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Debates over Slavery


After the revolt, some Virginians turned to the legislative process to address their lingering fears about black violence. When the Virginia General Assembly convened in December, they had numerous petitions to consider relating to the role slavery and free blacks should play in the state moving forward.


A debate ensued in the House of Representatives during January and February of 1832. In the weeks they discussed the issue, legislators considered enacting laws that would gradually end slavery, reduce the number of free African Americans in the state, or strenghthen controls over slaves.


In the end, they voted to curtail slaves' privileges and to put their efforts into exploring ways of ridding Virginia of the free blacks whom many whites believed set a dangerous example for those in bondage. Historians often consider the publication of Thomas Dew's pamphlet on this debate, published in April 1832, as the closing of public discussion about the possibility of ending slavery in the Upper South.

Background Image:

Abolitionists and slave owners debating the issue of slavery

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