Heavy iron shackles like these were used to restrain an enslaved person during transit or as a punishment. According to the 1790 census, the United States consisted of nearly 3.9 million people—694,280 of whom were enslaved. Nearly half of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention were slaveholders; they grappled with the issue, unable to transcend their views on property rights and the interests of their individual states. Rather than ending or limiting slavery, they protected the practice, allowing the importation of slaves to continue for at least 20 more years.



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