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United States History; Slavery

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In the year 1819, the United States was made up of 22 states. Eleven of these states were free states. These were states where slavery was not allowed. The other eleven states were called slave states. Slavery was allowed in these states. Because each state in the United States has 2 senators, both slave states and free states had equal representation in the United States Senate in Washington D.C.. Both people from the North and the South wanted to keep it that way. Nobody wanted people with opposing views on slavery to obtain an advantage within congress. This power struggle led both to what is known as the Missouri Compromise as well as the Compromise of 1850.

People in both the North and the South were content with the balance of power. That all changed in 1819 when Missouri wanted to be admitted into the United States as a slave state. People from the South thought it would be a great idea because it would give people who allowed slavery 2 extra United States senators in Washington. People from the North were adamantly opposed to disrupting the balance of power in this way. One big proponent of allowing the admission of Missouri as a slave state was a senator from South Carolina by the name of John C. Calhoun. Senator Calhoun believed in states' rights. He believed that each state had the right to decide whether or not slavery would be legal in that state. Many others disagreed. The United States seemed to be at an impasse. Neither the North nor the South was willing to change their stance on Missouri’s requested statehood.

In 1820, Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky had the solution to the problem. Senator Clay proposed that Missouri be admitted as a slave state, while at the same time, Maine be admitted as a free state. This would ensure the balance of power in Washington stay the same. People from both the North and the South agreed on what is known as the Missouri Compromise. Senator Clay’s now famous compromise led to the admission of both Missouri and Maine and a total of 24 states. The Missouri Compromise also directed how future states would be admitted to the union by drawing an imaginary line across the country. Future states north of the line would be admitted as free states, while states south of the line would be admitted as slave states.

The Missouri Compromise dictated how states would be admitted into the Union up until 1849. In this year California requested statehood as a free state. California’s land had not come under the Missouri Compromise because it was new land that the United States had gained during the Mexican-American war. Again, the balance of power between free states and slave states was threatened.

Known as “The Great Compromiser,” Henry Clay now proposed what is known as The Compromise of 1850. This compromise allowed California to be admitted as a free state. This was pleasing to people from the North. In return, the North had

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