WHEN the State of Louisiana was received into the Union in
1812, there was left out a large proportion of the original purchase from
Napoleon. As yet this region was unpeopled. It lay silent and unprofitable—a
vast, reserve prepared for the wants of unborn generations. It was traversed
by the Missouri river. The great Mississippi was its boundary on the east.
it possessed, in all, a navigable river-line of two thousand miles. Enormous
mineral wealth was treasured up to enrich the world for centuries to come.
There were coal-fields greater than those of all Europe. There was iron
piled up in mountains, one of which contained two hundred millions of tons
of ore. There was profusion of copper, of zinc, of lead. There were
boundless forests. There was a soil unsurpassed in fertility. The climate
was kindly and genial, marred by neither the stern winters of the North nor
the fierce heats of the South. The scenery was often of rare beauty and
This was the Territory of Missouri. Gradually
settlers from the neighbouring States dropped in. Slave-holders came,
bringing their chattels with them. They were first in the field, and they
took secure possession. The free emigrant turned aside, and the slave-power
reigned supreme in Missouri. The wealth and beauty of this glorious land
were wedded to the most gigantic system of evil which ever established
itself upon the Earth.
By the year 1818 there were sixty
thousand persons residing in Missouri. The time had come for the admission
of this Territory into the Union as a State. It was the first great contest
between the Free and the Slave States. The cotton-gin, the acquisition of
Louisiana, the teaching of Calhoun, had done their work. The slave-owners
were now a great political power—resolute, unscrupulous, intolerant of
opposition. The next half century of American history takes its tone very
much from their fierce and restless energy. Their policy never wavered. To
gain predominance for slavery, with room for its indefinite expansion, these
were their aims. American history is filled with their violence on to a
certain April morning in 1855, when the slave-power and all its lawless
pretensions lay crushed among the ruins of Richmond.
the application of Missouri for admission into the Union came to be
considered in Congress, an attempt was made to shut slavery wholly out of
the new State. A struggle ensued which lasted for nearly three years. The
question was one of vital importance. At this time the number of Free States
and the number of Slave States were exactly equal. Whosoever gained Missouri
gained a majority in the Senate. The North was deeply in earnest in desiring
to prevent the extension of slavery. The South was equally resolute that no
limitation should be imposed. The result was a compromise, proposed by the
South. Missouri was to be given over to slavery. But it was agreed that,
excepting within the limits of Missouri herself, slavery should not be
permitted in any part of the territory purchased from France, north of a
line drawn eastward and westward from the southern boundary of that State.
Thus far might the waves of this foul tide flow, but no further. So ended
the great controversy, in the decisive victory of the South.