The Negro and the Nation: A History of American Slavery and Enfranchisement

By George S. Merriam | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
CONFLICT AND COMPROMISE

FOR thirty years after the Constitution was established, slavery falls into the background of the national history. Other and absorbing interests were to the front. First, the strife of Federalist and Democrat: Should the central government be strengthened, or should the common people be more fully trusted? Twelve years of conservative ascendency under Washington and Adams; then a complete and lasting triumph for the popular party led by Jefferson. Mixed with and succeeding this came an exasperating and perplexing struggle for commercial rights, invaded equally by England and France in their gigantic grapple; an ineffectual defense by Jefferson, who in executive office proved an unskillful pilot; a half-hearted war under Madison, a closet statesman out of place in the Presidential chair; a temporary alienation of New England, exasperated by the loss of her commerce and suspicious of the Jeffersonian influence; a participation in the general peace which followed 1815, and a revival of industry. Under this surface tide of events went on a steady, quiet advance of the democratic movement. With Jefferson's administration disappeared the Federal party and the old distrust of the common people. State after State gave up the property qualification --almost universal in the first period--and adopted manhood suffrage. Slavery disappeared from the North; in New Hampshire it was abolished by judicial decision, as in Massachusetts; Connecticut, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania passed gradual emancipation laws, and a little later

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