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Central to the development of the American legal system is the institution of slavery. It informs us about early concepts of race and property and also about the nature of American democracy itself.
In this volume, historians of slavery and legal scholars analyze the intricate relationship between slavery, race and the law from the earliest Black Codes in colonial America to the passage of the Fugutive Slave Law and the ""Dred Scott"" decision prior to the Civil War. The essays focus on comparative slave law, auctioneering practices, rules of evidence and property rights, as well as issues of criminality, punishment and constitutional law.
What emerges from this portrait is a complex legal system designed to ensure the property rights of slave-holders and to institutionalize racism. The ultimate result was to strangthen the institution of slavery in the midst of a growing trend towards democracy in the mid-19th-century Atlantic community.