From 25 Strange Facts From History You Probably Didn’t Learn In School:

The Constitution of the Confederate States of America banned the slave trade.

Did the Confederate States of America banned the slave trade in their constitution?

  • @Goose: I went to include all of your links as notability sources, but the last one - for example - completely answers this question, including references to the specific text. What further question do you have?
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 3:38

1 Answer 1


Let's be clear about what is being claimed by that. Note the exact language - "slave trade." If the question is whether there was a ban on slavery, absolutely not. So.... "slave trade"??

Let's look at what the document actually says. The Confederate Constitution basically used the US Constitution as its starting point. The passage referring to banning the importing of slaves from foreign countries even has the same document references. Both of them are Article 1, Section 9.

US Constitution: The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.

US Constitution

What is that passage saying, in the US Constitution? That the Congress can't ban importation of slaves until 1808, and it caps the amount of import duty/tax that can be charged. It doesn't outright ban the importation at that time, but allows for it, and prevents it prior to that time.

And the USA did ban importation of slaves, so the Confederate Constitution continued the practical (by statute, but not Constitutionally mandated in the USA) status quo that had been in place for decades.

Confederate Constitution, Article I Section 9(1): The importation of negroes of the African race from any foreign country, other than the slaveholding States of the Territories of the United States of America, is hereby forbidden; and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectively prevent the same.

Confederate Constitution, Article I Section 9(2): Congress shall also have power to prohibit the introduction of slaves from any State not a member of, or Territory not belong to, this Confederacy

Confederate States of America Constitution

Basically, that constitution outright bans importing slaves from any nation except the United States, and also allows for a ban on imports from the USA, as well, if they want.

This was also, effectively, trade protection. Anyone wishing to legally purchase slaves would have to do so from a domestic source.

Congress during the Jefferson administration prohibited the importation of slaves, effective 1808, although smuggling (illegal importing) was not unusual. Domestic slave trading, however, continued at a rapid pace, driven by labor demands from the development of cotton plantations in the Deep South. More than one million slaves were sold from the Upper South, which had a surplus of labor, and taken to the Deep South in a forced migration, splitting up many families. New communities of African-American culture were developed in the Deep South, and the total slave population in the South eventually reached 4 million before liberation.

Wikipedia - Slavery in the United States

The Confederate Constitution also had a clause stating that anyone could travel with their slaves, as property, and their ability to do so and the status of those slaves, as property, could not be challenged, and stating that any new states admitted to the Confederacy in the future had to recognize slavery as legal.

Confederate States Constitution - Wikipedia

Did the Confederate Constitution, in any way, set the stage for abolition of, or undermine the institution of slavery? (not asked in this question, but that is the context of the claim, as repeated, by many of the people making the claim) - no. It strengthened and formally enshrined slavery as the enduring law of that nation.

Did the Confederate Constitution ban the slave trade (the specific question asked here)? NO. It banned international slave trade - the importation of slaves (and not even entirely), but that ban was not intended to negatively impact the use of slavery in any way. Domestic slave trade was not only not banned, but was protected by that constitution.

  • This is a great answer, thanks. I promised @Oddthinking I'd make an answer when it was reopened but I'm not sure I'd be adding much original at this point.
    – Goose
    Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 0:47
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 19:31
  • One thing you might add is that the U.S. had banned importation of slaves in 1808, so the CSA was continuing the status quo in that regard. Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 19:47
  • @DavidConrad - thx Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 20:19
  • I see only language prohibiting the import of slaves via international trade, not the export. So not even the international trade was not completely banned (and what about the 'of African race' clause? that would have found some entrepreneurial loopholing, to be sure....
    – bukwyrm
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 11:45

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