I think an interesting research question would be: How did The Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves of 1807, impact the long term goals of abolition?
This is an interesting question for me because I think it would be interesting to explore catalysts of abolition, even at the abolition movement’s inception.
Step One: Understand the Act of 1807
The first thing that I would do to explore this research question is to read the 1807 act in its entirety. If possible, I would try to find some kind of “translation” into lamens terms of current English because 1800 English can be difficult to read at some points. After reading the Act, I would look up some type of summary from a trusted secondary source (such as https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/eras/colonial-postrev/act-to-prohibit-the-importation-of-slaves-1807). After I fully understand the Act of 1807, I would move into finding primary sources of the event.
Step Two: Look for Primary Sources
Currently, I am having a tough time finding primary sources from 1807/1808 speaking about the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves. I found this source from the Library Of Congress that brings up a photo of the law and will put it in PDF form to make it easier to read : (https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.22800200/). Here is a transcription from the Library of Congress of Jefferson’s message to congress where he condemns slavery and promotes the Act saying, “…to withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further participation in those violations of human rights which have been so long continued on the unoffending inhabitants of Africa…” (https://www.loc.gov/resource/mtj1.037_0012_0030/?q=Louisiana&sp=6&st=text).
Step Three: Secondary Sources
After searching for primary sources I think it would be a good idea to look for some secondary sources that explain the impact of the Act from a historian’s point of view. I found an interview from NPR with a prominent historian named, Eric Foner. He goes on to say in the interview that, “ The ban of 1808 did basically stop the importation of slaves from Africa or from the West Indies…”, he goes on to say that, “… it certainly ended what had been before then an open, legal and fairly large slave trade.” In the interview, Foner goes on to say that not many Americans see this a large win for abolitionists because after this law was enacted slavery actually increased in this country.
Step Four: Next Steps
Overall I was surprised by the lack of primary sources (at least that I could find) about this event. Some other steps that I would take to answer this question would to be find more primary sources and find more opinions from historians to compare the thoughts of people at the moment, to now. I would also like to throw my personal option onto this question as well. Reasonably, I could say that this Act seemed good in the time but did not have the true desired effect…the abolition of slavery. It had the superficial effect of stopping the importation of the enslaved but unfortunately, the damage was done. Some histories believe that this is the first time the USA condemned slavery, and I would agree. Based on preliminary research, I could research why the Act did not have it’s desired effect. Or I could research what more could have been done at this time to slow the expansion of slavery in the US south.