A Slaveholders' Union: Slavery, Politics, and the by George William Van Cleve

By George William Van Cleve

After its early advent into the English colonies in North the USA, slavery within the usa lasted as a felony establishment till the passage of the 13th modification to the structure in 1865.  yet more and more through the contested politics of the early republic, abolitionists cried out that the structure itself was once a slaveowners’ record, produced to guard and additional their rights. A Slaveholders’ Union furthers this unsettling declare by way of demonstrating as soon as and for all that slavery was once certainly an important a part of the basis of the nascent republic. during this robust e-book, George William Van Cleve demonstrates that the structure used to be pro-slavery in its politics, its economics, and its legislation. He convincingly exhibits that the Constitutional provisions keeping slavery have been even more than mere “political” compromises—they have been crucial to the foundations of the hot country. by means of the past due 1780s, a majority of usa citizens desired to create a powerful federal republic that may be able to increasing right into a continental empire. to ensure that the United States to turn into an empire on any such scale, Van Cleve argues, the Southern states needed to be prepared companions within the activity, and the price of their allegiance was once the planned long term safety of slavery by way of America’s leaders throughout the nation’s early growth. Reconsidering the function performed through the slow abolition of slavery within the North, Van Cleve additionally indicates that abolition there has been less innovative in its origins—and had less impact on slavery’s expansion—than formerly inspiration. Deftly interweaving ancient and political analyses, A Slaveholders’ Union will most likely develop into the definitive clarification of slavery’s endurance and growth—and of its effect on American constitutional development—from the innovative struggle during the Missouri Compromise of 1821.

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Extra info for A Slaveholders' Union: Slavery, Politics, and the Constitution in the Early American Republic

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The clearest indication of this potentially far-reaching shift in the direction of policy was the most notorious prerevolutionary slave freedom case of all, the 1772 case of Somerset v. Stewart. TH E SOM ER SET DECISION A N D ITS A FTER M ATH Somerset v. 66 In that case, the English Court of King’s Bench, in an opinion by Chief Justice Lord Mansfield, decided the fate of a fugitive slave, James Somerset, who had been brought to England from America by a high British North American customs official, Charles Steuart (or Stewart).

The legislation was premised on the fundamental conflict-of-laws principle of Somerset—the principle that local law (here, Rhode Island law) wholly controlled the fate of slaves once in Rhode Island, without regard to their status as property in other British colonies or foreign jurisdictions. 112 In Somerset, the colonies had been told in unmistakable terms by the leading English judge of the day that English common law and morality did not sanction slavery, and that exercising their independent legal rights on slavery was not only legitimate but even desirable under long-standing English-law principles that protected freedom.

COLONIAL LEGAL AND POLITICAL C H A L L E N G E S T O S L AV E RY By the mid-eighteenth century, throughout the empire the law recognized an exception to the general rule that slaves were “rightless” persons: slaves could challenge the legal basis of their captivity, though only on narrow grounds. There were numerous court actions seeking freedom for individual slaves in the decades just before the Revolution, both in England and in the United States. As historian John Wood Sweet concludes, the changing character of these challenges over time provides evidence of increasing political strains on the institution of slavery.

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