Bell Ringers
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By sunshinecavalluzzi
On August 26, 2018

Bell Ringer: The Slave Trade Compromise

"The Framers Tried to Put Slavery on the Course of Extinction"

Pepperdine University professor Gordon Lloyd discusses the creation of the Commerce and Slave Trade compromise at the Constitutional convention.


During the Constitutional Convention, a debate arose over the future of the slave trade in the United States. While the slave trade was illegal in most of the country at the time, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia, the only three states where it was still permitted, threatened to leave the convention if the new Constitution banned it. Ultimately, a compromise was negotiated wherein the slave trade would not be banned for twenty years, but could be taxed. Article 1, Section 9, Clause 1 of the final Constitution read "The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person." In March 1807, Congress passed an act to “prohibit the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States…from any foreign kingdom, place, or country” that took effect January 1, 1808.

Bell Ringer Assignment

  • Which state, according to Professor Lloyd, led the opposition to a ban on the slave trade?
  • Why, according to Professor Lloyd, was the debate over the slave trade so important to both sides?
  • In what way could the Slave Trade Compromise be considered a victory for the southern states? In what way could it be considered a victory for abolitionists?
  • AP Gov Questions to Consider: How was this Constitutional compromise reflective of federalism? Was it more reflective of participatory democracy, pluralist democracy, or elite democracy?

Additional Resource



    • Constititional Compromise
    • Constitution
    • Constitutional Convention
    • Slave Trade


    AP U.S. Government Key TermsConstitutional FoundationLegislative Branch


    Middle SchoolHigh School