Free state (United States)

Free state (United States)

The free states of the United States existed in opposition to the slave states prior to the American Civil War. The term "free state" described a state in the antebellum United States in which slavery was either prohibited or eliminated over time.


The Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States, including Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, had legally sanctioned slavery in the 17th, 18th and even part of the 19th centuries, but in the generation or two before the American Civil War, almost all slaves had been emancipated through a series of statutes.

The first U.S. region entirely free of slavery was the Midwest, which was ordained free under the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, passed just before the U.S. Constitution was ratified. The states created from this region—Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota —were generally settled by New Englanders and American Revolutionary War veterans granted land there. Because this region was entirely slave free from its inception and separated by the Ohio River from the South—which was pushing an expansion of legal slavery into the West—the concept developed of "free states" in contrast to "slave states." The rural Midwest, at one time in direct East-West rivalry with the Northeastern commercial states, realigned with the Northeastern states, newly free of slavery and together created the amalgamation of states prohibiting slavery, known in the context of the Civil War as the free states.

Anti-slavery settlers in "Bleeding Kansas" in the 1850s were called "Free-Staters", because they fought (successfully) to include Kansas in the Union as a free state.

At the beginning of the Civil War, the 19 free states were as follows: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Iowa, Oregon and California. In New Jersey, there were still slaves at the time of the Civil War. New Jersey law called for the gradual emancipation of slaves, and by the time of the Civil War most but not all slaves in that state had been freed.

Original state-based abolition efforts

Prior to the American Revolution, all of the British North American colonies had slavery, but the Revolutionary War gave impetus to a general anti-slavery sentiment. The Northwest Territory, now known as the Midwest, was organized under the Northwest Ordinance with a prohibition on slavery in 1787. Massachusetts accepted that its 1780 Constitution effectively abolished slavery, and several other northern states adopted statutes requiring gradual emancipation. In 1804, New Jersey became the last state to embark on the course of gradual emancipation.

End of slave states

Maryland and the pro-Union government of Missouri abolished slavery during the Civil War.The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified December 6, 1865, abolished slavery throughout the United States, ending the distinction. Ratification of the 13th Amendment was a prerequisite for the return of local rule to those states that had seceded.

ee also

* Slave state
* Border states (Civil War)

External links

* [ Slavery in the North]
* []

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