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Durham e-Theses
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The Missouri compromise revisited

Robinson, David Paul (1990) The Missouri compromise revisited. Masters thesis, Durham University.



This study concentrates on the period from the introduction of the Tallmadge amendment in February 1819 to the settling of the controversy with the famous Compromise in March 1820. The Missouri crisis is erroneously viewed as the product of politics first, with antislavery a poor second. There are examples of growing sectional antagonism before 1819. But at no time was consistent sectional unity possible on economic and political issues. Only slavery produced the unity and strength of feeling to provoke a major sectional conflict. Although strongly tainted with hatred of the Negro, Northerners were committed to antislavery in 1819. This is evident in the strength of feeling in Congress and the lasting support for anti-Missourianism amongst Northern constituents. For a majority of Northerners the crisis was not a scheme to wrestle political power from the Southern states. Such a desire cannot even be attributed to many Federalists who were accused by the South of instigating the crisis to create sectional parties. The South, whilst admitting slavery to be an evil, was absolutely committed to the economic, political and social baggage of slavery. Adopting strict construction of the Constitution was a pragmatic response best suited to the defence of slavery. Responsibility for passage of the Compromise lies with a minority of Northern Congressmen. These "doughfaces" cannot be treated as a coherent group, but some general conclusions are possible. The threat to Maine's statehood and the fear of a Federalist-inspired plot did not influence the doughfaces to vote with the South. Nor was the prospect of prohibiting slavery in the territories north of 36 30' a factor in their decision. The Thomas amendment, whilst appearing significant, was at the time of only minimal and symbolic importance. Both sections appreciated that Thomas's restriction was of little value. The "ceded" lands were considered to be worthless as seen through federal Indian policy, foreign affairs and the general attitude to the far West. Another factor in securing the Compromise was the Executive. President Monroe and his Cabinet did not sit idly by, but through correspondence and policies took an active interest in the development and acceptance of the Compromise package. The history of the Missouri Compromise is well known; but it is time for a review of the controversy and a reappraisal of the answers to a range of interesting questions.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1990
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Dec 2012 12:13

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