Master of Arts (MA)
First Committee Member
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Fourth Committee Member
Number of Pages
The United States capital, Washington, D.C., became the focus of antislavery advocates in their quest to eliminate the domestic slave trade and slavery. By the War of 1812, the domestic slave trade was thriving in the capital. However, many saw it as particularly embarrassing to a nation predicated on the concept of freedom. This embarrassment was even felt by proslavery Southerners. Beginning in 1816, an attempt to restrict the trade in the Capital occurred when Virginia Congressman John Randolph called for the destruction of the domestic slave trade there. Despite being proslavery, he argued that the federal government, as the governing body of the District of Columbia, had the right to regulate slavery within it. This opened an opportunity for antislavery advocates to target the nation’s capital in their pursuit of eliminating the domestic slave trade and bring about an end to slavery. Between 1822 and 1829 antislavery advocates petitioned Congress numerous times to end the domestic slave trade and slavery in the capital. They also recruited antislavery allies within Congress to advocate their petitions. The nation’s newspapers covered these attempts and antislavery advocates found them essential in disseminating their message. These attacks on slavery in the capital forced proslavery Southerners in Congress to block efforts at ending the domestic slave trade and slavery in the capital out of fear that they could open the door to ending slavery in the South. Furthermore, they began to develop a positive good argument for slavery as a way to protect the institution from rising antislavery sentiment. These efforts did not succeed in ending either the domestic slave trade or slavery during the 1820s, but it helped to turn antislavery sentiment into a movement.
Abolition; Congress; Debate; Law; Slavery
United States History
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Brown, Timothy, "The Spark that Lit the Match: The Use of Petitions and the Emergence of Antislavery Politicians in the Movement to Abolish Slavery in the District of Columbia, 1816-1829" (2021). UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones. 4278.
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