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The Impact of the Missouri Compromise, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

According to the Library of Congress via its vast collection of original American documents, the foundation of the Missouri Compromise was an effort by the U.S. Congress to “preserve the balance of power between slave and free states” (“Missouri Compromise”) in 1820 when slavery was considered as the main engine of economic growth and prosperity in the Deep South as opposed to the North where slavery was prohibited in most states. The major problem was admitting Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state which infuriated Northern abolitionists who wished to see slavery completely abolished in the United States as compared to wealthy plantation owners in the Deep South who depended upon the institution of slavery for their economic well-being.

The Missouri Compromise also made slavery illegal in the Louisiana Territory that had been obtained during the Presidency of Thomas Jefferson. Geographically, slavery was prohibited north of the 36° 30´ latitude line, meaning that all of the territory north of the southern boundary of the state of Missouri, but not including Missouri itself, would be free of slavery, and all of the territory south of this line would be open for the introduction of slavery (“Secession Crisis”).

For the abolitionists in the North, this congressional action was a clear indication that the arguments and debates related to the issue of slavery in the U.S. was just heating up and would serve as the impetus for further disagreements between anti-slavery advocates and the wealthy plantation owners in the South. Historically, the Southern economy had been wholly dependent upon slavery for more than two hundred years, thus making it “an integral part of Southern life and culture.” In effect, the great plantation owners made it clear that slavery would remain as their economic base and openly demanded that the North recognize their constitutional rights to possess slaves and to make a profit from the sale of human beings on the open market (“Secession Crisis”).

As might be expected, the Missouri Compromise became the focus of a very heated debate between the politicians in Washington, D.C., the abolitionists in the North, and the plantation owners in the Deep South, many of whom were supported by Southern politicians like Henry Clay who had originally brokered the compromise. Yet despite this debate, the Missouri Compromise remained in effect for thirty years until in 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act came into effect which stipulated that U.S. states north of the 36° 30´ latitude line possessed the constitutional right to “exercise their sovereignty in favor of slavery” if the citizens of a given state wished to have it (“The Missouri Compromise”).

However, in 1857, things truly came to head with the U.S. Supreme Court case known as the Dred Scot decision which declared in part that the U.S. Congress did not possess the power to forbid nor abolish slavery in any of the territories, including Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska. Also, this important decision mandated that slaves in the U.S. were not American citizens and had no rights to participate in the political process. In effect, slaves were merely property that could be bartered and sold like cattle, thus giving slave owners the right to separate slave families and force their “property” to work without pay.

Thus, by 1860, the debate over slavery in the United States had become a major political and social issue with one side against the other, state against state, and even families against families. In essence, slavery could be seen as one of the stepping stones to outright war which in fact came about in 1861 with the attack on Fort Sumter by the South, also known as the Confederacy with Jefferson Davis as President.

Bibliography

“Missouri Compromise.” The Library of Congress. 2010. Web. 31 May, 2012.

“Secession Crisis: The Missouri Compromise ‘A Balance of Power,’ March 3, 1820.” 2003. Web. 31 May, 2012.

“The Missouri Compromise.” U.S. History. 2012. Web. 31 May, 2012.

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