The Political Impact of
IF THE DISPUTES of partisan Americans and Britons kept slavery on the national agenda after 1808, so did developments within the institution itself. These included the actions of people subjugated by or recently freed from slavery. Although most had no formal political voice, African Americans nevertheless shaped the politics of slavery in the United States as they pushed against slavery and racism. Their actions did not aim foremost at influencing the debates of white Americans, but rather at securing freedom and equality for themselves. But no matter their motives, slaves' and free blacks' assertiveness helped to ensure that slavery was a delicate political topic between the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade and the Missouri Crisis.
At first glance, that this became a bone of contention was surprising. Most white Americans did not welcome black Americans' aggressiveness, agreeing that slaves and free blacks were a subversive element. Indeed, white Northerners and Southerners shared concerns about the danger black Americans posed, which prompted them to support the American Colonization Society (ACS), an attempt to remove free people of color from the United States. But as with other questions related to slavery, African Americans' behavior, actual and imagined, entered American politics as an agent of discord. It joined other aspects of slavery as a tool in partisan politics. Meanwhile, slaveholders' attempts to control the black population exacerbated North-South sectionalism. Many white Northerners recoiled at the draconian measures slaveholders and their representatives pursued to this end. And when the masters pursued fugitive slaves into the North, sectional tensions only increased. For their part, white Southerners found themselves further alienated from their Northern brethren when some of the latter countenanced slave flight and revolt. This led some of them to reject the ACS as Yankee meddling and to experiment