Missouri Compromise

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Related to Missouri Compromise: Dred Scott Decision, Compromise of 1850

Missouri Compromise

The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was a congressional agreement that regulated the extension of Slavery in the United States for thirty 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.

By 1818 the rapid growth in population in the North had left the Southern states, for the first time, with less than 45 percent of the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The U.S. Senate was evenly balanced between eleven slave and eleven free states. Therefore, Missouri's 1818 application for statehood, if approved, would give the slave states a majority in the Senate and reduce the Northern majority in the House.

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 representatives that Maine would not be admitted without an agreement to admit Missouri. Clay persuaded opponents of slavery to drop efforts to ban it in the territories. In return, the Southern states agreed to limit slavery to the territory below 36°30′ north latitude. Under this provision the unsettled portions of the Louisiana Purchase north and west of Missouri would be free from slavery. The only area remaining for further expansion of slavery would be the territory that would become Arkansas and Oklahoma. To preserve the sectional equality in the Senate, Missouri and Maine were to be admitted to the Union simultaneously. Clay managed to pass the compromise in the House by a three-vote margin.

In 1821 Missouri complicated matters, however, by inserting a provision into its state constitution that prohibited free blacks and mulattoes from entering the state. Northern representatives objected to this language and refused to give final approval for statehood until it was removed. Clay then negotiated a second compromise that removed the offensive language from the Missouri constitution and substituted a provision that prohibited Missouri from discriminating against citizens from other states. Left unsettled was the question of who was a citizen. With this change Missouri and Maine were admitted to the Union. Source: Statutes at Large, vol. 6 (1822), pp. 545–548, 645; Ben Perley Poore, ed., The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the United States, vol. 2 (1878), pp. 1107–1108.

Missouri Compromise

An Act to Authorize the People of the Missouri Territory to Form a Constitution and State Government, and for the Admission of Such State into the Union on an Equal Footing with the Original States, and to Prohibit Slavery in Certain Territories


Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, that the inhabitants of that portion of the Missouri territory included within the boundaries hereinafter designated, be, and they are hereby, authorized to form for themselves a constitution and state government and to assume such name as they shall deem proper; and the said state, when formed, shall be admitted into the Union, upon an equal footing with the original states, in all respects whatsoever.


And be it further enacted, that the said state shall consist of all the territory included within the following boundaries, to wit: beginning in the middle of the Mississippi River, on the parallel of thirty-six degrees of north latitude; thence west, along that parallel of latitude, to the St. Francis River; thence up, and following the course of that river, in the middle of the main channel thereof, to the parallel of latitude of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes; thence west, along the same, to a point where the said parallel is intersected by a meridian line passing through the middle of the mouth of the Kansas River, where the same empties into the Missouri River, thence, from the point aforesaid north, along the said meridian line, to the intersection of the parallel of latitude which passes through the rapids of the river Des Moines, making the said line to correspond with the Indian boundary line; thence east, from the point of intersection last aforesaid, along the said parallel of latitude, to the middle of the channel of the main fork of the said river Des Moines; thence down and along the middle of the main channel of the said river Des Moines, to the mouth of the same, where it empties into the Mississippi River; thence, due east, to the middle of the main channel of the Mississippi River; thence down, and following the course of the Mississippi River, in the middle of the main channel thereof, to the place of beginning: provided, the said state shall ratify the boundaries aforesaid. And provided also, that the said state shall have concurrent jurisdiction on the river Mississippi and every other river bordering on the said state, so far as the said rivers shall form a common boundary to the said state; and any other state or states, now or hereafter to be formed and bounded by the same, such rivers to be common to both; and that the river Mississippi and the navigable rivers and waters leading into the same shall be common highways, and forever free, as well to the inhabitants of the said state as to other citizens of the United States, without any tax, duty, impost, or toll, therefore, imposed by the said state.


And be it further enacted, that all free white male citizens of the United States, who shall have arrived at the age of twenty-one years, and have resided in said territory three months previous to the day of election, and all other persons qualified to vote for representatives to the general assembly of the said territory, shall be qualified to be elected, and they are hereby qualified and authorized to vote, and choose representatives to form a convention, who shall be apportioned amongst the several counties as follows:

From the county of Howard, five representatives. From the county of Cooper, three representatives. From the county of Montgomery, two representatives. From the county of Pike, one representative. From the county of Lincoln, one representative. From the county of St. Charles, three representatives. From the county of Franklin, one representative. From the county of St. Louis, eight representatives. From the county of Jefferson, one representative. From the county of Washington, three representatives. From the county of St. Genevieve, four representatives. From the county of Madison, one representative. From the county of Cape Girardeau, five representatives. From the county of New Madrid, two representatives. From the county of Wayne, and that portion of the county of Lawrence which falls within the boundaries herein designated, one representative.

