they wanted the slaves to be represented, but if they weren’t, certainly they should not be counted on the census. So they compromised. Slaves were partially counted on the census but were not represented.

When I learned about this compromise, I found it disgusting, even though my family is from the south and most of them would not have agreed with me. I always found the concept of slavery revolting, though it began long before any white man set foot on this continent. And just for those of you who like to poke fun at the Bible, Abraham owned slaves…apparently many of them. Then again, the Bible does not record the history of perfect people. It just records the history, the bad right along with the good.

Then there was The Missouri Compromise. When I found out about it, I didn’t much care for that either. However, it did seem to be a way of keeping the nation from splintering but for a small time. The problem of slavery was a big one that simply did not seem to want to go away, no matter how many compromises.

Ironically, after a few more decades, the problem would likely start waning. With the industrialization, the slave would have become far less profitable, if I might use the heartless term. Steam had already come into its own with trains. It was only a matter of time before the tractors would replace the manual labor. Slaves would have been more of problem than an advantage.

To be sure, in some instances, it is more difficult to speculate about the past than the future. Maybe no one would have industrialized farming if they already had the slaves to do the work. There’s no real telling. All we know for sure is that the Civil War broke out and hundreds of thousands of men died on both sides. Eventually, the compromises failed and the war was inevitable. Besides the disagreement, there were those hot heads on both sides that just wanted to fight.

Regardless of what happened before, the war settled it. The slaves were free, though hardly any of them had any idea how to make a living. Black men and women could not read except for a few rare ones. The Northerners who were sent south for the reconstruction took advantage of that. They paid the Black man to vote, six, seven, eight times.

I think most reasonable people would find that a bad thing. Certainly those in the south did so they used a poll tax to discourage it. The north soon prevented poll tax, even though it was already legal in several northern states.

Later the south came up with a literacy test. This too was dropped by force, though I suspect it would be a very good idea. First, people that vote should know how to read. It does seem to be a simple requirement for such an important thing. Moreover, I suspect the schools would do a much better job of educating our youth, both white and Black if it became a requirement for voting.

Perhaps the worse thing that came out of the restoration of the south was the KKK. As so many such things, it began as a good thing. The carpetbaggers came down from the north taking anything and everything they could in the name of restoration. The south countered the only way they knew. After a few decades the KKK got our of hand and they had to send the FBI in to tame them, although they remained right up to the 1980s. And by the way, most of them were democrat. And by the way, it started out that their fight was not with the African-Americans but with the carpetbaggers.

And so it was, a couple small compromises made to keep the nation together almost caused them to separate. If the south had been more industrialized, indeed the US might today be in two separate parts.

There was another casualty of the whole thing. The Tenth Amendment, the one that reserves rights to the states and to the people. It has become very weak; even to the point that it is hardly brought up any more.

And now, today, the word compromise is all to often heard. When the FOCs want something, they ask for compromise. When the Republicans want a compromise, the FOCs simply dig their feet in and say no way. And so it is that every year we compromise a little more. Eventually, there will be no more room for compromise. The FOCs will have all they wanted and they will have gotten it all by compromise.

All the FOCs want is power. When they have it all, we just might want to bring the KKK back. The problem with that is that it will likely be too late. The FOCs will have all the guns. They will have used some kind of compromise to take them.

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