The Problems of Slavery

TitleThe Problems of Slavery
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsBrown, Christopher Leslie
EditorGray, Edward G., and Jane Kamensky
Book TitleThe Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution
PublisherOxford University Press
CityOxford and New York

When the Stamp Act crisis erupted, the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade or the overthrow of colonial slavery was deemed impossible. Less than a quarter century later, by the time delegates gathered for the Constitutional Convention, both slavery and the Atlantic slave trade were being condemned, not only in the new United States, but also in Britain and France. Between 1765 and 1787, antislavery declarations and protests proliferated and imaginative proposals were put forward to achieve a comprehensive emancipation. The American Revolution was credited for initiating these changes by popularizing the idea of universal liberty and, in turn, stigmatizing the institution of slavery. Yet the founders failed to deliver the fatal blow to slavery after the war as the promise of universal emancipation implied in the war's rhetoric collapsed. Denied and deferred in the United States, the antislavery movement would achieve its greatest influence in Britain. In Saint-Domingue, slave insurrections led to the abolition of slavery in the French West Indies by 1794.

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