Saturday, March 6, 2010

Today is the 190th Aniversary of the Missouri Compromise

Missouri Compromise
In an effort to preserve the balance of power in Congress between slave and free states, the Missouri Compromise was passed in 1820 admitting Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state. Furthermore, with the exception of Missouri, this law prohibited slavery in the Louisiana Territory north of the 36° 30´ latitude line. In 1854, the Missouri Compromise was repealed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Three years later the Missouri Compromise was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott decision, which ruled that Congress did not have the authority to prohibit slavery in the territories.

The Missouri Compromise
In 1817 the inhabitants of the Territory of Missouri petitioned Congress for admission into the Union as a State. A bill was introduced into Congress (Feb. 13, 1819) for that purpose, when James Tallmadge, Jr., of New York, moved to insert a clause prohibiting any further introduction of slaves within its domains, and granting freedom to the children of those already there, on their attaining the age of twenty-five years. This motion brought the slavery question again before Congress most conspicuously. After a three days' vehement debate, it was carried, 87 to 76. As a companion to the Missouri bill, an-other to organize the Territory of Arkansas was introduced (Feb. 16).

When it was taken up, John W. Taylor, of New York, moved to add a provision that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude should hereafter be introduced into any part of the Territories of the United States north of lat. 36° 30' N., the northern boundary of the proposed new Territory of Arkansas. Arthur Livermore, of New Hampshire, who had been zealous for the Missouri restrictions, conceived that this proposition had been made " in the true spirit of compromise," but thought that line of division not sufficiently favorable to freedom. Gen. W. H. Harrison agreed to the necessity of some such partition, but he proposed a line due west from the mouth of the Des Moines River, thus giving up to slavery the State of Missouri and all territory south of that latitude. This partition policy was warmly opposed by a large number of members of Congress from the North and the South, declaring themselves hostile to any compromise whatever. Slaverywas either right or wrong, and there could be no compromise. Taylor withdrew his motion.

The proposition for a compromise which was finally agreed to was originated by a Northern member, and not by Henry Clay, of Kentucky, as is generally supposed. This Missouri bill caused one of the most exciting debates on the slavery question ever before known in the national legislature. Extreme doctrines and foolish threats were uttered on both sides. Southern members threatened a dissolution of the Union. There was much adroit management by the party leaders, who used great dexterity in trying to avoid a compromise—for one party insisted upon Missouri entering, if at all, as a free-labor State, and the other party insisted that it should enter as a slave-labor State. But compromise seemed to be the only door through which Missouri might enter; and, by adroit management, a compromise bill was carried, March 2, 1820, by a vote of 134 against 42. John Randolph denounced it as " a dirty bargain," and the eighteen Northern men who voted for it as " dough-faces."

There was an almost solid North against admitting Missouri as a slave-labor State. President Monroe consulted his cabinet concerning the constitutionality of the act. The matter was allowed to go over until the next session, and it occupied much time during that session. At length Henry Clay moved a joint committee (February, 1821) to consider whether or not it was expedient to admit Missouri into the Union; and if not, what provision adapted to her actual condition ought to be made. The motion prevailed—101 to 55—all of the Southern members, excepting Randolph and two or three followers, voting for it. The committee was appointed, and soon reported. The closing decision on the Missouri question was finally reached by the adoption of a compromise, Feb. 27, 1821, substantially as proposed by Taylor, of New York, in 1819—namely, that in all territory north of lat. 36° 30' N. (outside the boundary of the State of Missouri) slavery should not exist, but should be forever prohibited in the region north of that line. But Missouri was admitted as a slave-labor State. In the course of the later debates there was much angry feeling displayed, and unwise men, North and South, uttered the cry of disunion. A member from Georgia said, pathetically, in the course of the debate: " A fire has been kindled which all the waters of the ocean cannot put out, and which only seas of blood can extinguish." The " seas of blood " shed in the Civil War did alone extinguish it.

When President Monroe hesitated about signing the Missouri Compromise act, and laid the matter before his cabinet, he submitted two questions to his advisers: Has Congress the power to prohibit slavery in a Territory? and was the term " forever," in the prohibitive clause in the bill, to be understood as referring only to the territorial condition of the district to which it related, or was it an attempt to extend the prohibition of slavery to such States as might be erected therefrom? The cabinet was unanimous in the affirmative on the first question. On the second question, John Quincy Adams (Secretary of State) thought the term meant forever, and not to be limited to the existence of the territorial condition of the district. Others limited it to the territorial condition—a territorial " forever "—and not interfering with the right of any State formed from it to establish or prohibit slavery. Calhoun wished not to have this question mooted, and at his suggestion the second question was modified into the mere inquiry, Is the provision, as it stands in the bill, constitutional or not? This was essentially a different question. To it all could answer yes, and did so answer in writing. This writing was ordered to be deposited in the archives of state, but it afterwards mysteriously disappeared. The act was then signed by the President, but with a different understanding from that which had been adopted by Congress.

Missouri Compromise of 1820: The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was a congressional agreement that regulated the extension of Slavery in the United States for the next 30 years. Under the agreement the territory of Missouri was admitted as a slave state, the territory of Maine was admitted as a free state, and the boundaries of slavery were limited to the same latitude as the southern boundary of Missouri: 36° 30' north latitude.The issue of slavery had been troublesome since the drafting of the Constitution. Slave-holding states, concerned that they would be outvoted in Congress because their white population was much smaller than that of the free states, extracted concessions.

