The Problems of Slavery

Christopher Leslie Brown

in The Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199746705
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

The Problems of Slavery

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  • History
  • United States History
  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)
  • Slavery and Abolition of Slavery



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.

Keywords: American Revolution; slavery; abolition; antislavery movement; Britain; United States; slave trade; Constitutional Convention; emancipation

Article.  10289 words. 

Subjects: History ; United States History ; Early Modern History (1500 to 1700) ; Slavery and Abolition of Slavery

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