Evading the Ordinance: The Persistence of Bondage in Indiana and Illinois
Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 21-51, 1989
32 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2009 Last revised: 21 Aug 2009
Date Written: 1989
This article explores the Ordinance of 1787, Article VI of which prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude in the Northwest Territory. However, based on the will of the people, it did not abolish slavery in either Indiana or Illinois as the leaders allowed de facto slavery through long-term indentures, rental contracts, enforcement statutes, and recognition of slave status for those brought in as slaves before 1787. The territories were able to justify the practice under the full faith and credit clause and the legal fiction of respecting allegedly voluntary contracts originating from other states. The petitioners in the northeast argued that if Congress allowed short term slavery, they would support gradual emancipation (as the children of life servants would be free though indentured through adulthood), to which they argued would benefit their local economy, encourage settlement east of the Mississippi, and benefit the nation by diffusing the concentration of blacks in other parts of the U.S.
Keywords: northwest territory, de facto slavery
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