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Slave Nation: How Slavery United the Colonies and Sparked the American Revolutionby Alfred W Blumrosen
Synopses & Reviews
"Two law professors make slavery the motor driving the Revolutionary period in this provocative if not always convincing study. Southern colonists, they contend, feared that British court rulings against slavery in the motherland and newly assertive British claims of legislative supremacy over the colonies meant that Britain would restrict or abolish slavery in America; they therefore took the lead in pushing for outright independence and demanded assurances from Northern colonies that slavery would be protected in the new nation. Slavery also dominated the Constitutional Convention, which only succeeded, the authors argue, because of an informal grand compromise giving the South the three-fifths clause (counting slaves toward a state's House representation) in exchange for the Northwest Ordinance banning slavery north of the Ohio River — and implicitly permitting it to the south. Blaming spotty records and backroom deal making, the authors often build their case on speculation, circumstantial evidence and interpretations of Revolutionary slogans about 'liberty' and 'property' as veiled references to slavery; they must often argue around documentary evidence showing Revolutionary leaders' preoccupation with other controversies that did not break down along North-South fault lines. Their reassessment of the centrality of slavery during the period is an intriguing one, but many historians will remain skeptical. Agent, Ronald Goldfarb. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
The authors (both law, Rutgers U.), begin by examining the Somerset case of 1772, which freed a slave brought to England. This decision convinced slaveholders in the southern American colonies that England intended to end slavery, resulting in the Virginia Resolution, which led to the first Continental Congress of 1774. Northern politicians, seeking support in the south, accepted the "immortal ambiguity" of slavery that came with them; when politicians came to a temporary compromise of sorts over slavery in the Northwest Ordinance, they invented tensions that could only be resolved in a civil war. The authors are convinced that slavery, far from being a temporary problem eventually resolve by war, include a commentary about how we should take actions toward correcting the inequities set in place by political compromise from the American Revolution onwards.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
This carefully documented, chilling history presents a radically different view of the profound 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 a novel explanation about the impact slavery had 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 as common law and set the conditions which would consequently result in the freedom of the 15,000 slaves living in England at that time.
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