Under the Constitution, representation of the U.S. House of Representatives was based on the total white population and three-fifths of the black population. The Constitution apportioned two senators for each state.By 1820, however, the rapid growth in population in the North left Southern states, for the first time, with less than 45 percent of the seats in the House. The Senate was evenly balanced between eleven slave and eleven free states. Therefore, Missouri's 1818 application for state-hood, if approved, would give slave-holding seats a majority in the Senate and reduce the Northern majority in the House.After a bill was introduced in the House in 1818 to approve Missouri's application for state-hood, Representative James Tallmadge of New York introduced an amendment that prohibited the further introduction of slavery in Missouri and required that any slave born there be emancipated at age 25. The bill passed the House but was defeated in the Senate, where Southern strength was greater.In 1819 the free territory of Maine applied for statehood.

Speaker of the House Henry Clay of Kentucky saw this event as an opportunity to maintain the balance of free and slave states. He made it clear to Northern congressmen that Maine would not be admitted without an agreement to admit Missouri. Clay was successful, getting the Northern congressmen to drop their amendment restricting slavery while winning Southern congressmen over to the idea of limiting slavery to the 36° 30' north latitude. This provision, in effect, left unsettled portions of the Louisiana Purchase north and west of Missouri free from slavery. The only area remaining for further expansion of slavery was the future territory of Arkansas and Oklahoma. Clay managed to pass the compromise in the House by a three-vote margin. Missouri and Maine were to be admitted to the Union simultaneously to preserve the sectional equality in the Senate.In 1821 Missouri complicated matters, however, by inserting a provision into its state constitution that forbade any free blacks or mulattoes (people of mixed Caucasian and African-American heritage) to enter the state. In 1820 a dispute erupted over the extension of slavery in Missouri Territory. Clay helped settle this dispute by gaining Congressional approval for a plan called the "Missouri Compromise." It brought in Maine as a free state and Missouri as a slave state (thus maintaining the balance in the Senate, which had included 11 free and 11 slave states), and it forbade slavery north of 36┬║ 30' (the northern boundary of Arkansas) except in Missouri.
Northern congressmen objected to this language and refused to give final approval for statehood until it was removed. Clay then negotiated a second compromise, removing the contested language and substituting a provision that prohibited Missouri from discriminating against citizens from other states. It left unsettled the question of who was a citizen. With this change Missouri and Maine were admitted to the Union. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 merely postponed the conflict over slavery. As new territories were annexed to the Union, new compromises with slavery became necessary. The Compromise of 1850 redrew the territorial map of slavery and altered the 36° 30' north latitude prescription of the Missouri Compromise. California was admitted as a free state, and the Utah and New Mexico territories were open to slavery. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 repealed the Missouri Compromise. This new law provided for the organization of two new territories that allowed slavery, Kansas and Nebraska, both north of the 1820 Missouri Compromise line of 36° 30' north latitude. The land open to slavery drove deep into the north and west.

In an April 21 letter, former president Thomas Jefferson wrote that the division of the country created by the Compromise line would eventually lead to the destruction of the Union:
“but this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. it is hushed indeed for the moment. but this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence. a geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper"

The president of the United States of America at the time was James Monroe (1817-1825).
Missouri Compromise
The era of "good feelings" endured until 1824, and carried over to John Quincy Adams who was elected President by the House of Representatives in what Andrew Jackson alleged to be a "corrupt bargain." Monroe's popularity, however, was undiminished even when following difficult nationalist policies as the country's commitment to nationalism was starting to show serious fractures. The Panic of 1819 caused a painful economic depression. The application for statehood by the Missouri Territory, in 1819, as a slave state failed. An amended bill for gradually eliminating slavery in Missouri precipitated two years of bitter debate in Congress. The Missouri Compromise bill resolved the struggle, pairing Missouri as a slave state with Maine, a free state, and barring slavery north of the latitude 36/30' N forever. The Missouri Compromise lasted until 1857, when it was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court as part of the Dred Scott decision.

President James Monroe's Sect of State was John Quincy Adams and he wrote in his journal:
Reflections on the Missouri Question (1820), John Quincy Adams
As Monroe mentioned to Jackson in his 23 May 1820 letter, the nation was wrestling not only with matters of state but with matters within the states as well. The question of Missouri's admittance to the union had "excited feelings & raised difficulties, of an internal nature, which did not exist before." Actually the difficulties—those concerning the extension of slavery, the corresponding expansion of slaveholder power, and the respective rights of the people, states, and Congress—were not totally new, but while they had been subdued in the "Era of Good Feelings," they now burst forth in greater vigor and viciousness. The debate began in early 1819 when there were enough people in the territory around and including the town of St. Louis to constitute a new state. Considering how the nation had celebrated the admittance of each new state up to this time as a confirmation of America's power and prosperity, there should not have been a problem. One developed, however, when Representative James Tallmadge, Jr., of New York proposed that Congress make a prohibition on the future importation of slaves into the area and introduce a system of gradual manumission as a condition of admission. Slaveowners in Missouri and elsewhere countered by arguing that Congress did not have the right to so restrict a state's power and an individual's right to control his property. John Quincy Adams, because of personal inclination as well as his professional responsibility to advise the president, observed and commented on the
the "Missouri question" as Congress and country debated the issue for over a year.

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