Northeast States Abolish Slavery (Great Events from History: North American Series)
Article abstract: Eight northeastern states take action to emancipate slaves and end slavery during the American Revolution.
Summary of Event
In 1775, Pennsylvania’s Provincial Congress called for an end to the importation of slaves and the gradual emancipation of all slaves in the colony. Two years later, Vermont, on July 2, 1777, became the first state to abolish slavery fully. Its 1777 Constitution outlawed “holding anyone by law to serve any person” as a servant, slave, or apprentice after he or she reached twenty-one years of age. Pennsylvania did not pass a law gradually ending the slave system until 1780, because opponents argued that abolishing slavery during the war for independence from England would break up the Union. Any radical attack against human bondage would antagonize the South, where slavery was a deeply embedded institution. Pennsylvania, like the other Northern states, had allowed slavery since its beginning as a colony, but slaves had never become an important part of the workforce. In 1780, only 3,761 of Pennsylvania’s 435,150 people were slaves, and most of them were household servants. White workers argued successfully that free labor cost less than slavery, because slave masters had to take care of their slaves even if they were not working. Such was not the case with free workers.
Pennsylvania’s law called for a gradual end to slavery. Property rights were respected and...
(The entire section is 1474 words.)
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