Key Facts & Summary:
- In the process of forming the new nation, there were deep tensions over the issue of slavery between in Congress and the rest of the country between the slave-owning states and the free states.
- In 1819, Missouri requested to join the Union as a slave state, disturbing the delicate balance between the number of free states and the slave owning states.
- It also drew a line across the former Louisiana Territory, establishing a boundary between free and slave-owning regions until it was repealed by the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854.
Immediately following the American Revolution, most Americans felt that slavery was inconsistent with the ideology of the new nations, and most Northern states began programs of gradual emancipation while southern states passed legislation enabling manumission. By the 1800s the Northern states had almost entirely abolished slavery, the southern states had clawed back on their manumission provisions, and therefore most slave-holding states were in the South.
Missouri territory first applied for statehood in 1817, and Congress started considering legislation that would enable the state to develop a constitution and be admitted to the Union. Missouri was the first state, after Louisiana within the area of the Louisiana Purchase to apply for statehood. Missouri territory wanted to be a state without slave restrictions, and the Northern states were not pleased with their intention.
Congress after the application began the process of developing the legislation that would enable Missouri to join the Union by 1818. At this time, the US consisted of twenty-two states, evenly divided between free and slave-owning states. Northern states were worried that admitting Missouri as a slave state would tip the scales and set the precedent of Congressional approval on the expansion of slavery.
The New York Congressman James Talmadge proposed amendments to the bill that limiting slavery in the states, that required no more slaves to be brought into Missouri and the children of slaves in the territory estimated to be about 20,000 to be set free at the age of 25.
The House of Representative approved the bill with Talmadge amendments, but the Senate rejected it and voted to have no restriction on slavery in Missouri. Voting in Congress was along the interests as most representatives in the House of Representatives were from Northern states and the Southern states controlling the Senate. Congress was adjourned without concluding the matter.
In the summer that followed, public opinion was mobilised in support of the Talmadge proposal. A genuine public opinion that slavery was no longer compatible to the new nation values were mixed with political expediency with most Federalist Party loyalist sought to use the slavery issue as a basis to galvanise support for their party.
Another bunch of Federalist Party loyalist also lobbied support among Democrats for a compromise away from the Tallmadge amendment to frustrate efforts to revive the party.
When Congress was reconvened in 1819, Maine also made their application for statehood as a free state but was facing frustration from Southern states.
The Senate allowed Maine to enter as a free state and Missouri without slave restrictions. Sen Jesse Thomas then added an amendment to the bill admitting Missouri that banned slavery in the greater Louisiana Purchase region north of latitude 36°30′.
Henry Clay then skillfully orchestrated a compromise by designing separate votes on the controversial issues, combining Sen. Jesse and Congressman Tallmadge and on March 1820 the House conclusively admitted Maine as a free state, and Missouri as slaveholding state and declared free soil all western territories north of Missouri’s southern border.
Later during the Missouri constitutional convention, the state attempted to exclude free slaves from the immunities and privileges guaranteed by the US. The state was then again permitted to join the Union with the understanding that the clause would be interpreted in a manner that undermined the rights of US citizens.
The Missouri Compromise was repealed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) and was declared unconstitutional in the Dred Scott decision of 1857. At the time of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Congress was occupied with debates on the passage of the transcontinental railroad. Illinois Senate Stephen Douglas wanted it to pass through Chicago, and he needed the support of the Southern states. To achieve his objective, the Senator introduce the Kansas-Nebraska bill that was approved by Congress that converted the Nebraska Territory into two states and provided that the states north of the 36°30′ parallel through popular sovereignty would decide their slave-owning status.
The Act effectively repealed the Missouri Compromise and later, in the Dred Scott Case, Justice Roger Taney ruled that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional.