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Disunion!The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859$
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Elizabeth R. Varon

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780807832325

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807887189_varon

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(p.17) Prologue

Elizabeth R. Varon

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter describes the antislavery impulse, which was as old as the republic itself. So too were sectional tensions deriving from the diverging interests of the free labor North and the slaveholding South. By the eve of the American Revolution, slavery had existed in North America for more than 150 years; it was legal in every one of the thirteen colonies. Different patterns of settlement and different geographies distinguished the Northern colonies from the Southern ones and set them on different trajectories. Slavery was marginal to the economy of New England, which was “wedded to family and wage labor.” It was pervasive in the middle colonies of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, but slave labor there was incorporated into a diverse economy; slaves worked in artisan shops, in the maritime industries, and on farms, alongside white and black indentured servants and wage workers.

Keywords:   antislavery impulse, free labor North, slaveholding South, American Revolution, slavery, indentured servants, wage workers

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