Slavery & the Law

Front Cover
Paul Finkelman
Rowman & Littlefield, 2001 M12 17 - 465 pages
Central to the development of the American legal system, writes Professor Finkelman in Slavery & the Law, is the institution of slavery. It informs us not only about early concepts of race and property, but about the nature of American democracy itself. Prominent historians of slavery and legal scholars analyze the intricate relationship between slavery, race, and the law from the earliest Black Codes in colonial America to the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law and the Dred Scott decision prior to the Civil War. Slavery & the Law's wide-ranging essays focus on comparative slave law, auctioneering practices, rules of evidence, and property rights, as well as issues of criminality, punishment, and constitutional law. What emerges from this multi-faceted portrait is a complex legal system designed to ensure the property rights of slave-holders and to institutionalize racism. The ultimate result was to strengthen the institution of slavery in the midst of a growing trend toward democracy in the mid-nineteenth-century Atlantic community.

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Finkelman (law, Harvard) has compiled a comprehensive analysis of American slavery, tackling the subject from a legal perspective rather than from a purely historical one. This fresh and effective ... Read full review

Selected pages


Learning the Three Is of Americas Slave Heritage
Ideology and Imagery in the Law of Slavery
Constitutional Law and Slavery
Slavery in the Canon of Constitutional Law
Chief Justice Hornblower of New Jersey and the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793
A Federal Assault African Americans and the Impact of the Fugitive Slave Law of 185O
The Crisis Over The Impending Crisis Free Speech Slavery and the Fourteenth Amendment
Criminal and Civil Law of Slavery
Pandoras Box Slave Character on Trial in the Antebellum Deep South
Slave Auctions on the Courthouse Steps Court Sales of Slaves in Antebellum South Carolina
Comparative Law of Slavery
SeventeenthCentury Jurists Roman Law and the Law of Slavery
The British Constitution and the Creation of American Slavery
Thinking Property at Rome
Thinking Property at Memphis An Application of Watson
Notes on Contributors

Slaves and the Rules of Evidence in Criminal Trials
Details Are of a Most Revolting Character Cruelty to Slaves as Seen in Appeals to the Supreme Court of Louisiana
The Unreported Case of Humphreys v Utz 1856

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Page 24 - Deep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained; new provocations; the real distinctions which nature has made; and many other circumstances, will divide us into parties, and produce convulsions, which will probably never end but in the extermination of the one or the other race.
Page 13 - Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you this day rejoice, are not enjoyed in common^ The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice; /must mourn.
Page 7 - In the opinion of the court, the legislation and histories of the times, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence, show, that neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves, nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were then acknowledged as a part of the people, nor intended to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument.
Page 10 - That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot by any compact deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

About the author (2001)

\Paul Finkelman is one of the most prolific scholars of legal history and early American culture. He is author or editor of over forty books including Dred Scott v. Sandford: A Brief History With Documents, Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson, An Imperfect Union: Slavery, Federalism and Comity, and His Soul Goes Marching On: Responses to John Brown and the Harper's Ferry Raid. He is currently Chapman Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Tulsa.

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