Robert Pierce Forbes goes behind the scenes of the crucial Missouri
Compromise, the most important sectional crisis before the Civil
War, to reveal the high-level deal-making, diplomacy, and deception
that defused the crisis, including the central, unexpected role of
President James Monroe. Although Missouri was allowed to join the
union with slavery, the compromise in fact closed off nearly all
remaining federal territories to slavery.
When Congressman James Tallmadge of New York proposed barring
slavery from the new state of Missouri, he sparked the most candid
discussion of slavery ever held in Congress. The southern response
quenched the surge of nationalism and confidence following the War
of 1812 and inaugurated a new politics of racism and reaction. The
South's rigidity on slavery made it an alluring electoral target
for master political strategist Martin Van Buren, who emerged as
the key architect of a new Democratic Party explicitly designed to
mobilize southern unity and neutralize antislavery sentiment.
Forbes's analysis reveals a surprising national consensus against
slavery a generation before the Civil War, which was fractured by
the controversy over Missouri.