United States Slave Law

Paul Finkelman

in The Oxford Handbook of Slavery in the Americas

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780199227990
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

United States Slave Law

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  • History
  • United States History
  • Slavery and Abolition of Slavery



This article discusses the historiography of slave law in the United States. Slave law in the United States developed over 225 years through a complicated mixture of custom, statutes, and court decisions. Before the American Revolution of 1776 England never micromanaged the colonies or promulgated a colonial slave code. Each of the thirteen colonies that became the United States had its own legislatures and court structures, and thus each colony developed slave law in its own way. This local development continued after the revolution, as each state had its own rules and regulations. The US Constitution, written in 1787, did not interfere with slavery in the states, but had a number of provisions which directly and indirectly impacted slavery throughout the nation.

Keywords: United States; Constitution; slave law; slavery

Article.  11487 words. 

Subjects: History ; United States History ; Slavery and Abolition of Slavery

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