American Civil War for Kids - The Missouri Compromise
Balance of Government, Slaves States and Free States: By the early 1800s, the United States had grown from 13 states to 22 states. Because slavery was so important to the South, those 22 states were divided into 11 free states (in the North) and 11 slaves states (in the South.)
Although the North and South were equally represented in the Senate, the North clearly held the major of seats in the House of Representatives, because seats in the House were based on state population, and northern states had more people. The South was not happy that in the House, the North had 105 votes to their 81. Arguments had already raged over the question of slavery. Northern representatives called slavery the South's "peculiar institution", and in the words of Representaive Livermore from New Hampshire, asked: "How long will the desire for wealth render us blind to the sin of holding both the bodies and souls of our fellow men in chains?" The South's economy, for 200 years, had been based on the institution of slavery and it was an integral part of Southern life and culture. The South would not give up slavery.
In 1818, Missouri petitioned Congress for admission to the Union as a state. There were 2,000 slaves already living in Missouri. If Missouri joined the Union as a slave state, it would upset the balance of power in Congress. Arguments again escalated in both the House and the Senate. In 1820, Maine petitioned Congress for admission to the Union as a free state. Missouri was admitted as a slave state and Maine was admitted as a free state, keeping the balance of power in Congress maintained. But this did not quiet the arguments.
The Missouri Compromise: The cry against slavery had grown louder though the years from northern representatives. Southern representatives demanded that the North recognize their right to have slaves as secured by the U.S. Constitution. To stop the arguments, Congress agreed that all new states coming into the Union carved from the territories would be divided as follows: Any state north of the southern boundary of Missouri would come in as a free state. Any state below this line would come in as a slave state. In 1820, this was voted into law, and called The Missouri Compromise.