Pennsylvania: An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery

(1780)

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On March 1, 1780, with the Revolution still raging and its outcome in doubt, the Pennsylvania legislature passed An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, making it the first legislature in history to take steps to abolish slavery. Pennsylvania's Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery is both idealistic and practical. It tries to balance the idea of liberty, which was at the heart of the Revolution, with the founding generation's deep respect for private property. The law also...