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The Cost of Compromise and the Covenant with Death

45 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2011 Last revised: 9 Jul 2011

Paul Finkelman

University of Pittsburgh, School of Law; Albany Law School - Government Law Center

Date Written: June 28, 2011


This article is a rebuttal to the writings of those advocating the view that America was formed through compromise and that compromise in modern constitutional law is, therefore, necessary and beneficial. A recount of the “compromises” at the Constitutional Conventional that eventually led to the approval and protection of slavery begins the analysis establishing the danger of Americans compromising over constitutional protections. The article continues on, discussing the Compromise of 1850 and its drafters whom others have considered “passionately devoted to the Union”, like John Calhoun, who would later assert that the Constitution was expendable. The Compromise of 1850 did little more than to bolster pro-slavery forces into the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dredd Scott decision. From here, the article provides an in depth analysis of the Compromise of 1850 and the aftermath of the Fugitive Slave Law, and the spread of slavery into every new territory.

In the history of United States Constitutional law, compromise is not always compromise at all. Instead, the appeasements linger and fester, merely allowing the same problems to grow to larger scales. In the context of slavery, the appeasements were only corrected with the Civil War, leaving one to wonder about the value of compromise.

Suggested Citation

Finkelman, Paul, The Cost of Compromise and the Covenant with Death (June 28, 2011). Pepperdine Law Review, Forthcoming; Albany Law School Research Paper No. 13 of 2011-2012. Available at SSRN:

Paul Finkelman (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh, School of Law ( email )

3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States
412-648-2079 (Phone)

Albany Law School - Government Law Center ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

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