1808 End of Slave Trade I

Lead: The founders thought they had a solution to the problem of slavery in the new United States. They thought it would make the thing go away. In this they were wrong.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: One of the important debates at the Constitutional Convention that met in Philadelphia in 1787 was over the question of slavery. Though the delegates were cautious men of property, anxious to preserve the prerogatives of wealth and status, many were disturbed about the institution of slavery. It was seen to do violence to the egalitarian principles on which the American Revolution had been fought, detrimental to the character of slave and slave-holder alike, a social and practical danger to society as a whole, and was at that time correctly thought to be economically inefficient.

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Amistad I

Lead: The passengers of the slave ship Amistad, remembered in print and film, were swept up into the caldron of national dispute as America decided what kind of nation it would be.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Unfinished business. When the founders of the United States declared their independence and then later established their national compact, they left several matters of great import for future generations to decide. Among the most important issues needing resolution was the running moral sore of slavery. To be fair, in the late 1700s only a very few, usually very radical thinkers even considered restricting the practice let alone advocating an end to slavery. It had been part of life since the beginning of human existence. 

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Amistad III

Lead: Accused of mutiny and murder, the passengers of the slave ship Amistad faced a formidable array of opponents, not the least of which was the President of the United States.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: After overwhelming their captors off the coast of Cuba in the summer of 1839, the slaves on Amistad sailed their ship north to New England. They were arrested and held for trial. Political pressure from all sides almost immediately began to engulf them. Abolitionists adopted them as a cause, supplied their legal counsel, and began teaching them English and seeking their conversion to Christianity. The Spanish government wanted them returned to Cuba for trial. This would have meant almost certain execution. President Martin Van Buren was up for re-election and needed the votes of pro-slavery Southerners. He wanted the case to go away. In the meantime, the prisoners with their powerful leader Cinque, had become a national sensation, provoking an outpouring both of sympathy and disdain.

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Nat Turner Slave Rebellion III

Lead: In the summer of 1831, Nat Turner, a religious mystic convinced that God had called him as a prophet, led a group of followers on a bloody rampage through south-side Virginia in the most serious slave rebellion in U.S. history.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Nat Turner was a gifted and powerful, mesmerizing slave preacher. Nearly all his life Nat Turner could read and write. His owners from the early days encouraged him to read those portions of the Bible that tell slaves to live lives of dutiful and submissive obedience. Yet, he also read subversive portions of the scriptures that gave him hope that one day he might achieve freedom. By the mid-1820s, Nat Turner was attracting large groups of slaves to his preaching services on Sundays near Cross Keys in Southampton County or down near the North Carolina border.

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Nat Turner Slave Rebellion II

Lead: Even as a child, people could tell Nat Turner was exceptional. His intelligence and physical presence marked him for leadership in the slave community of south-side Virginia.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Benjamin Turner owned a small plantation outside the town of Cross Keys in the Virginia county of Southampton, nestled on the North Carolina border 70 miles southeast of Richmond. His land was heavily forested and only about 100 acres were under cultivation. It was enough, however, for him to afford to keep slaves, the mark of status in the south and in 1799 he bought a slave woman freshly arrived from Africa. He named her Nancy and in the next year she gave birth to Nathaniel.

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1808 End of Slave Trade II

Lead: The issue was whether the U.S. Constitution would permit the continued importation of slaves. They came up with a compromise, but on the long-term future of slavery it was largely fruitless.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Until its complete abolition at the end of the Civil War, slavery was a moral, legal, and economic sore that festered on the American body politic. Once slaves had become an integral part of the colonial economy and social fabric in the 1600s it would be a source of great reward and great offense. As the delegates gathered in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 to craft a better way of building national unity, the problem of slavery reared its terrible head. Divisions were on predictable lines, northerners wanted to bring the practice to an end, southerner wanted to protect their interests. Yet, surprisingly, even southerners were aware that the institution had deleterious effects on the character of slave and slave-holder, violated the principles on which the new republic was founded and was becoming economically unprofitable.

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Nat Turner Slave Rebellion I

Lead: In August 1831 the southside Virginia county of Southhampton was convulsed by the deadliest slave rebellion in North American history. One of roots of the rebellion was southern white ambivalence about slavery.

Intro. : A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Despite the growing economic dependence upon slave labor in the American south after the Revolution, there was powerful ambivalence among many Southerners about the institution of slavery. It mocked the philosophical foundation of the republic itself, violating the principles animating the Declaration of Independence. Many religious groups were increasingly vocal about the immorality of slavery. Quakers, anti-slavery Baptists, and before 1800, Methodists vigorously denounced the practice and encouraged slave owners to manumit their slaves. In the north, slavery was gradually eliminated by custom, sentiment and legal prohibition, so that the south became increasingly isolated in the national debate.

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