Missouri Compromise

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Missouri Compromise,

1820–21, measures passed by the U.S. Congress to end the first of a series of crises concerning the extension of slavery.

By 1818, Missouri Territory had gained sufficient population to warrant its admission into the Union as a state. Its settlers came largely from the South, and it was expected that Missouri would be a slave state. To a statehood bill brought before the House of Representatives, James Tallmadge of New York proposed an amendment that would forbid importation of slaves and would bring about the ultimate emancipation of all slaves born in Missouri. This amendment passed the House (Feb., 1819), but not the Senate. The bitterness of the debates sharply emphasized the sectional division of the United States.

In Jan., 1820, a bill to admit Maine as a state passed the House. The admission of Alabama as a slave state in 1819 had brought the slave states and free states to equal representation in the Senate, and it was seen that by pairing Maine (certain to be a free state) and Missouri, this equality would be maintained. The two bills were joined as one in the Senate, with the clause forbidding slavery in Missouri replaced by a measure prohibiting slavery in the remainder of the Louisiana Purchase north of 36°30'N lat. (the southern boundary of Missouri). The House rejected this compromise bill, but after a conference committee of members of both houses was appointed, the bills were treated separately, and in Mar., 1820, Maine was made a state and Missouri was authorized to adopt a constitution having no restrictions on slavery.

A provision in the Missouri constitution barring the immigration of free blacks to the state was objectionable to many Northern Congressmen, and necessitated another congressional compromise. Not until the Missouri legislature pledged that nothing in its constitution would be interpreted to abridge the rights of citizens of the United States was the charter approved and Missouri admitted to the Union (Aug., 1821). Henry ClayClay, Henry,
1777–1852, American statesman, b. Hanover co., Va. Early Career

His father died when he was four years old, and Clay's formal schooling was limited to three years.
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, as speaker of the House, did much to secure passage of the compromise—so much, in fact, that he is generally regarded as its author, even though Senator Jesse B. Thomas of Illinois was far more responsible for the first bill. The 36°30' proviso held until 1854, when the Kansas-Nebraska ActKansas-Nebraska Act,
bill that became law on May 30, 1854, by which the U.S. Congress established the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. By 1854 the organization of the vast Platte and Kansas river countries W of Iowa and Missouri was overdue.
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 repealed the Missouri Compromise.


See studies by G. Moore (1953, repr. 1967) and R. H. Brown (1964).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Missouri Compromise


an agreement concluded between members of the US Congress in 1820 under which Missouri was admitted to the Union as a slave state and Maine as a free state. As a result of the compromise the slaveholding area expanded: slavery was prohibited only north of 36°30’ N lat. and west of the Mississippi River. It was subsequently decided that two states at a time would be admitted to the Union, one free and the other slave. The agreement was a concession by the bourgeois-farming North to the slaveholding South. The compromise was repealed in 1854 after the adoption of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.


Moore, G. Missouri Controversy, 1819–1821 Gloucester, Mass., 1967.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
1854 The Kansas-Nebraska Act becomes law, repealing the Missouri Compromise of 1820. 1856 Proslavery forces plunder Lawrence, Kansas.
And, with the Louisiana Purchase, the American Congress, in the form of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, began its long, partisan battles over that evil necessity, which in 40 years time would give shape to the Civil War.
Thereafter, new states, whether slave or free, were admitted in such a way as to preserve the balance, the process being formalized in the Missouri Compromise of 1820. But this was only reached after long and furious debates and the balance was precarious right from the start.
This opened up northern territories to slavery if the population wanted it and destroyed the Compromise of 1820.
In the North some people were infuriated because the law had the effect of repealing the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which said that there would never be slavery north of the southern boundary of Missouri, except for Missouri itself.
Where once slavery was thought a sideshow at the Constitutional Convention, a no-show in American political discourse until the Compromise of 1820, a recent push exploring the bounds of race and slavery in the early American republic is forcing a new consensus.