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The United States of America: A History
Book 3: Chapter III - Missouri


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 grandeur.

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.

When 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.


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