Sectional Compromises

Length: 2 Pages 606 Words

Two major compromises marked the sectional relations of the first half of the nineteenth century, the 1820 Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850. The Missouri Compromise settled a controversy arising from the petition of Missouri, a part of the Louisiana Purchase, to be admitted to the Union as a slave state. The slave state of Louisiana had already been formed out of the Louisiana Purchase, but slavery had existed there before U.S. ownership. Missouri represented an area settled largely by Americans, and Northerners were loath to see slavery following the flag to areas where it was previously unknown. Anxious to see some limit placed on the spread of slavery, they moved to admit Missouri on the condition that it emancipate its slaves within a generation. Southerners were outraged at this not only because it would have assured their section the minority status in the Senate that it a Continue...


lready had in the House, but also because they considered it an insult. The compromise that resolved this crisis stipulated that Missouri be admitted as a slave state but that the remaining Louisiana Territory be divided along latitude 3630, the area south of the line reserved for slavery, north of it, forever free. In short, it can be concluded that though "sectional sellout" may be too strong a word for agreements from which the North clearly received some gains, it is also clear that the compromises did to a large extent sacrifice justice and the national interest to the aggressive demands of the militant slaveholding South. Their feeling that the war should be fought, if at all, for national, rather than slave, expansion, was expressed in the Wilmot Proviso, stipulating that slavery be prohibited throughout the Mexican Cession. The Compromise of 1850 quieted the uproar over the status of slavery in the lands acquired through the Mexican War. Southerners were again outraged. Since the majority of the nation's unorganized land holdings had previously lain in the North and been closed to slavery, they felt the new lands added in the South should naturally be open to slavery. Southerners obtained Missouri as a slave state, and though the division of the remaining territory seemed favorable to the North, it actually gave the South at least half and probably two-thirds of the area suitable for the establishment of slavery in the first place. The South got Congress to profess its lack of power to do two things the Constitution and laws clearly gave it power to do: abolish slavery in the District of Columbia and ban the interstate slave trade. Though the North got California and at least a chance at the rest of the Mexican Cession, it is doubtful if slavery could have prospered in that arid region anyway. Introduced several times in Congress during the late 1840s, it was never passed. Yet the North did at least win the principle that slavery could be excluded in some of the territories, and a small area of land that might have been suitable for slavery was reserved for freedom. Here the charge of "sectional sellout" is partially true. The matter was brought to a head when California petitioned for admission to the Union as a free state.