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Slave Nation: How Slavery United the Colonies and Sparked the American Revolution Paperback – November 1, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks (November 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402206976
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402206979
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #365,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Two law professors make slavery the motor driving the Revolutionary period in this provocative if not always convincing study. Southern colonists, they contend, feared that British court rulings against slavery in the motherland and newly assertive British claims of legislative supremacy over the colonies meant that Britain would restrict or abolish slavery in America; they therefore took the lead in pushing for outright independence and demanded assurances from Northern colonies that slavery would be protected in the new nation. Slavery also dominated the Constitutional Convention, which only succeeded, the authors argue, because of an informal grand compromise giving the South the three-fifths clause (counting slaves toward a state's House representation) in exchange for the Northwest Ordinance banning slavery north of the Ohio River--and implicitly permitting it to the south. Blaming spotty records and backroom deal making, the authors often build their case on speculation, circumstantial evidence and interpretations of Revolutionary slogans about "liberty" and "property" as veiled references to slavery; they must often argue around documentary evidence showing Revolutionary leaders' preoccupation with other controversies that did not break down along North-South fault lines. Their reassessment of the centrality of slavery during the period is an intriguing one, but many historians will remain skeptical. Agent, Ronald Goldfarb. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In a startling and necessary book, one of the most important publications on the topic of black history to appear this season, the authors, both law professors with backgrounds in civil rights, chart a bold course through the history of the revolutionary period in American history and arrive at nontraditional but effectively expressed and well-defended conclusions. Their basic premise is that slavery cast its shadow over the founding of the republic, not simply the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention. The Blumrosens peer further back than that convocation in Philadelphia, convened to revise the union of former colonies, and discover within the early provenance of the movement toward revolution--the movement toward one united nation free and independent, that is--the southern colonies' fear that Britain would outlaw slavery and the northern colonies' acceptance of the continuation of slavery where it previously existed. Although this work is not for the casual reader, the serious student of history will come away informed and challenged. See also Steven M. Wise's Though the Heavens May Fall (p.936) for another historical account of the issue of slavery within the British Empire. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By J. Young on November 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Slave Nation should be required reading in the areas of American history and constitutional law. To reply to one Amazon reviewer's comment, the British high court decision in the matter of James Somerset did not free the slaves in the colonies. It determined was that slavery was not lawful in Britain under the British Common Law because slavery was an unnatural and odious condition, and could only exist as a property right in jurisdictions where it had been legislated into existence. Because no law was ever enacted in Britain to create that right, James Somerset became free when he stepped onto British soil. However, the colonial legislatures had legalized slavery in their jurisdictions. This is the origin of the "sacred" principle of "state's rights"-- invented by the politicians who made the American Revolution and authored the Constitution in order to bring the southern colonies into the revolution and keep them as part of the new United States.

Slave Nation brilliantly and clearly describes the economics of slavery in colonial and post-Revolution America, and--very important--shows how the Constitutional Convention was held at the same time as the Continental Congress which was negotiating the terms of the Northwest Ordinance. That law determined the allocation new states to be created from the (then) Northwest Territory into free and slave state jurisdictions.

While Slave Nation is necessarily less detailed as it moves nearer in history from the time of the founders and framers, it certainly documents the truth that Lincoln so clearly admitted in his Second Inaugural Address: slavery was (and its relics are) a source of national guilt, not just a sin of the South.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By John C. Landon on February 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Studying the American Revolution in isolation can be misleading, and it is important to see the overall context, especially the English one. This book expands this context, and is an entirely remarkable new perspective on the role of slavery in the American Revolution and it is remarkable also that the recently published 'Though the Heavens May Fall' by Steven Wise about the Sommerset case in England seems the perfect introduction to this account (howver, this book amply summarizes the key issues). One could recommend the two together. This case and its pivotal trial resulted in the de facto emancipation of slaves in England. Few histories of the American Revolution properly delineate the sequence of events in the American colonies following this case which in effect established a precedent that sooner or later would effect the status of slavery in colonial America. The cruel irony is that these developments were a crucial factor influencing the Southern slaveholders in their support of the Revolutionary War, not quite the standard version of how it all happened. This interpretation is obvious once pointed out, and requires rethinking almost everything one has read here.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By William Meyers on June 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Slave Nation sheds new light on the role of slavery in the creation of the United States of America. The theory that the Somerset case of 1772 had an influence on the American Revolution is not new. In London Lord Mansfield ruled that slavery did not exist in England and that anyone stepping on English soil became free, in particular slaves from English colonies. However, the relative lack of mention of the slavery issue in the written record of events leading up to the Declaration of Independence in 1776 has led most historians to argue that this case, and slavery, were not important causes of the American Revolution. The Blumrosens make a strong case that Somerset was not a secondary cause, but the primary cause of the Revolution. The book should be required reading for all students of American history (and of how history can be warped for political purposes). Its demonstration that in 1772 there was little support for independence, but that the Somerset case propelled the Virginia elite - drug lords, slavers, and usually lawyers as well - to create the Committees of Correspondence, is a great piece of historical detective work.
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Format: Hardcover
Alfred W. Blumrosen is a law professor at Rutgers specializing in Labor and Employment law as it relates to civil rights enforcement, and the late Ruth G. Blumrosen was also a law professor with a history of civil rights compliance: the two have created a monumental survey in Slave Nation; How Slavery United The Colonies And Sparked The American Revolution. Slavery helped found the republic: when a 1772 London judge banned slavery in England, his edict rippled through the colonies and assured the southern states joined the northern colonies in the 'right for freedom' against England which was as much a fight for the freedom to have slaves as for other political concerns. A lively history ensues, pairing political decision processes with insights on the eventual war between the states, Slave Nation is a work of painstakingly thorough scholarship combined with a thoroughly "reader friendly" text that is completely accessible to the non-specialist general reader and a welcome, enthusiastically recommended addition to any personal, community, or school library American History collection or supplemental studies reading list.
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