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Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other… John Adams

Slave nation : how slavery united the colonies & sparked the American Revolution  Naperville, Ill. : Sourcebooks, c 2005 Alfred W. Blumrosen and Ruth G. Blumrosen ; introduction by Eleanor Holmes Norton United States History Revolution, 1775-1783 Causes Hardcover. xv, 336 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [267]-273) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG  

This  history presents a different view of the role that slavery played in the founding of the republic, from the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution through the creation of the Constitution.

The book begins with an explanation about the impact of the Somerset Case on the founding of the republic. In 1772, a judge sitting in the High Court in London declared slavery “so odious” that it could not exist at common law and set the conditions which would result in the freedom [that in most cases amounted to forced deportation] of the 15,000 slaves living in England. This decision eventually reached slaveholders in the collection of British colonies, subject to British law in the Americas. The slaveholders feared that this decision would cause the emancipation of their slaves and it did foment rebellions in which some slaves attempted freeing themselves.

To ensure the preservation of slavery, the southern colonies joined the northerners in their fight for “freedom” and their rebellion against England and as a quid pro quo in 1774, at the First Continental Congress John Adams promised southern leaders to support their right to maintain slavery. Thomas Jefferson relied on this understanding when carefully crafting the  Declaration of Independence.

After the Revolution the northerners attempted to renege on the agreements that had made the Republic possible and in 1787 negotiations over a new Constitution ground to a halt until the southern states agreed to allow the prohibition of slavery north of the Ohio River. The resulting Northwest Ordinance created effectively divided the country before the Constitution was even ratified – and remember ratification was a near run thing with Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and Virginia giving it the narrowest of margins and Vermont [which included Maine at the time] chosing to remain an independent republic.

Slave Nation is an account of some of the role slavery played in the foundations of the United States that traces the process of negotiation through the adoption of Northwest Ordinance in 1787. It is by no means an unbiased account but it does provide a good starting point particularily in regard to the Somerset case.


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