- Fellowship year:2011-2012
- University: John Hopkins University
- Dissertation Topic/Category: United States
- Dissertation Title: Against A Sea of Troubles: Ideology Politics and the Suppression of Americas Illegal Slave Trade
In 1808, the United States outlawed American participation in the transatlantic slave trade. The prevailing view of American involvement in the illegal slave trade generally amounts, at best, to an indictment of American apathy or, at worst, complicity in one of history’s worst crimes against humanity. In contrast, this dissertation will argue that the generation of Americans born in the wake of the Revolution took serious the suppression of the illegal slave trade, only to have the issue become a political albatross during the late antebellum period. The dissertation will establish that there was a prolonged period when many Americans – those termed slave trade “suppressionists” – attempted to extricate their fellow citizens from the illegal traffic. Politically, though, the seeds for the eventual defeat of the suppressionist movement were sown in the movement’s successes during the early republic. These successes invited invidious comparisons between the illicit transatlantic slave trade and the nation’s legal (and booming) domestic slave trade. Slaveholders regarded such comparisons as a serious threat to the chattel principal of slavery. Consequently, they withdrew their support for suppressionism in order to protect the institution of slavery itself. In time, the suppression of the illegal slave trade was relegated to a cause célèbre of the small abolitionist movement, enabling Americans to emerge during the late antebellum period as the dominant slave traffickers in the Atlantic World.