And the election for the representatives aforesaid shall be holden on the first Monday and two succeeding days of May next, throughout the several counties aforesaid in the said territory, and shall be, in every respect, held and conducted in the same manner and under the same regulations as is prescribed by the laws of the said territory regulating elections therein for members of the general assembly, except that the returns of the election in that portion of Lawrence County included in the boundaries aforesaid shall be made to the county of Wayne, as is provided in other cases under the laws of said territory.


And be it further enacted, that the members of the convention thus duly elected, shall be, and they are hereby authorized to meet at the seat of government of said territory on the second Monday of the month of June next; and the said convention, when so assembled, shall have power and authority to adjourn to any other place in the said territory, which to them shall seem best for the convenient transaction of their business; and which convention, when so met, shall first determine by a majority of the whole number elected, whether it be, or be not, expedient at that time to form a constitution and state government for the people within the said territory, as included within the boundaries above designated; and if it be deemed expedient, the convention shall be, and hereby is, authorized to form a constitution and state government; or, if it be deemed more expedient, the said convention shall provide by ordinance for electing representatives to form a constitution or frame of government; which said representatives shall be chosen in such manner, and in such proportion as they shall designate; and shall meet at such time and place as shall be prescribed by the said ordinance; and shall then form for the people of said territory, within the boundaries aforesaid, a constitution and state government: provided, that the same, whenever formed, shall be republican and not repugnant to the Constitution of the United States; and that the legislature of said state shall never interfere with the primary disposal of the soil by the United States, nor with any regulations Congress may find necessary for securing the title in such soil to the bona fide purchasers; and that no tax shall be imposed on lands the property of the United States; and in no case shall nonresident proprietors be taxed higher than residents.


And be it further enacted, that until the next general census shall be taken, the said state shall be entitled to one representative in the House of Representatives of the United States.


And be it further enacted, that the following propositions be, and the same are hereby, offered to the convention of the said territory of Missouri, when formed, for their free acceptance or rejection, which, if accepted by the convention, shall be obligatory upon the United States:

1. That section numbered sixteen in every township, and when such section has been sold or otherwise disposed of, other lands equivalent thereto and as contiguous as may be shall be granted to the state for the use of the inhabitants of such township for the use of schools.

2. That all salt springs, not exceeding twelve in number, with six sections of land adjoining to each, shall be granted to the said state for the use of said state, the same to be selected by the legislature of the said state, on or before the first day of January, in the year one thousand eight hundred and twenty-five; and the same, when so selected, to be used under such terms, conditions, and regulations as the legislature of said state shall direct. Provided, that no salt spring, the right whereof now is, or hereafter shall be, confirmed or adjudged to any individual or individuals, shall, by this section, be granted to the said state: and provided also, that the legislature shall never sell or lease the same, at any one time, for a longer period than ten years, without the consent of Congress.

3. That 5 percent of the net proceeds of the sale of lands lying within the said territory or state, and which shall be sold by Congress from and after the first day of January next, after deducting all expenses incident to the same, shall be reserved for making public roads and canals, of which three-fifths shall be applied to those objects within the state, under the direction of the legislature thereof; and the other two-fifths in defraying, under the direction of Congress, the expenses to be incurred in making of a road or roads, canal or canals, leading to the said state.

4. That four entire sections of land be, and the same are hereby, granted to the said state, for the purpose of fixing their seat of government thereon; which said sections shall, under the direction of the legislature of said state, be located, as near as may be, in one body, at any time, in such townships and ranges as the legislature aforesaid may select, on any of the public lands of the United States. Provided, that such locations shall be made prior to the public sale of the lands of the United States surrounding such location.

5. That thirty-six sections, or one entire township, which shall be designated by the president of the United States, together with the other lands heretofore reserved for that purpose, shall be reserved for the use of a seminary of learning, and vested in the legislature of said state, to be appropriated solely to the use of such seminary by the said legislature. Provided, that the five foregoing propositions herein offered, are on the condition that the convention of the said state shall provide by an ordinance, irrevocable without the consent of the United States, that every and each tract of land sold by the United States, from and after the first day of January next, shall remain exempt from any tax laid by order or under the authority of the state, whether for state, county, or township, or any other purpose whatever, for the term of five years from and after the day of sale; and further, that the bounty lands granted, or hereafter to be granted, for military services during the late war shall, while they continue to be held by the patentees or their heirs, remain exempt as aforesaid from taxation for the term of three years from and after the date of the patents, respectively.


And be it further enacted, that in case a constitution and state government shall be formed for the people of the said territory of Missouri, the said convention or representatives, as soon thereafter as may be, shall cause a true and attested copy of such constitution, or frame of state government, as shall be formed or provided, to be transmitted to Congress.


And be it further enacted, that in all that territory ceded by France to the United States under the name of Louisiana, which lies north of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes north latitude, not included within the limits of the state contemplated by this act, slavery and involuntary servitude, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the parties shall have been duly convicted, shall be, and is hereby, forever prohibited. Provided always, that any person escaping into the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed in any state or territory of the United States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or service as aforesaid.

