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Road to Civil War

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The Missouri crisis of 1820 exposed a political rift between the slaveholding and nonslaveholding states of the Union. The Missouri Compromise in general allowed Missouri to enter the Union as a slave state, but admitted Maine as a free state, and also prohibited slavery in the rest of the Louisiana Purchase territory north of the 36 degree 30 latitude border (the southern boundary of Missouri). Thomas Jefferon called the Missouri issue a "fire bell in the night," and warned against growing northern opposition to slavery.


In 1832, the controversey over nullification finally produced a crisis when South Carolina responded angrily to the tariff bill that offered them no relief from the 1828 "tariff of abominations." John C. Calhoun proposed nullification. The newly elected legislature summoned a state convention, which voted to nullify the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 and to forbid the collection of duties within the state. Jackson insisted that nullification was treason and that its adherents were traitors. He strengthened the federal forts in the state and ordered a warship to Charleston. Violence seemed a real possibility in early 1833 so Henry Clay devised a compromise that lowered the tariff gradually so that by 1842 it would reach approximately the save level as in 1816. The compromise and the force bill were passed on the same day, March 1, 1833.


Henry Clay proposed to take several originally separate measures and combine them into a single piece of legislation, which he presented to the Senate on January 29, 2850. The bill had five provisions: 1) that California be admitted as a free state; 2) that in the rest of the lands acquired from Mexico, territorial governments be formed without restrictions on slavery; 3) that Texas yield in its boundary dispute with New Mexico and that the federal government compensate it by taking over its public debt; 4) that the slave trade, but not slavery itself, be abolished in the District of Columbia; and 5) that a new and more effective fugitive slave law be passed.



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