The transition in the institution of slavery in revolutionary Virginia, New York, and Pennsylvania



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Purpose: The purpose of this thesis was to consider certain aspects of and responses to the slave system in Virginia, New York, and Pennsylvania in both their pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary settings. After determining the differences or to what extent the system changed during the Revolutionary period, it has been the intent of this study to ascertain the underlying causes for these changes. Analysis of causation has been considered in the framework of the views of both the consensus and conflict historians, but particular emphasis has been given to evaluating the validity of john Franklin Jameson’s thesis concerning the American Revolution as a primary factor in change. Methods: Investigation for this thesis began with a study of general secondary works regarding slavery in Virginia, New York, and Pennsylvania. In addition, valuable information was gained from various primary sources including records of legislation, documentary materials, and personal writings and correspondence of the period. Findings: As a result of an unprecedented wave of antislavery sentiment that was present in Revolutionary Virginia, New York, and Pennsylvania, the system of chattel slavery in all three colonies underwent significant changes during the 1770’s and 1780’s. It has been the contention of this study that to a large degree these changes were the result of an internal social upheaval accompanying the conflict with Great Britain. In other words, anti-slavery measures in the 1770’s and 1780’s, as Jameson maintained, were primarily products of the Revolution. The Revolution affected slavery in Virginia, New York, and Pennsylvania in varying degrees. In none of these colonies was the immediate abolition of slavery forthcoming, a fact which qualifies somewhat the concept of the American Revolution as a social revolution. However, in New York and Pennsylvania the institution was significantly undermined, and in all three colonies the revolutionary period marked a distinct and favorable turning point in race relations.



Slavery--Virginia., Slavery--New York (State), Slavery--Pennsylvania.