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In 1772, the High Court in London brought about the conditions that would end slavery in England by freeing a black slave from Virginia named Somerset. This decision began a key facet of independence.
Slave Nation is a fascinating account of the role slavery played in the drawing of the United States Constitution and in shaping the United States. At the Constitutional Convention, the South feared that the Northern states would leave the Convention over the issue of slavery. In a compromise, the Southern states agreed to slavery's prohibition north of the Ohio River, resulting in the Northwest Ordinance. This early national division would continue to escalate, eventually only reaching resolution through the Civil War.
The story of that British court decision begins with the kidnapping of a nine-year-old boy who was growing up in a West African village. He joined the river of slaves that sailed the infamous Middle Passage to America, arriving in Virginia in March, 1749.1 Along the way he was given his slave name-Somerset. He was healthy and quickly picked up English. These qualities caught the eye of a Scottish born, up-and-coming, twenty-four-year-old merchant and slave trader named Charles Stewart. Stewart's office and storehouse were in Norfolk, Virginia, a town where many of the Scottish merchants drawn to the tobacco industry had settled.
Chapter 1. Somerset's Journey Sparks the American Revolution
Chapter 2. The Tinderbox -
Chapter 3. Virginia Responds to the Somerset Decision -
Chapter 4. The Virginia Resolution Unites the Colonies and Leads to the First Continental Congress in 1775 -
Chapter 5. John Adams Supports the South on Slavery -
Chapter 6. Colonies Claim Independence from Parliament -
Chapter 7. The Immortal Ambiguity: "All Men Are Created Equal"
Chapter 8. The Articles of Confederation Reject Somerset and Protect Slavery -
Chapter 9. The Lure of the West: Slavery Protected in the Territories -
Chapter 10. Deadlock over Slavery in the Constitutional Convention -
Chapter 11. A Slave-Free Northwest Territory -
Chapter 12. Cementing the Bargain: Ratification by Virginia and the First Congress -
Chapter 13. How Then Should We View the Founding Fathers? -
In Memoriam: "Requiem" by Barbara Chase-Riboud -