Little Bits of History

Missouri Compromise

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 6, 2013
Missouri Compromise

Missouri Compromise

March 6, 1820: US President James Monroe signs the Missouri Compromise into law. The Compromise was reached between the anti-slavery and pro-slavery states concerning the western territories. The Louisiana Territory covered a vast area of land purchased from France in 1805. Louisiana was the first state created from the new land. Next, the District of Arkansas was formed. The Upper Louisiana Territory covered lands all the way to the Canadian border.

Link for the changing map showing slave and free states is here.

There were an even number of free and slave states in the Union. The Compromise allowed for two new states to be admitted – Maine (a free state) and Missouri (a slave state). With the exception of the lands included within Missouri’s borders, all territory north of the 36’30º latitude line would prohibit slavery. The Compromise was not easily reached. On February 17, 1820, the Senate agreed to prohibit slavery in the Louisiana Territory, except for Missouri, by a vote of 24 to 20. The House of Representatives rejected the bill.

The House would permit Missouri’s request for statehood without slavery by March 1. More meetings. On March 2, the House again voted and Missouri was allowed slavery with a vote of 90 to 87 and the rest of the Louisiana Territory would prohibit slavery with a vote of 134 to 42. Compromise was reached, for a time, and the President signed the Bill into Law. The wide open lands of the west brought settlers to the area and other lands began to ask for admittance to the Union.

In 1854, while trying to create opportunities for building a railroad, the Kansas-Nebraska Act was slightly altered by Stephen A. Douglas (D-Illinois) who wrote in a piece concerning popular sovereignty. This would allow states to choose for themselves whether or not to permit slavery within their borders. Prohibiting slavery in Territories was also excluded. The passage of this Act legally eliminated the Missouri Compromise. In the Dred Scott v. Sandford case of 1857, the US Supreme Court ruled the Missouri Compromise as unconstitutional and also found that blacks and mulattos did not qualify as US citizens.

“The spread of evil is the symptom of a vacuum. whenever evil wins, it is only by default: by the moral failure of those who evade the fact that there can be no compromise on basic principles.” – Ayn Rand

“Lasting change is a series of compromises. And compromise is all right, as long your values don’t change.” – Jane Goodall

“From the beginning of our history the country has been afflicted with compromise. It is by compromise that human rights have been abandoned. I insist that this shall cease. The country needs repose after all its trials; it deserves repose. And repose can only be found in everlasting principles.” – Charles Sumner

“All government – indeed, every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and every prudent act – is founded on compromise and barter.” – Edmund Burke

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 US, 393 was argued February 11-14, 1856 and reargued December 15-18 of the same year. The decision was handed down on March 6, 1857 – exactly 37 years after the Missouri Compromise was signed into law. The Supreme Court ruled that the federal government had no power to regulate slavery in the territories. It also held that people of African descent, whether free or slave, were not covered by the Constitution and were not citizens of the US. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution, adopted on July 9, 1868, overruled the decision once again and declared that all persons born in the US were citizens with all the rights and responsibilities that entailed. There were still issues with Native Americans who were part of tribal nations to be resolved at later dates.

Also on this day: Edgar Allan Poe – In 1831, Poe was expelled from West Point.

Remember the Alamo – In 1836, the Alamo fell.
Aches and Pains – In 1899, aspirin was patented.

One Response

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on March 6, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    In this article there is too much talk about what US President James Monroe did and not enough about the voting in the state that decided if they wanted to be in the union-not what the one individual wanted. There was much more to be considered than the slavery in the other states- not even an issue to the future citizens in the state. The mere fact that others had issues did not mean that the people of Missouri cared about slavery or what the others cared about.

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