Missouri Compromise of 1820

2672 words 11 pages
The Missouri Compromise of 1820

In November of 1818, Missouri petitioned Congress for statehood and ignited a controversy over slavery and a balance of power in the Senate that would span two sessions of Congress and threaten the dissolution of the Union and a civil war. Prior to the Missouri question, the Union had eleven Free states and eleven slave states, each with two Senators. The Missouri Territory, carved out of land acquired in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, covered an expanse of land just north of the Ohio River and just west of the Mississippi (these rivers joined in the southeastern corner of the territory). According to the terms of the Ordinance of 1787, which prohibited slavery in the Northwest Territory, the Missouri
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“The institution of slavery and it implications,” (Forner 270) as James Madison said, divided the delegates, which included both slaveholders and abolitionists. The Constitution’s slavery clauses, although the words “slave” and “slavery” are never used in the Constitution, became an effort to narrow the sectional divide between the North and the South. Unfortunately, the clauses ended up widening the divide and entrenching slavery further into American life and politics. The clauses included prohibition from abolishing the African slave trade for 20 years, requiring states to return fugitive slaves to their owners and continuing the condition of bondage even if the slave escaped to a free state. The clauses also allowed the slave states to count their slave population in order to determine each state’s representation in the House and subsequently the amount of electoral votes for the President (the three-fifths clause). This was a victory for the South and slavery (Forner 270-71), indeed, “[t]he North paid that price in order to obtain a government that would protect its commercial, financial, and industrial interests” (Glover 8). The clauses restricted the government from interfering with slavery in the pro-slave states, and gave the South more significant representation in the House and greater control in national affairs (Forner 270-71). The adoption of the clauses into the Constitution did not aid the North and the South in finding common


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