Slavery made a significant impact at the 1787 Constitution Convention. Most of the Framers believed that they had other more pressing worries than the fate of that increasingly sectional institution, but they knew full well that a national debate over the future of slavery was divisive and potentially catastrophic for the new union. In his engaging article, “The Pennsylvania Delegation and the Peculiar Institution,” Paul Finkelman explores how Pennsylvania’s leading delegates approached this challenge. He argues that in their varied responses, Pennsylvania men such as Gouverneur Morris and James Wilson, help illustrate how and why the Framers compromised over slavery and how despite growing disdain for slavery in the 1780s, the Constitution that was the principal political product of that critical decade nonetheless protected and ultimately helped extend slavery’s domain in the years before the Civil War. Students in History 288 should be able to identify and explain the views of Pennsylvania’s most prominent delegates. They should understand the leading compromises forged over slavery in 1787 . And they should contemplate whether it is appropriate to label the original Constitution either pro- or anti- Slavery.
Office: Denny 218
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