How Did the Missouri Compromise Lead to the Civil War?

Last updated on July 31st, 2023 at 05:34 am.

Did the Missouri Compromise lead to the American Civil War? The compromise was a result of the ongoing debate between the northern and southern states over the expansion of slavery into new territories and a major factor that led to the Civil War.

The Missouri Compromise was a significant legislative measure that provided a settlement for the matter of slavery in the United States for a period of time in the early 1800s.

The compromise prevented the expansion of slavery into new territories north of the 36°30′ parallel, but it also highlighted the deep divisions between the North and the South. So, just how did the Missouri Compromise lead to the Civil War?

Missouri Compromise

Background and Context

The issue of slavery had been a contentious issue in the United States since its inception, and as we know, is still a deeply divisive and painful topic in American society today. The legacy of slavery, and the ongoing struggle for racial equality and justice, continues to shape the country’s political, social, and cultural landscape.

Despite progress towards greater inclusion and diversity, the effects of slavery and systemic racism are still felt by many Americans, and the fight for a more just and equitable society remains ongoing.

Slavery was deeply rooted in the southern economy, and this led to the growth of a pro-slavery sentiment in the southern states. The northern states, on the other hand, were primarily agricultural and industrial and did not rely on slave labor. This led to an anti-slavery sentiment in the northern states.

The Missouri Compromise

Slavery was exacerbated during the early 19th century as the United States began to expand westward. The southern states wanted to expand slavery into new territories, while the northern states were opposed to the expansion of slavery. The issue came to a head in 1817 when Missouri applied for statehood as a slave state.

The application of the Missouri territory caused a significant debate in Congress, with the northern states opposing the admission of Missouri as a slave state. The southern states, on the other hand, supported the admission of Missouri as a slave state.

The debate over Missouri’s admission as a slave state led to the Missouri Compromise of 1820. The compromise was proposed by Henry Clay, a senator from Kentucky, and it was passed by Congress the same year.

James Monroe signed the Missouri Compromise bill into law on March 2, 1820. The House voted 134 to 42 to prohibit slavery in the Louisiana Territory north of the 36° 30´ latitude line.

The Missouri Compromise included three main provisions:

1. Missouri would be admitted as a slave state.

2. Maine would be admitted as a free state, balancing the number of free and slave states in the Union.

3. Slavery would be prohibited in all new territories north of the 36°30′ parallel, which was Missouri’s southern border.

The compromise was a victory for the southern states, as they were able to expand slavery into Missouri. However, it was a defeat for the northern states, who were opposed to the expansion of slavery.

Impact of the Missouri Compromise

The Missouri Compromise had several significant impacts on the United States and was one factor that propelled the country into the American Civil War.

First, it temporarily lessened the tensions surrounding slavery among different factions of the country.

The compromise prevented the expansion of slavery into new territories north of the 36°30′ parallel, which helped with the Congressional balance of the number of free and slave states in the Union. This prevented a potential civil war over the issue of slavery, at least for a period of time.

Furthermore, the Missouri Compromise brought to the forefront the profound division between the North and the South concerning the matter of slavery.

The North and the South had fundamentally different economic and social systems, and these differences were reflected in their attitudes towards slavery. The North was primarily industrial and did not rely on slave labor, while the South was primarily agricultural and relied heavily on slave labor. This led to a pro-slavery sentiment in the South and an anti-slavery sentiment in the North.

Third, the Missouri Compromise set a precedent for future discussions and debates over the issue of slavery. The Compromise established a boundary line at 36°30′ North latitude for any new states to be admitted to the Union. This meant that any state north of the line would be free states, where slavery was prohibited, while any state south of the line could permit slavery.

How Did the Missouri Compromise Lead to the Civil War?

Although the Missouri Compromise was initially successful in alleviating tensions over the issue of slavery, it ultimately proved ineffective in preventing the outbreak of the American Civil War.

