Emancipating New York: The Politics of Slavery and Freedom, 1777-1827/race and Liberty in the New Nation: Emancipation in Virginia from the Revolution to Nat Turner's Rebellion

By Cash, Sherri Goldstein | Journal of the Early Republic, October 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Emancipating New York: The Politics of Slavery and Freedom, 1777-1827/race and Liberty in the New Nation: Emancipation in Virginia from the Revolution to Nat Turner's Rebellion


Cash, Sherri Goldstein, Journal of the Early Republic


Emancipating New York: The Politics of Slavery and Freedom, 1777-1827. By David N. Gellman. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006. Pp. xi, 297. Maps. Cloth, $45.00.)

Race and Liberty in the New Nation: Emancipation in Virginia from the Revolution to Nat Turner's Rebellion. By Eva Sheppard Wolf. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006. Pp. xix, 284. Cloth, $45.00.)

Reviewed by Sherri Goldstein Gash

Slavery, freedom, race, and citizenship are the central themes in two recent works focusing on emancipation from the Revolutionary era to the antebellum period. These studies demonstrate that the histories of the emancipation issue in New York and Virginia were alike in important ways, and together they illuminate the ways that emancipation was linked to a range of ideological positions on slavery and race.

In Emancipating New York: The Politics of Slavery and Freedom, 1777-1827, David N. Gellman mines the New York press and legislative records to focus on the events, ideological debates, and discourse leading to and following the passage ofthat state's 1799 gradual abolition law, a history that has eluded close examination. Gellman argues that emancipation in New York cannot be explained by Revolutionary ideology. Emancipation became a real possibility only when politics in the state legislature became amenable to this change. Through his exhaustive, careful work in combing the New York press, as well as legislative sources, Gellman demonstrates that slavery was a pervasive issue in New York that surfaced in discussion of the major national topics of the day. Gellman also draws attention to the critical role of "literary antislavery" in keeping the issue alive, particularly after the failure of gradual emancipation in 1785.

Eva Sheppard Wolf in Race and Liberty in the New Nation: Emancipation in Virginia from the Revolution to Nat Turner's Rebellion challenges in important respects our understanding of emancipation ideology in post-Revolutionary Virginia. She argues that in Virginia "liberty" was a racial concept, and that the pockets of Quakers, Methodists, Baptists, and antislavery radicals notwithstanding, the issue of emancipation became politicized in a way that was not akin to Revolutionary ideals.

State politics are critical in both histories. In New York, the newer northern and western counties where slavery was weak shifted the composition and majority interest of the legislature enough to allow for the passage of the 1799 gradual emancipation law. In a similar situation, Wolf demonstrates that slavery as an issue was coupled with a struggle for power between the newer nonslaveholding counties in western Virginia and the state's eastern counties where slavery had a strong presence. Slaveholding elites in Virginia prevented the reapportionment and wide access to the suffrage that threatened their political status and interest in maintaining slavery. While Wolf frames this struggle for power as one between elites and more ordinary men, however, the definition of "ordinary" is not entirely clear. Does "ordinary" mean nonslaveholding, or was there a grassroots movement against slavery in Virginia's western region? In any case, matters of regional political interest and representation in each state were critical in determining the fate of emancipation.

One of Wolf's best contributions lies in her recasting of events that addressed various aspects of slavery. She argues that the prohibition on slave importation, the colonization movement, and manumission reform might look like avenues to abolition, but that the intent in these projects has been misinterpreted. As her work reveals, ending the importation of slaves to Virginia was a measure designed to benefit the state's eastern slaveholders economically, while the aim of the colonization movement was to create an all-white society, and manumission laws were intended to discourage the very practice that they addressed. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Emancipating New York: The Politics of Slavery and Freedom, 1777-1827/race and Liberty in the New Nation: Emancipation in Virginia from the Revolution to Nat Turner's Rebellion
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.