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Free Trade, Sovereignty, and Slavery: Toward an Economic Interpretation of American Independence

Staughton Lynd and David Waldstreicher
The William and Mary Quarterly
Vol. 68, No. 4 (October 2011), pp. 597-630
DOI: 10.5309/willmaryquar.68.4.0597
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5309/willmaryquar.68.4.0597
Page Count: 34
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Free Trade, Sovereignty, and Slavery: Toward an Economic Interpretation of American Independence
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Abstract

“Free Trade, Sovereignty, and Slavery” offers a broad economic interpretation of the coming of the American Revolution. It does not ignore or discount leadership and political rhetoric but seeks to overcome what the authors term “historiographical amnesia” concerning economic causes. Examination of arguments made both in Great Britain and by delegates to the First and Second Continental Congresses, as well as the reasoning of Thomas Jefferson’s several “dress rehearsals” for the Declaration of Independence, reveals unappreciated relationships between the Founders’ desire to break away from imperial regulation of trade and their failure to abolish slavery. The essay perceives the American Revolution as one among many efforts by colonies anxious to determine their own destinies rather than the ‘exceptional’ event presented both by recent scholarship and by opinion makers outside the academy.

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