February 17th is an important day for the United States, but important in the way that you don’t want to remember it.
Today is the day in which the United States Senate passed the Missouri Compromise.
For those of you who do not know what the Missouri Compromise is, I will try to briefly explain it.
In the early 1800’s, there was some controversy over slavery. The northern states were typically against it, while the southern states relied on slaves for their plantations.
In 1818, Missouri applied to become a state, but to join as a slave state. Some members of Congress, primarily from slave states, approved, while the abolition states protested.
James Tallmadge, a congressman from New York, proposed to the House of Representatives an amendment to the Missouri constitution which said that no slaves could be imported, and eventually the existing slaves would be emancipated.
This proposal was passed by the House, but defeated in the Senate. The bill caused much unrest in the south, as they threatened secession from the Union and civil war if it passed.
To appease both sides, some of the Congressmen formed a plan to ease the tension by enacting a deal in which no new state would be allowed to join the Union unless it had a counterpart, both representing one side of the coin. The reason for this was to keep a balance between the slave states and the free states in Congress.
This deal, struck in 1820, allowed Missouri and Maine to enter the Union together, one as a slave state, the other a free state. It also stated that any territory north of the Arkansas line which attempted to join the U.S. could not enter as a slave state.
While this did ease some tension, all it did was to delay the issue. Slavery still was a hot topic, and eventually, in January of 1861, the South seceded from the Union. The American civil war began.
The Missouri Compromise was repealed in 1854 by the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which established Kansas and Nebraska as territories of the U.S.
The slaves in the United States were set free on January 1, 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Slavery, however, was not outlawed until two years later, when the Thirteenth Amendment took effect.