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Joseph Kaminski

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June 27, 2017

How effective was the Missouri Compromise?


Missouri challenged the free states of America during the early-to-mid 1800s by applying as a state that wanted and accepted slavery. At this moment in time, there were eleven states opposed to slavery and eleven states where slavery remained completely legal. Free states such as New York immediately realized that Missouri would disrupt Congress and weaken Republican ideas for internal improvements of the American system if it joined the union as a slave state, causing an imbalanced bias in representatives for slavery. The Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850, which was endorsed by Whig senator Henry Clay of Kentucky, were greeted by two conflicting factors of American interest in accepting new states — the North and the South. While the Missouri Compromise honestly attempted to alleviate conflicts across the states between 1820 and 1850, it did nothing much in the long run to settle the issues revolving around slavery during this time period.

On February 13th, 1819, New York Congressman James Tallmadge, who lived from 1778 to 1853, rose through the House of Representatives to aMissouri Compromisedd an amendment to the Missouri State Laws. He proposed that any slave over the age of twenty five would be emancipated. Southern members of delegations throughout the house erupted in a panic, but the amendment was passed, revoked, and sent back through Congress once more. One man, named Thomas W. Cobb of Georgia, would later be quoted on saying that “The union will be dissolved” because of the miniature war already being verbally fought between northern and southern congressmen. The Missouri State Law amendments and the Missouri Compromise merely threw firewood into the raging bonfire sweeping the nation one state at a time, showing the nation that the idea wasn’t alleviating any issues, but making things worse.

The Compromise itself was almost not passed, with 24 for it and 20 against. The amendment passed and began being enforced in the Senate on February 17th and 18th, 1820. Throughout the upcoming months, the senate bickered and re voted on adding new amendments to “improve” it. One can argue that the compromise only created political rivalries and further distorted the opinions of the actual topic at hand. Missouri eventually became a slave state, and, to the North’s joy, Maine soon followed as a free state. This couldn’t go on forever, with limited land and territories. Slave states soon learned that they were not happy with their end of the bargain given by the compromises. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 would repel the entire compromise, making decades of steaming political unhappiness virtually worthless. While some can bring up the fact that the Civil War broke out in 1861, and that historians often claim the Compromise helped postpone the war, one can easily see that a postponement of America’s most heartbreaking war isn’t exactly alleviating the problem. It is merely delaying it. The compromise created strong political differences and made the south feel as if they had been handed the sharp end of the stick.

Another unsuccessful attempt at negotiation, after the Missouri Compromise, would be the Compromise of 1850. California had sent in an application to become a free state; however, the idea was objected by strong southerners who realized that this would impact congress against their favor, much as northern states had realized with Missouri. This compromise admitted California as a free state, and further strengthened Fugitive Laws to keep the south happy and distracted. This compromise merely delayed huge conflict. The Fugitive Slave laws upset most northerners. They didn’t wish to support and enforce institutions they despised and attempted to outlaw completely. The idea of organizing new territories exploded in debate as Kansas and Nebraska were permitted to figure out whether they were to accept or abolish slavery on their own, even though they were well above the 36 degree 30 minute line. When these bills were passed, the possibility of ever reaching compromises and alleviating conflicts in the United States became impossible, and war became inevitable. By this point, Northerners had no respect for Slave Power, and Southerners felt incredibly threatened by refusals to accept slavery. The country was cut into pieces, and the divisions between them were growing too deep.

The Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Compromise of 1850, and the State Law amendments of 1819 all show no signs of effectively alleviating the nation’s issues. From 1820 to 1850, politicians bickered and the people cringed in preparation from an unavoidable war. North and south had deep ridges separating themselves, and free states openly rejected slave ones as the compromises irritated southern and northern communities alike. No matter how you look at it, the Missouri Compromise did not effectively relieve any tension or simmer down the crisis at hand. With nobody agreeing on anything for the better or worse of the union, it was doomed to split from the start.

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