Approved, March 6, 1820.



The general assembly shall not have power to pass laws—

1. For the emancipation of slaves without the consent of their owners; or without paying them, before such emancipation, a full equivalent for such slaves so emancipated; and,

2. To prevent bona fide immigrants to this state, or actual settlers therein, from bringing from any of the United States, or from any of their territories, such persons as may there be deemed to be slaves, so long as any persons of the same description are allowed to be held as slaves by the laws of this state.

They shall have power to pass laws—

1. To prohibit the introduction into this state of any slaves who may have committed any high crime in any other state or territory;

2. To prohibit the introduction of any slave for the purpose of speculation, or as an article of trade or merchandise;

3. To prohibit the introduction of any slave, or the offspring of any slave, who heretofore may have been, or who hereafter may be, imported from any foreign country into the United States, or any territory thereof, in contravention of any existing statute of the United States; and,

4. To permit the owners of slaves to emancipate them, saving the right of creditors, where the person so emancipating will give security that the slave so emancipated shall not become a public charge.

It shall be their duty, as soon as may be, to pass such laws as may be necessary—

1. To prevent free Negroes and mulattoes from coming to and settling in this state, under any pretext whatsoever; and,

2. To oblige the owners of slaves to treat them with humanity and to abstain from all injuries to them extending to life or limb.


In prosecutions for crimes, slaves shall not be deprived of an impartial trial by jury, and a slave convicted of a capital offense shall suffer the same degree of punishment, and no other, that would be inflicted on a white person for a like offense; and courts of justice, before whom slaves shall be tried, shall assign them counsel for their defense.


Any person who shall maliciously deprive of life or dismember a slave shall suffer such punishment as would be inflicted for the like offense if it were committed on a free white person.



Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, that Missouri shall be admitted into this Union on an equal footing with the original states in all respects whatever upon the fundamental condition that the fourth clause of the twenty-sixth section of the third article of the constitution submitted on the part of said state to Congress shall never be construed to authorize the passage of any law, and that no law shall be passed in conformity thereto, by which any citizen, of either of the states in this Union, shall be excluded from the enjoyment of any of the privileges and immunities to which such citizen is entitled under the Constitution of the United States. Provided, that the legislature of the said state, by a solemn public act, shall declare the assent of the said state to the said fundamental condition and shall transmit to the president of the United States, on or before the fourth Monday in November next, an authentic copy of the said act; upon the receipt whereof, the president, by proclamation, shall announce the fact; whereupon, and without any further proceeding on the part of Congress, the admission of the said state into this Union shall be considered as complete.

Approved, March 2, 1821.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Mainly by that hand, the Missouri Compromise became the law that would hold the Civil War at bay for the next three decades.
To understand this city's importance in the national civil rights movement, one can look back 200 years to the Missouri Compromise, which tried to barter people's freedom for peace in the union.
As for me, through a self-chosen exile, I have arrived at my own Missouri compromise: it is here, in the belly button of America, that I can write my books and save for my son's education; that I can teach what I love and welcome visiting authors to a university campus in bloom; it is here that I can learn from my students and stand on my own two feet.
In pursuit of a compromise that would permit the territorial organization of the newly acquired lands, Polk resolved to extend the Missouri Compromise line westward (McCormac 1922, 639-40), personally intervening in congressional negotiations (as he confessed, "an unusual step for the Executive to take, but the emergency demands it"), and dispatching separate contingents of his cabinet to lobby northern and southern congressmen (quoted in Bergeron 1987, 210).
That same decision also declared the Missouri Compromise of 1820, legislation which restricted slavery in certain territories, unconstitutional.
Proslavery and abolitionist factions had forged a precarious peace with the Missouri Compromise of 1820, but each side now saw an opportunity to gain the upper hand.
Sometimes his arguments are compelling, and sometimes they are overdrawn, as when he compares President Obama's Affordable Care Act with the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, which repealed the 1820 Missouri Compromise, leading to the violence of "Bleeding Kansas," a grim prelude to the Civil War.
This precarious equipoise between democratic aggrandizement and the domestic tyrannies of slavery and Indian removal culminated in two key episodes of US political history parallel to Irving's literary production: the Missouri Compromise (1819-1821)--aiming to resolve the body politics internal imbalances--and the Monroe Doctrine (1823)--destined to present a homeostatic American body politic in the eyes of the world.
The ruling also declared that Congress could not prohibit slavery in western territories (part of the Missouri Compromise) because that would violate the Fifth Amendment to the U.S.
1820 Congress passes the Missouri Compromise. While allowing Missouri to enter the Union as a slave state and Maine as a free state, it prevents slavery in the northwestern territories.
(7) Pennsylvania's James Buchanan, for example, advocated extension of the Missouri Compromise line--a settlement that for some time seemed the most likely course of action.
history textbook and finding no mention of--or at most a passing sentence about--Valley Forge, the Missouri Compromise, or the League of Nations.

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