Digital History: The American Revolution
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The American Revolution - OverSimplified (Part 1)
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The texts have been marked up using TEI so that speakers, places, dates, and terms in the published index can be easily found. Users can see both scanned images of the AP pages or just the texts. The 5, images selected from the BnF collections for this digital archive concentrate solely on the period from through , from the years immediately preceding the outbreak of the Revolution through the emergence of Napoleon. Only visual materials directly tied to the Revolution itself are included. Many of the framers harbored moral qualms about slavery.
Some, including Benjamin Franklin a former slave owner and Alexander Hamilton who was born in a slave colony in the British West Indies became members of antislavery societies. On August 21, , a bitter debate broke out over a South Carolina proposal to prohibit the federal government from regulating the Atlantic slave trade. Luther Martin of Maryland, a slaveholder, said that the slave should be subject to federal regulation since the entire nation would be responsible for suppressing slave revolts. He also considered the slave trade contrary to America's republican ideals. John Rutledge of South Carolina responded forcefully. Unless regulation of the slave trade was left to the states, the southern-most states "shall not be parties to the union.
The poor despise labor when performed by slaves. They bring the judgment of heaven on a country. Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut accused slave holders from Maryland and Virginia of hypocrisy. They could afford to oppose the slave trade, he claimed, because "slaves multiply so fast in Virginia and Maryland that it is cheaper to raise then import them, whilst in the sickly rice swamps [of South carolina and Georgia] foreign supplies are necessary.
The controversy over the Atlantic slave trade was ultimately settled by compromise. In exchange for a year ban on any restrictions on the Atlantic slave trade, southern delegates agreed to remove a clause restricting the national government's power to enact laws requiring goods to be shipped on American vessels benefiting northeastern shipbuilders and sailors. The same day this agreement was reached, the convention also adopted the fugitive slave clause, requiring the return of runaway slaves to their owners.
Was the Constitution a pro-slavery document, as abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison claimed when he burned the document in and called it "a covenant with death and an agreement with Hell"? This question still provokes controversy. If the Constitution temporarily strengthened slavery, it also created a central government powerful enough to eventually abolish the institution. Discussion Topic: Did the framers of the Constitution miss an opportunity to put slavery on the path to eventual extinction?
In June , the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery - the world's first antislavery society - asked its president, Benjamin Franklin, to deliver an anti-slave trade resolution to the Constitutional Convention. The resolution declared: "In vain will be Americans' Pretentions to a love of liberty or regard for national character while they share in the profits of a Commerce that can only be conducted upon Rivers of human tears and blood. Franklin never presented that resolution or any other antislavery materials to the convention. He explained that he "thought it advisable to let them lie over for the present. In Franklin did send a petition to Congress on behalf of the Society asking for the abolition of slavery and an end to the slave trade. The petition, signed on February 3, , asked the first Congress, then meeting in New York City, to "devise means for removing the Inconsistency from the Character of the American People," and to "promote mercy and justice toward this distressed Race.
Government policies fostered the growth of capitalism. Eli Terry and his associates developed ways to mass produce quality, low-cost clocks using waterpower and interchangeable parts. Their techniques transformed clock making from a craft to a factory process. Other industries soon copied the technique. The American government promoted innovation and protected inventions with patents, which helped inventors profit from their creativity. To secure this protection, inventors had to submit working models to the Patent Office.