The ways American politicians dealt with the issue of slavery between 1780 and 1825
Slavery is an issue that has been a major thorn throughout American history. However, after gaining independence from the British rule, America came face to face with the challenge that slavery would present for the new nation. While the nation wanted to be established on the fundamentals of democracy, among which one is freedom for all, the need to keep slaves under their previous status was also key to the economic prosperity, especially of the South. Thus, the slavery controversy became a major problem for the new nation, such that it saw the country divided right in the middle, creating the free and the slave states. Nevertheless, it is through entering into several compromises by American politicians at the time that resolving the differences between the slave and free states became possible.
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The first of such compromises that was entered into by the American politicians to resolve the major differences between the slave and the free states was the Northwestern ordinance of 1787 and the Southwest Ordinance of 1790. The ordinances were legislations created by the Congress of the Confederation, providing that the newly created western territories were to become states, while slavery was officially banned in the states north of the Ohio river (Shi and Tindall 250). The southern states on the other hand were to authorize slavery (404). Nevertheless, the ordinance still maintained that the slaves who were already residing in these territories would still remain to be slaves (250). Consequently, a middle ground in relation to the issue of slavery was struck, creating an understanding between the slave and the free states at the time.
The second major compromise entered to by the American politicians in relation to the issue of slavery, was the slavery compromises in the constitution. In fact, slavery emerged as the most explosive issue during the making of the American constitution, considering that in during the declaration of independence 1776 all states had slaves, but by 1787, several states had already abolished slavery (261). The free states at the time opined that slavery was an affront and embarrassment to the democratic principles of liberty and equality for all that America claimed to stand for (262). The Southern States however held slavery as central to their economic prosperity and sustainability, thus threatened a walkout during the constitution drafting process of 1787, thereby creating the need for the free and the slave states to enter into a compromise. The outcome is that a compromise providing that three-fifths of all slaves were to be counted as part of the American population (261). However, this compromise was not entered in the best interest of the slaves, but simply to secure a formula for population count determination of Congressional representation.
The third compromise in relation to the issue of slavery entered into by the free and slavery states was the Missouri Compromise (1820), which comprised admitting Maine as a free state and Missouri as a slave state into the United States federation, as a way of preventing tilting the balance of power that existed previously, were there were eleven of free states and eleven of slave states in the federation (405).
In conclusion, the American politicians’ formula of ending the controversy between the slave and the free states over the issue of slavery was through compromises. Throughout the history of America, there are several compromises that America has had to enter into for the sake of resolving the differences between the slave and the free states. Some of these compromises include the Northwester and Southwest ordinances, the Missouri compromise and the constitutional compromise on slavery.
- Shi, David E., and George Brown Tindall. America: A Narrative History. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2016.