What triggered the legal end of the slave trade and did this transform North American slavery?

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The idea behind ending the slave trade in the US was that slavery would slowly be phased out. The concept was meant to appease the free states of the North; many slave owners also had misgivings about slavery as well. After the slave trade officially ended in 1808, many slaves were still imported from Africa via smuggling. Though this was supposed to have been an offense punishable by hanging, only one captain was hanged for this before the Civil War. Both the American and British navies patrolled the Atlantic looking for slave ships.

Slaves could still be bought and sold between owners—the legal slave trade was purely domestic after 1808. The price of slaves went up; this made any attempt by the federal government to compensate slave owners for their property moot. The invention of the cotton gin also made slavery more profitable as well. Many Southern planters had more money invested in enslaved humans than they did any other resource. The amount of money invested in Southern slaves was more than the value of the railroads and banks combined in the United States in 1860. Because of this, slave owners became more vocal over any attempt to end slavery or limit its growth into new territories. Slave owners realized that they would be ruined if the practice ended and petitioned Congress for such acts such as the Fugitive Slave Law when in reality, most slaves were not able to escape to the North. Though the Founders intended slavery to die naturally due to the end of the international slave trade, by 1860, it was obvious that this would not happen.

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