What are the basic provisions of the Missouri Compromise?

Why was it important to keep a balance of slave and free states in the nation?

I can't seem to find an answer that makes sense. Could someone help me out?


With states and territories being added to the US rather rapidly (compared to the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, anyway), neither side (pro- or anti-slavery) wanted the other side to have an advantage. Be sure to read Impact on political discourse in the first link above -- especially paragraph 3.


Alright I think I understand now, but could you check my answers?

1. The Missouri Compromise essentially banned slavery above 36°30’ latitude line. In addition, the legislation admitted Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a non-slave state to keep it balanced.

As for the second question, I'm still a tad uncertain. The question seems obvious - there should be a balance so neither side feels like the minority - but I still think there is more to it.

It was important to keep a balance because of voting in Congress. Neither side wanted the other party to have move votes. In addition, it reflects the ongoing debate between states' rights and federal rights.

Question #2...They feared that ending this balance could lead to the domination of the industrial North with its preference for high tax on imported goods. The combination of these factors led the South to separate from the Union and thus began the American Civil War.

Your understanding of the provisions of the Missouri Compromise is correct. It did admit Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a non-slave state, while also establishing a geographical line at 36°30’ latitude above which slavery was prohibited.

For your second question, you are on the right track. Maintaining a balance of slave and free states was important because it directly affected the balance of power between the North and the South in terms of representation and voting in Congress. Both sides wanted to ensure that they had an equal number of states and therefore an equal number of votes in Congress. This balance was crucial for both sides to protect their interests, enforce their policies, and maintain their influence in the federal government.

In addition, the question of slavery was deeply intertwined with the broader issue of states' rights versus federal rights. The Southern states, which heavily relied on slavery as an economic system, feared that allowing more free states into the Union would tip the balance of power in favor of the industrialized North. They worried that the North would use its majority to pass legislation that would harm the Southern economy, such as imposing high tariffs on imported goods. This fear of losing their political and economic power ultimately played a significant role in the secession of Southern states and the outbreak of the American Civil War.

Overall, the maintenance of a balance between slave and free states was important for political, economic, and ideological reasons, and it ultimately had significant consequences for the future of the United States.