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The Slave Trade and the Origins of International Human Rights Law$
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Jenny S. Martinez

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195391626

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780195391626.001.0001

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The United States and the Slave Trade

The United States and the Slave Trade

An Ambivalent Foe

Chapter:
(p.38) Chapter 3 The United States and the Slave Trade
Source:
The Slave Trade and the Origins of International Human Rights Law
Author(s):

Jenny S. Martinez

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780195391626.003.0003

This chapter examines slavery and slave trade in American politics. By the time the Declaration of Independence proclaimed in July 1776 that “all men are created equal,” there were thousands of African slaves in North America. The U.S. Constitution, drafted in Philadelphia in 1787, is oddly evasive on the issue of slavery. Though the federal government could not constitutionally ban the importation of slaves until 1808, the states had begun to prohibit the importation of slaves on their own even by the time of the Constitutional Convention. By the 1820s, the law of nations was in an ambiguous and transitional state with respect to the slave trade. Still, international law could no longer directly authorize slave trading. Instead, each country had to decide on its own, either through legislation or ratification of theories.

Keywords:   slavery, slave trade, American politics, United States, slave trading, Declaration of Independence, African slaves, slave importation

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