What Were William Paterson’s Views on Slavery?

One of the founders and writers of the Constitution of the United States, William Paterson was opposed to slavery. His stance was supported by his belief in representation, liberties and promotion of rights and freedoms under law. To support his goal of abolishing slavery, Paterson worked with others of similar thoughts and principles at the 1787 Constitutional Convention to abolish the practice in the new constitution.

William Paterson was from New Jersey, where he also served as Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court and the Attorney General of New Jersey. He represented New Jersey in the drafting and the signing of the new Constitution. He envisaged a fair and all-encompassing Constitution. During the 1787 Constitutional Convention, William Paterson’s statements and efforts to abolish slavery led to the inclusion of the ability of Congress to end the international slave trade beginning in 1808. He had previously stated that Congress was ashamed of the term “slaves,” the shame becoming particularly more apparent in the debates on the African slave trade. Paterson therefore urged the other representatives to revise the parts of the Constitution that seemed to support slavery and the African slave trade. Paterson also believed that each free citizen ought to be of equal importance.