Missouri Compromise

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Related to Missouri Compromise: Dred Scott Decision, Compromise of 1850

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).

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.
References in periodicals archive ?
Thirty years after the Constitution patched over slavery, the nation tried again with the Missouri Compromise.
Indeed, Polk found himself, like Monroe, acting as a crucial intermediary on the slavery question, forced to take a stance (in favor of the Missouri Compromise line) on an issue that was not really his concern; indeed, his most-preferred position was to take no position on the status of slavery in the newly acquired territories.
This divide recalls the Cartesian mind/body dualism, whose split between embodied and disembodied planes of existence hampers the expansionist project outlined in Ichabod's pioneering delusions and in the model of national growth assumed in the Missouri Compromise and the Monroe Doctrine.
Prior to 1847, popular sovereignty had always operated in southern territories, as the terms of the Southwest Ordinance of 1790 and the Missouri Compromise gave citizens south of a geographical line the right to permit or prohibit slavery, with the expectation that they would allow it.
The Missouri Compromise allowed slavery in that state but prevented its emergence in other areas of the country.
Issues covered include the Bill of Rights, the Missouri Compromise, Wilmot Proviso, the Homestead Act, the 14th and 19th amendments, the Treaty of Paris and American policy regarding the Philippines, the League of Nations, the Fair Labor Standards Act, McCarthyism, the Civil Rights Acts of 1875 and 1964, the War Powers Resolution of 1973, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the Iraq War Resolution.
In 1857 the US Supreme Court's decision in the Dred Scott case, which declared the Missouri Compromise of 1820 banning slavery north of latitude 36[degrees] 20' N to be unconstitutional, sharpened tensions on the issue.
More specifically, we will also discover the true ground on which to assess the constitutionality of the Missouri Compromise, struck down in Dred Scott--and indeed, all of the old territorial "compromise" statutes.
The Court also held that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional, that Congress could not forbid slavery in future territories acquired by the United States, and that Scott remained a slave under Missouri law.
Landing finally in Missouri, it is explained to him that he should be considered free because of the Missouri Compromise.
In a 7 to 2 decision, the Court ruled that slaves were personal property under the Constitution, so the (already repealed) Missouri Compromise, which outlawed slavery in federal territories, was unconstitutional.
Severs found the block called Missouri Compromise in a quilt book about state blocks.

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