The Effectiveness of Political Compromise
From the beginning of the United States, sectional differences had existed between the North and South. During the tumultuous years leading up to the Civil War, however, these differences became so serious that they threatened to divide the Union. The political compromises made in the period between 1820 and 1861 were effective only in reducing sectional tensions for a limited amount of time as they avoided the bigger issues and contradicted each other as evidenced by the Missouri Compromise, the case of Dred Scott v. Stanford, and the Compromise of 1850.
There were many issues dividing the North and the South, but the most controversial by far was slavery. Slavery was seen as a moral abomination in the North and as a way of life in the South. Northern reformers and wanted to abolish slavery, while Southerners were devoted to its preservation. The northern and southern states had created an equal balance between free and slave states to prevent the opposing side from gaining too much power. When Missouri applied for admission to the union as a slave state in 1819, the delicate balance between the two regions was threatened. Missouri admission a slave state would make it the 12th slave state and would thrust slavery farther north. There was violent debate until the Missouri Compromise was submitted by Henry Clay. Under this compromise, Maine was admitted as a free state, Missouri was admitted as slave state, and a line was set to divide the country horizontally into free and slave states. This would settle the question of slavery for a number of years. Though it did resolve tensions for a while the same problem arose again when this compromise was contradicted and the underlying issue still went unaddressed.
The Missouri Compromise was declared unconstitutional in 1857 when the Supreme Court ruled on Dred Scott v. Stanford. Dred Scott was a slave who sued for his freedom as his owner had taken him to live in different...