The Missouri Compromise

By 1819, the population of Missouri had grown to the point where it was ready for statehood. Ten thousand slaves already lived in Missouri. As such, It was assumed Missouri would become a slave state. On February 13th James Tallmadge, a Congressman from Poughkeepsie, New York, introduced a resolution in Congress making two modifications to the Missouri Enabling Act (The Enabling Act would give Missouri statehood). This act would ban any further importation of slaves into Missouri. It would also set in motion the gradual emancipation of the slaves currently residing in Missouri. Raising these modifications, a one term Congressman began a battle over slavery that was only ended by the Civil War. Obviously the Tallmadge amendment was not acceptable to the Southern states. The Congress was deadlocked until a compromise could be found. That compromise became known as “The Missouri Compromise”. Under the terms of the compromise, Missouri was to be admitted as a slave state, while Maine was admitted as a free state. The rest of the territory acquired from France (north of the latitude 36’30’) would be free states, while south of that point would be slave states.

The Missouri Compromise (1819) set a number of precedents. First, states would enter the Union in pairs– a slave state and a free state. This compromise helped the Southern states, as they were often admitted to the Union sooner than they would normally have been admitted (in order to keep the balance). Second, the Missouri Compromise delayed the sectional breakup of the Jefferson’s Republican party. The battle over Missouri signified a solidification of the Southern opposition to the eventual emancipation of the slaves. Until the fight over Missouri’s admission to the Union, there was some hope the South would follow the path indicated by many of the founders; a path leading to the eventual voluntary emancipation of all slaves. By the time the Missouri Compromise was reached, it was clear this was not meant to be.

Cotton Gin Invented

After the Revolutionary War the South was looking for a new crop to replace Indigo, whose trade it had lost during the war to India. One possibility was cotton. However, traditional cotton, known as long staple, or Egyptian cotton, could only be grown on the Atlantic Islands of the US. It required a very long growing season and sandy soil. The alternative was short season cotton. Though that cotton has sticky seeds that were very difficult to separate. Then, Eli Whitney came on to the scene.

Whitney heard about how difficult it was to gin (or clean) cotton. He thought of a machine that would be able to do it. He studded a roller with nails, one half inch apart. The roller could then be turned and the nails would pass through a grid. The roller pulled the cotton lint through the grid, leaving the seed behind. The lint would then be pulled off the nails while the seeds would fall off separately. A single laborer could now gin what it took 25 laborers to get done before. This made farming upland cotton economically feasible for the first time.

The effect of the development the cotton gin was unprecedented. In 1793, the United States produced about five million pounds of cotton– almost all of it the Sea Island type. This represented less than 1% of the world’s production of cotton. By 1860, the US was producing 2 billion pounds of cotton– over 75% of the world’s cotton production.

The effect of the growth of the cotton industry on slavery was overwhelming. Before the introduction of the Gin, the need for slaves was modest, and slaves were not considered that valuable. Before the Gin, a slave was could be bought for $300. By the time of the Civil War, the cost for a slave was $3,000. Cotton farming was a labor-intensive endeavor– even with the Cotton Gin. However, slavery made the labor of cotton very profitable.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin Published – 1852

In 1852, the novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was published. It is most likely the novel that had the greatest historic impact on American society. The novel depicted the plight of a slave family. It was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, who was a mother of six. In the first year hundreds of thousands of copies were printed and ultimately millions of copies were sold. This helped solidify the opposition to slavery in the North. Its success in France and England served as a break in the inclination of the aristocracy in those countries to support the South during the war.

When Mrs. Stowe was introduced to President Lincoln, in 1862, he was heard to have said: “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.”

Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad was started in order to provide a means for escaped slaves to be safely spirited through the north until they reached sanctuary in Canada. The railroads borrowed heavily from the vocabulary of standard railroads, thus those who helped guide the slaves were conductors, and the places that they hid along the way stations. Between 1850-1860 1,000 slaves a year made use of the Underground Railroad to escape to Canada and freedom.

Most of the enslaved people helped by the Underground Railroad escaped border states such as Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland.

In the deep South, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 made capturing escaped enslaved people a lucrative business, and there were fewer hiding places for them. Fugitive enslaved people were typically on their own until they got to certain points farther north.

People known as “conductors” guided the fugitive enslaved people. Hiding places included private homes, churches and schoolhouses. These were called “stations,” “safe houses,” and “depots.” The people operating them were called “stationmasters.”

There were many well-used routes stretching west through Ohio to Indiana and Iowa. Others headed north through Pennsylvania and into New England or through Detroit on their way to Canada.

Sojourner Truth’s Northern Speaking Tour

Historians believe that Sojourner Truth was born in 1797 in Ulster County, New York. Although born into slavery, she was freed from slavery by the New York State Emancipation Act of 1827.

She retained her former master’s surname, Van Wagener. However, after settling in New York City for some time, she found that she was disillusioned with her life there. In 1843, she adopted a new name, Sojourner Truth, a name she felt God had given her. Her mission in life, decided, was to travel across the country and spread “the truth.” She felt compelled to go on lecture tours, explaining: “The Lord has made me a sign unto this nation, and I go round a-testifying and showinng them the sins against my people.”

Large crowds gathered to hear her; and her usual opening, “Children, I talk to God and God talks to me!” had an electric effect on her audiences in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Kansas. Many felt she possessed “mystical gifts” as well as great powers of oratory.

With much passion, she fought against slavery and for woman suffrage, becoming friendly with some of the leading white abolitionists of her time, including James and Lucretia Mott and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Helping blacks who had managed to escape North find work and a place to live also gave her deep satisfaction during these years; later, in 1864, she was appointed counselor with the National Freedmens Relief Association.