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The Chattel PrincipleInternal Slave Trades in the Americas$
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Walter Johnson

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780300103557

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300103557.001.0001

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The Future Store

(p.1) 1 Introduction
The Chattel Principle

Walter Johnson

Yale University Press

This chapter presents the idea, which was commonplace among nineteenth-century opponents of slavery in Great Britain and the United States, that slavery's future ran through the slave market. Regulating or entirely closing the internal trade was seen as a way to cut off the flow of slaves between declining and emerging regions of slavery in the British West Indies and the United States, thus throwing the expansion of slavery into reverse and the system of slavery into decline. By controlling slavery spatially, they hoped to control it temporally as well. When the fugitive slave James W. C. Pennington wrote that “the being of slavery” lay in “the chattel principle,” he meant to trouble the boundary between “the slave trade” and the “rest of slavery.” He did so by arguing that even slaves who lived good lives would inevitably be drawn into the worst abuses of the system.

Keywords:   slavery's future, slave market, internal trade, fugitive slave, James W. C. Pennington, being of slavery, chattel principle

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