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Malachi Silverclaw wrote:While I was growing up I was amazed that the country that had this as their defining statement ever had slavery. But it is unreasonable to expect perfection. It is simply our job as a society to move toward perfection. Even though we never expect to be perfect, the struggle toward it makes us better and better, and that is enough.It was somewhat contentious, even in it's time but because of the problems of passing the Declaration of Independence which basically required not just a majority but a unilateral commitment from each of the colonial states. It was a statement of war against the King and the southern states wouldn't sign without the express promise of slavery not being outlawed. Much of the northern and midatlantic had already abolished slavery, though many slaves still existed in the north by good old boys looking the other way. One of the few constitutional clauses that couldn't be ammended was the requirement that no laws hindering slavery would be passed federally until sometime in the early 1800's.
The institution never quite caught on so well in New England as it did in the South, for the obvious reason that the South had the prime tobacco land. Outside the southern colonies, slavery also did pretty well in New York and New Jersey. New Jersey still had 16 slaves on the books due to its very gradual emancipation law in 1860. They didn't even pass that law until 1804.
Those laws left lots of slaves in place, to serve a term before freedom and liable to be sold off into a jurisdiction with more slavery-friendly laws before their freedom dates came. Between legal cutoff dates and mandatory service to a certain age, most states outside New England still had residual and superannuated slaves up until the 1840s when separate legislation freed the lot.