Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. H. Robert Baker

Second Advisor

Dr. Charles Steffen


Whether through legal assault, private manumissions or slave revolt, the institution of slavery weathered sustained and substantial blows throughout the era spanning the American Revolution and Constitutional Era. The tumult of the rebellion against the British, the inspiration of Enlightenment ideals and the evolution of the American economy combined to weaken slavery as the delegates converged on Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Even in the South, it was not hard to find prominent individuals working, speaking or writing against slavery. During the Convention, however, Northern delegates capitulated to staunch Southern advocates of slavery not because of philosophical misgivings but because of economic considerations. Delegates from North and South looked with anticipation toward the nation’s expansion into the Southwest, confident it would occasion a slavery-based economic boom. Consequently, the institution of slavery was given room to thrive in ways that would take decades and a devastating war to overcome.