The commerce and slave trade compromise was an agreement between Northern and Southern states of the United States of America. It forbade Congress to interfere with slave trades for at least twenty years and taxing the state exports. However, the Compromise allowed it to impose every imported slave that was brought to the country and remain taxes on the imported products.


The commerce and slave trade compromise was introduced to the delegates of the states at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. This historic Compromise was a result of a  negotiated agreement about commerce and slavery  between states to achieve common ground in the issue considering the adoption of the constitution. Southern and Northern states displayed opposite views on the problems raised: slavery and commerce demands.

At the time of the convention Northern, states had already banned slavery on their premises. Their delegates insisted that Congress needed to have the power to regulate all commerce, however southern states were naturally opposed to it. The southern states feared that if Congress took over all the trade, it would manipulate this power to prohibit slavery completely. They explained that the whole agricultural system of the Southern states depended on the slaves and their work.

As a result, Congress had no choice but to accept southern states’ demands and obtain the position of no power to regulate slavery in the country. However, the Congress gained some control in the economic trade field, allowing it to tax the imported from the foreign countries goods, including slaves. Delegates decide that slaveholders are obliged to pay for every new coming slave in the form of a $10 tax. Congress still had no power over the export taxes, or the instate taxes at all.

In the end, two opposing parties came to find middle ground concerning the numerous complex issue of trade and slavery. The three major compromises at the Constitutional Convention were:

  1. Slave Trade continues for at least 20 more years. Until 1808, nobody could review this issue;
  2. Congress had the authority to regulate taxes inside the country as well as imported ones. However, it could not tax anything that was exported.
  3. Every slave imported to the country had a tax price of $10.

This Compromise on the importation of slaves pacified southern delegates and permitted them to execute slavery on their land for another 20 years, while the opposing delegates had to hope for it to extinct by that time. However, the situation had only worsened over the two decades, with slavery becoming bigger every following year.

At the same time, with the commerce compromise Congress acquired the power to tax imported products from other countries, which allowed the country to reduce the industrial competition and widen the domestic tax base. On the other hand, Congress had no power to tax the exported goods, which was a compromise with the Southern states.

The Constitutional convention turned out in complete demolishment of the Northern representatives. In the Commerce and slave trade compromise states that benefited were only Southern. Congress gave in to the demands of the Southern representatives, consequently narrowing the power of Congress to regulate slavery and a big part of commerce. The Congress was an illusion of governmental institution with little influence over firm southern representatives.