Missouri Compromise

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 Clay, 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 The 36°30′ proviso held until 1854, when the Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed the Missouri Compromise.

See studies by G. Moore (1953, repr. 1967) and R. H. Brown (1964).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Missouri Compromise: Selected full-text books and articles

The Missouri Compromise and Its Aftermath: Slavery and the Meaning of America By Robert Pierce Forbes University of North Carolina Press, 2007
Student's Guide to Landmark Congressional Laws on Civil Rights By Marcus D. Pohlmann; Linda Vallar Whisenhunt Greenwood Press, 2002
Librarian's tip: Chap. 7 "Missouri Compromise (1820);" The text of the Missouri Compromise begins on p. 38
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Issues in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates By Harry V. Jaffa Doubleday, 1959
Librarian's tip: Chap. V "The Repeal of the Missouri Compromise I: The Legal Power and Practical Impotence of Federal Prohibitions of Slavery in the Territories"
FREE! Rise of the New West, 1819-1829 By Frederick Jackson Turner Harper and Brothers, 1906
Librarian's tip: Chap. X "The Missouri Compromise (1819-1821)"
Political and Social Growth of the American People, 1492-1865 By Homer Carey Hockett Macmillan, 1940 (3rd edition)
Librarian's tip: Chap. XXI "Slavery and the Missouri Compromise"
"The Crime against Missouri": Slavery, Kansas, and the Cant of Southernness in the Border West By Phillips, Christopher Civil War History, Vol. 48, No. 1, March 2002
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Road to Disunion: Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854 By William W. Freehling Oxford University Press, vol.1, 1991
Librarian's tip: Chap. 8 "The Missouri Controversy"
FREE! The United States of America By David Saville Muzzey Ginn, 1922
Librarian's tip: "The Missouri Compromise and the Monroe Doctrine" begins on p. 309
A History of the South, 1607-1936 By William B. Hesseltine Prentice-Hall, 1936
Librarian's tip: "The Missouri Compromise" begins on p. 210
Stephen A. Douglas and Popular Sovereignty By Dean, Eric T., Jr The Historian, Vol. 57, No. 4, Summer 1995
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Slave Catchers: Enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law, 1850-1860 By Stanley W. Campbell University of North Carolina Press, 1970
Librarian's tip: Discussion of the Missouri Compromise begins on p. 81
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