Missouri Compromise

(redirected from Missouri Compromise of 1820)
Also found in: Dictionary, Legal.

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.
..... Click the link for more information.
, 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.
..... Click the link for more information.
 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 ?
This was the bargain struck over and over, from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, (13) and the Missouri Compromise of 1820, (14) through the Compromise of 1850, (15) to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.
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.
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.
Going beyond the specific case, the Court also said that Congress had no power to prohibit slavery in territories and therefore the Missouri Compromise of 1820, already repealed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act, was unconstitutional.

Full browser ?