Archive for March 6th, 2008

Missouri Compromise Map

On March 6th, 1820 President James Monroe ratified the Missouri Compromise, effectively allowing Missouri into the Union as a slave state, and admitting Maine as a free state. The Missouri Compromise also served to bar slavery both North and West of Missouri. The belief was that the Compromise could calm the factions of pro-slavery and abolitionists, but instead led to further friction.

Hindsight can be 20/20, and unfortunately this proves true for the mistakes that the Missouri Compromise provided as opposed to the problems that its supporters believed it might fix. The nation was in heated debate over the issue of slavery, and this would eventually lead to the argument of state’s rights and the opening of a civil war that would test the strength of the young country. All of this, though, could not have been predicted by the leaders of the nation in 1820. At this point in time, they were trying to find a way to allow cooler heads to prevail and find the compromises that would unify opposing factions.

Unfortunately, the end result is that no one would be happy. The Compromise would effectively be overturned with the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed settlers to decide whether slavery would be allowed within their new territories. The Missouri Compromise would become just another futile domino in the chain of history that led to the outbreak of war in 1861. As with many of the stop-gaps that eventually led up to war, the Missouri Compromise would only put off the inevitable decision of whether slavery would or would not be allowed in the United States.

In the end, citizens on both sides of the debate over slavery would be unhappy. Abolitionists wanted to see the end of slavery, or at the very least a containment of it. They viewed the Compromise as an act of good will towards the institution of slavery which they opposed, while slave owners and their sympathizers saw it as an infringement on state rights, as well as a continued attempt to contain and attack their livelihood. As with every compromise and act that attempted to quell the debate over slavery, the Missouri Compromise could only momentarily avoid the question of slavery, and the inevitable war that would soon rock the nation.

Suggested Reading:
Conflict & Compromise: The Political Economy of Slavery, Emancipation and the American Civil War, by Roger L. Ransom
Further Reading from Roger L. Ransom

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I was going to take a day off from blogging, but after living in Texas for four years (Pony Up, y’all!), I can’t not remember the Alamo.  It was on March 6, 1836, that the final assault took place – just days after Texas declared its independence from Mexico – and 189 defenders were overrun and killed.

But speaking of not remembering…  A survey came out last week that basically said today’s teens are historically illiterate.  It claims they are a little better on the more recent stuff (Pearl Harbor, MLK) which makes sense, but once you get back into the 19th century and before… well, let’s just say that to a lot of them, Alamo is just a place to rent a car.

But as Kevin Levin at Civil War Memory noted, this doesn’t really mean that schools are getting worse at teaching the basics.  He rightly notes that these types of studies done decades ago yielded even worse results!

My theory is this: Schools are there to provide a foundational knowledge for the students who seek to learn it.  There will always be kids who opt out of the learning process.  Sadly, they then usually become adults who never reverse their course.  But there also exists the “true learners,” those who can’t soak up enough of whatever interests them.  These types of illiteracy studies never seem to properly account for the ones with passion.

Recommended reading: Lone Star Nation: How a Ragged Army of Volunteers Won the Battle for Texas Independence – and Changed America

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