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date: 26 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article reviews scholarship on the history and historiography of slavery in the early republic and antebellum United States. During the colonial period, slavery was present in varying degrees throughout what would become the United States. In the wake of the American Revolution, however, slavery became the ‘peculiar institution’ of the South. In the North, where the slave population was small and less crucial to the functioning of the economy, states took the revolutionary ideals of liberty and equality to their logical conclusion, each passing either an immediate or gradual emancipation law by 1804. Further south, especially in the Chesapeake, slavery was weakened as revolutionary-era runaways and manumissions depleted the slave population. Yet, with the fading of the revolution's egalitarian rhetoric and the invention of the cotton gin that made it possible to extract safely and efficiently the delicate fibres from short-staple cotton, the institution of slavery would not only persevere but become entrenched and expand across the southern United States. The antebellum decades witnessed the movement of slaves south and west with the advance of the cotton frontier.

Keywords: colonial period, revolutionary period, American Revolution, slaves, slavery, southern states

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