In fact, many feel it only delayed the Civil War and proved that unprincipled compromises cannot prevent conflict and in fact will make it inevitable.

The compromise was unsustainable because it did not address the underlying issue of slavery, which was becoming increasingly divisive and polarizing. It continued to divide the nation and led to the outbreak of the Civil War.

The underlying issue was the institution of slavery itself, which was a deeply divisive and polarizing issue in the United States at the time and to this day. But it did not resolve the fundamental disagreement over the moral and political implications of slavery.

Throughout the 19th century, slavery remained a significant source of disagreement between the North and the South. In the 1850s, tensions between the North and the South reached a boiling point, and the nation was on the brink of civil war. The issue of slavery was at the heart of this conflict.

Despite the temporary success of the Missouri Compromise in resolving the issue of slavery, the Missouri Compromise ultimately failed to prevent the outbreak of the Civil War.

The issue of slavery continued to divide the nation and eventually led to the Kansas-Nebraska Act an then outbreak of the Civil War.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act

In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed, which effectively repealed the Missouri Compromise. This act allowed for the expansion of slavery into new territories and was a major victory for the southern states. However, it was a significant blow to the northern states, who had been fighting against the expansion of slavery for decades.

The repeal of the Missouri Compromise led to a wave of violence in Kansas, as pro-slavery and anti-slavery settlers clashed over the issue of slavery.

The resulting conflicts and violence in Kansas, known as “Bleeding Kansas” that took place from 1854 and 1859, along with the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision in 1857, which denied citizenship to African Americans and upheld the legality of slavery, further deepened the divide between the North and South and set the stage for the Civil War. This violence further inflamed tensions between the North and the South and increased the likelihood of civil war.

The Civil War Starts

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected president, and the southern states began to secede from the Union. The Civil War officially began in April of 1861 and lasted for four years, with the Union ultimately emerging victorious. The Civil War was fought primarily over the issue of slavery, with the North fighting to preserve the Union and end slavery, and the South fighting to preserve their way of life, which was heavily dependent on slave labor.

The legacy of the Missouri Compromise is complex. On the one hand, it helped to prevent a potential civil war over the issue of slavery, at least for a time. On the other hand, it highlighted the deep divisions between the North and the South and set the stage for future conflicts.

Ultimately, the Missouri Compromise was a temporary solution to a deeply entrenched problem, and its failure to address the underlying issue of slavery led to the outbreak of the Civil War.

Missouri Compromise FAQ

What is the Knell of the Union?

This is from a quote by Thomas Jefferson. After hearing about the Missouri Compromise he “considered it at once as the knell of the Union. It is hushed indeed for the moment.  But this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence. A geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper.”

How is the Louisiana Purchase connected to the Missouri Compromise and the Civil War?

The Louisiana Purchase remains the single largest land acquisition in U.S. history. It opened up the Great Plains and the Midwest to settlement and agricultural production, and was at the center of the events which led to the Civil War because of the desire to extend slavery into the new territories.

What is the Tallmadge Amendment?

In 1819, Representative James Tallmadge put forth a proposal for Missouri’s statehood that would prohibit the importation of more slaves into the state and grant freedom to all children born after Missouri’s admission to the Union. This proposal, referred to as the Tallmadge amendment, outlined a strategy for a phased-in emancipation of slavery in Missouri.

More About the Missouri Compromise & The Civil War

For more information about what led to the Civil War an interesting and important legislative act of the Confederation Congress was The Northwest Ordinance. It was passed in 1787, nearly a century before the Civil War began. It protected civil liberties and outlawed slavery in the new territories.

Books on the Missouri Compromise

More Articles About the Civil War

Pin it!

How Did the Missouri Compromise Lead to the Civil War? Learn more about the Missouri Compromise of 1820, a temporary solution to the brewing controversy over slavery in the United States. In 1819, when Missouri enters the union, a compromise is reached about whether Missouri should be a slave or free state.

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment