Slave Nation: How Slavery United the Colonies and Sparked the American Revolution

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"A radical, well-informed, and highly original reinterpretation of the place of slavery in the American War of Independence."-David Brion Davis, Yale University

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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402206979
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks
  • Publication date: 11/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 588,352
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Alfred W. Blumrosen is the Thomas A. Cowan Professor of Law at Rutgers University in New Jersey, specializing in labor and employment law, and has a long history in enforcement of civil rights.

The late Ruth Gerber Blumrosen was an adjunct professor of law at Rutgers Law School and also worked in civil rights compliance.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
Somerset's Journey Sparks the American Revolution
On June 22, 1772, nearly a century before the slaves were freed in America, a British judge, with a single decision, brought about the conditions that would end slavery in England. His decision would have monumental consequences in the American colonies, leading up to the American Revolution, the Civil War, and beyond. Because of that ruling, history would be forever changed. This book is about that decision and the role of slavery in the founding of the United States.

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.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments -
Introduction by Eleanor Holmes Norton -

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 -
Bibliography -
Notes -
Index -

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