Missouri Compromise

Missouri Compromise
   The legislative outcome of a bitter dispute between the House and the Senate of the United States Congress over the status of new states admitted to the Union. The quarrel was a collision of two realities of early American nationhood: slavery and rapid territorial expansion. The creation of new states from the enormous territory of the Louisiana Purchase upset a tentative balance that had been applied hitherto in which free states and slave states were admitted alternately to the Union. Under Spanish and then French rule slavery had been legal in even the northern regions of the Louisiana Territory.
   Although the Compromise of 1820 admitted Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state simultaneously, it also made slavery illegal in any territory north of 36º30' latitude. The constitutionality of the Missouri Compromise was struck down in 1857 by the U.S. Supreme Court over the status of a slave who had fled Missouri to live in a free state. The decision infuriated abolitionists and hastened the day when the United States would have to become, in Abraham Lincoln’s words, “all one thing, or all the other.”
   See also <>; <>; <>.
    Stephanson, Anders. Manifest Destiny: American Expansionism and the Empire of Right . New York: Hill and Wang, 1995;
    Weeks, William E. Building the Continental Empire: American Expansionism from the Revolution to the Civil War . Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1997.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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