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After the War of 1812, the nation was enjoying its first real sense of nationhood. It is ironic, then, that in those years a situation would be created that seemed to permanently split the nation in two. Slavery had been a contentious issue ever since the founding of the nation. The importance of slavery to the agrarian economies of the southern states had been “the firebell in the night” that had so worried a slaveholding Thomas Jefferson, who also publicly disapproved of slavery. But as southern land was depleted, southerners moved to new regions and brought slavery with them. If those territories became states, as was expected, slave states would outnumber free states, and that prospect unleashed a fury of emotion on both sides. Forty years before the Civil War, it was the Missouri Compromise of 1820 that prevented the southern states from seceding from the Union over the issue. From the Missouri Territory westward, any new state above the 36° 30’th parallel would not be open to slavery, and any new states below that latitude line would be. While the regions of the young United States were developing in very different ways, everyone agreed that forging this awkward and, in some ways, principle-bending compromise was essential to maintaining a Union.


Document 1 is an interactive map that highlights the Missouri Compromise.

Document 2 offers John Quincy Adams’s reflections on the debates surrounding the Missouri question, give giving insight into that the deep desire and care for the union of the states of North America.


1. Read Chapter 11 through 13.

2. Use the interactive features of the attached map of the United States at the time of the Missouri Compromise, 1820, to learn about the status of the slave-fueled economic system that existed in the south South and was pushing westward. Read Document 2, from the journals of John Quincy Adams, regarding the Congressional congressional debates over the “Missouri Question,” as it was called.

3. Answer the questions that follow below (Questions to Answer in the Discussion Board) by Saturday by 11:59pm. You can post your comments to other students until Sunday by 11:59pm. Review the Welcome Message for more info on discussion requirements. Be sure to label your answers.

4. The discussion should reflect your own words. I use software to detect plagiarism, so do your own work and if you use ANY information from the internet it is better to be safe than sorry, so cite it. If you use the internet for help, with few exceptions like Wikipedia.org, questionable sources can be avoided by searching on reputable websites, especially those that end in .edu, .org or .gov. All other websites should be carefully considered and the information critically evaluated and questioned.


1. What were the issues and ideas that promoted sectional conflict in this era?

2. What law did the Missouri State state legislature enact that threatened to derail its admittance to the Union and the entire Missouri Compromise?

3. At the time of Missouri’s entrance into the United States, which states had the highest percentage of enslaved men and women living within their borders?

4 How does the Missouri Compromise reflect the strong sense of nationalism Americans felt for their country in the early 1800s? What details can we learn from John Quincy Adams’s diary entry?


Document 1

The Missouri Compromise  (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Source: From http://www.teachingamericanhistory.org/static/neh/interactives/sectionalism/lesson1/

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