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Abstract

This paper deals with the complexity of the legal system in the American South during the Antebellum period. The laws put in place by the various Southern states during this era were constructed locally, and were a delicate balance of planters’ property rights, the need for slave regulation, and evangelical desire to defend their own way of life. But, the resulting outcome was the same in each case. The Southern states continuously pushed laws that reinforced the authority of the master with the help of political economists, judges, lawmakers, and of course the master class itself. Therefore, this paper emphasizes the laws that the South began altering or reaffirming in response to northern criticism during the same time. These laws took form in a variety of ways not simply state by state but also case by case. By examining many of the cases in these states, this essay deals with some of the larger impacts on slaves and the system of slavery as a whole due to these legal modifications. This paper contends that the intention of the South in these cases was the strengthening of the position of the master class, which in and of itself led to resulting legal decisions that were stamped out with the collapse of diplomacy and civil war.

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