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Throughout the period before the American Civil War, petitions and memorials relating to the slavery question appear in many records of the United States Congress. Between 1836 and 1844, the 21st rule of the U.S. House of Representatives (the so-called gag rule) provided that no petition relating to the abolition of slavery would be entertained in any way; therefore, all such petitions and memorials received during that period were tabled.

During this period, hundreds of petitions (5 ft.) relating to the abolition of slavery, slavery in the District of Columbia, fugitive slave laws and fugitive slaves, the admission of slave states, slavery in the territories, African colonization and repeal of the 21st rule were tabled.

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