Slavery and the Founders / Edition 1

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This text studies the attitudes of the founding "fathers" toward slavery. Specifically, it examines the views of Thomas Jefferson reflected in his life and writings and those of other founders as expressed in the Northwest Ordinance, the Constitutional Convention and the Constitution itself, and the fugitive slave legislation of the 1790s. The author contends: slavery fatally permeated the founding of the American republic; the original constitution was, as the abilitionists later maintained, "a covnenant with death"; and Jefferson's anti-slavery reputation is undeserved and most historians and biographers have prettified Jefferson's record on slavery.

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Editorial Reviews

Finkelman, a leading American expert on the law of slavery, places the problem of slavery in the context of early American politics and constitution-making. He demonstrates that slavery was one of the central issues at the Constitutional Convention, and points to the first fugitive slave law as evidence that debate on slavery in national politics predated the antebellum period. This second edition incorporates new revelations about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings and adds a chapter on Federalist attitudes toward emancipation. Finkelman is affiliated with the University of Tulsa College of Law. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From the Publisher
"Despite the egalitarian wording of the framers of the Constitution, legal historian Paul Finkelman shows in stunning detail the nameless presence of 'slavery'—the word itself hidden in plain sight while its meaning and implications pervaded every article of the original document. This third edition of Slavery and the Founders, with its provocative new chapter on ending the African Slave Trade, weaves together the complex motivations of the Revolutionary generation, both its proslavery and antislavery representatives, into a tightly argued narrative. Today, as we commemorate the various sesquicentennial anniversaries related to the Civil War and the end of slavery, Finkelman offers a timely reminder of why the American legal system ultimately rejected the original intent of its founders." — Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Harvard University

"The new edition of Paul Finkelman's provocative Slavery and the Founders is a welcome addition to the literature. No one in recent years has done more than Finkelman to force scholars to rethink the relationship between racial slavery and the founding of the American republic. Written with passionate purpose and an extraordinary mastery of the field, these important essays will help set the agenda for the next generation of scholarship. Finkelman's essays on Jefferson are particularly notable, definitively demolishing the Master of Monticello's antislavery credentials." — Peter S. Onuf, University of Virginia (on the previous edition)

"Forcefully and eloquently, Paul Finkelman presses the case that slavery and race were towering issues in the politics of the early American republic—and that Thomas Jefferson could be reliably found on the proslavery, antiblack side of every controversy. This enlarged edition of the 1996 book refines the previous content and adds a new essay on slavery in the Age of Federalism." — Peter Wallenstein, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (on the previous edition)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781563245916
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 11/15/1995
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.96 (w) x 8.87 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Finkelman is a distinguished historian and legal scholar specializing in American legal history, constitutional law, and race and the law. He is the author of more than 200 scholarly articles and more than 40 books.

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Table of Contents

1 Making a Covenant with Death: Slavery and the Constitutional Convention 3
2 Slavery and the Northwest Ordinance, 1787: A Study in Ambiguity 3
3 Evading of Ordinance: The Persistence of Bondage in Indiana and Illinois 58
4 Implementing the Proslavery Constitution: The Adoption of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793 81
5 The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Federalism 105
6 "Treason Against the Hopes of the World": Thomas Jefferson and Slavery 129
7 Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings, and Antislavery: Historians and Myths 163
Notes 197
Bibliography 253
Index 267
About the Author 297
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