Study Guide

Missouri Compromise Quotes

By Henry Clay, Sr.

  • Federal Sovereignty

    …the navigable rivers and waters leading into the same, shall be common highways, and for ever free, as well to the inhabitants of the said state as to other citizens of the United States, without any tax, duty impost, or toll, therefor, imposed by the said state... (2.2)

    In setting the boundaries of Missouri upon natural lines—rivers—a question was raised: if the river was the state boundary, to what degree did the state own the rivers? Congress answers this with a firm "none whatsoever."

    The rivers were determined to be owned by the public, free from any one state's control (but, conveniently for the Federal government, under federal jurisdiction under the interstate commerce clause).

    …Provided, That the same, whenever formed, shall be republican, and not repugnant to the constitution of the United States; and that the legislature of said state shall never interfere with the primary disposal of the soil by the United States, nor with any regulations Congress may find necessary for securing the title in such soil to the bona fide purchasers; and that no tax shall be imposed on lands the property of the United States; and in no case shall non-resident proprietors be taxed higher than residents. (4.1)

    This is one of the key stipulations that Congress made when it allowed Missouri to draft its own constitution: that it in no way compromised the power and authority of the Federal government. Especially related to the revenue-generating activities of taxation and land sale.

    …Provided, That the five foregoing propositions herein offered, are on the condition that the convention of the said state shall provide, by an ordinance, irrevocable without the consent or the United States, that every and each tract of land sold by the United States, from and after the first day of January next, shall remain exempt from any tax laid by order or under the authority of the state, whether for state, county, or township, or any other purpose whatever, for the term of five years from and after the day of sale… (6.9)

    This part of the Compromise is built to ensure that the stipulations made by Congress can't simply be overturned by the Missouri state legislature later on. It also asserts that federal sales of land be exempt from any state-instituted taxes, as a way to sweeten the deal for any potential buyers of federally owned land.

    And be it further enacted, That in case a constitution and state government shall be formed for the people of the said territory of Missouri, the said convention or representatives, as soon thereafter as may be, shall cause a true and attested copy of such constitution or frame of state government, as shall be formed or provided, to be transmitted to Congress. (7.1)

    The ultimate federal power play, Section 7 forces any potential draft of Missouri's state constitution to require Congressional approval. They couldn't just up and subvert the U.S. Constitution, and they couldn't formally join the Union without Congressional approval. Basically Congress was holding all the cards: they didn't have to let Missouri in, and they certainly didn't need to do so under any terms but their own.

    If Missouri wanted in, they had to play by the rules.

    That in all that territory ceded by France to the United States, under the name of Louisiana, which lies north of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes north latitude, not included within the limits of the state, contemplated by this act, slavery and involuntary servitude, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes, whereof the parties shall have been duly convicted, shall be, and is hereby, forever prohibited: Provided always, That any person escaping into the same, from whom labour or service is lawfully claimed, in any state or territory of the United States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labour or service as aforesaid. (8.2)

    If Section 7 was designed to maintain Congressional power over the state legislature, Section 8 was Congress flexing its federal muscles. In one stroke, Congress divided the U.S. and determined the way in which a state could qualify as a slave state. It was an exercise in federal authority that would come to haunt the U.S. forty years later.

  • States' Rights

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That the inhabitants of that portion of the Missouri territory included within the boundaries herein after designated, be, and they are hereby, authorized to form for themselves a constitution and state government, and to assume such name as they shall deem proper; and the said state, when formed, shall be admitted into the Union, upon an equal footing with the original states, in all respects whatsoever. (1.1)

    This is essentially what the whole issue was about, on the surface: the right of Missouri to enter the Union on equal terms as all the other states, free to determine their own laws. Of course, this would only go so far, as Missouri would find out when they included a clause barring free Black people from emigrating to the state…only to have it shut down by Congress.

    …That the said state shall have concurrent jurisdiction on the river Mississippi, and every other river bordering on the said state so far as the said rivers shall form a common boundary to the said state; and any other state or states, now or hereafter to be formed and bounded by the same, such rivers to be common to both… (2.1)

    This portion of the Compromise set the precedent of common ownership of natural boundaries serving as state borders, allowing any state with such a natural boundary to freely utilize and profit from such natural boundaries.

    And be it further enacted, That the members of the convention thus duly elected, shall be, and they are hereby authorized to meet at the seat of government of said territory on the second Monday of the month of June next; and the said convention, when so assembled, shall have power and authority to adjourn to any other place in the said territory, which to them shall seem best for the convenient transaction of their business; and which convention, when so met, shall first determine by a majority of the whole number elected, whether it be, or be not, expedient at that time to form a constitution and state government for the people within the said territory, as included within the boundaries above designated; and if it be deemed expedient, the convention shall be, and hereby is, authorized to form a constitution and state government; or, if it be deemed more expedient, the said convention shall provide by ordinance for electing representatives to form a constitution or frame of government; which said representatives shall be chosen in such manner, and in such proportion as they shall designate; and shall meet at such time and place as shall be prescribed by the said ordinance; and shall then form for the people of said territory, within the boundaries aforesaid, a constitution and state government… (4.1)

    This was the central issue for Missourians, and it's the clause that allows for the formation of the state's own constitution by its own delegates of its own choosing. This was the right of self-determination that had stalled Missouri's entrance into the Union for so long, and it was a major step towards the empowerment of state rights.

    That all salt springs, not exceeding twelve in number, with six sections of land adjoining to each, shall be granted to the said state for the use of said state, the same to be selected by the legislature of the said state, on or before the first day of January, in the year one thousand eight hundred and twenty-five; and the same, when so selected, to be used under such terms, conditions, and regulations, as the legislature of said state shall direct…(6.3)

    The portion of the Compromise that ensures that water rights are retained by the state, allowing it to dispense the natural resources as the state saw fit. The caveat to this was that the state couldn't simply appropriate an already-owned spring, which would violate the right to property stated in the Declaration of Independence.

    That four entire sections of land be, and the same are hereby, granted to the said state, for the purpose of fixing their seat of government thereon; which said sections shall, under the direction of the legislature of said state, be located, as near as may be, in one body, at any time, in such townships and ranges as the legislature aforesaid may select, on any of the public lands of the United States... (6.7)

    This piece of the Compromise grants the state the right to determine its own state capital as it sees fit, an important right for a self-determined state. If a state can't set up its own capital without jumping through federal hoops, just how much autonomy can the state be said to have?

  • Compromise

    And be it further enacted, That the said state shall consist of all the territory included within the following boundaries, to wit… (2.1)

    One of the biggest concessions made by the state was in determining its own boundaries. While a lot of the state's proposed boundaries remained uncontested by Congress, it was slightly reduced in size in order to leave room for additional states to grow in the area.

    And be it further enacted, That all free white male citizens of the United States, who shall have arrived at the age of twenty-one years, and have resided in said territory: three months previous to the day of election, and all other persons qualified to vote for representatives to the general assembly of the said territory, shall be qualified to be elected and they are hereby qualified and authorized to vote, and choose representatives to form a convention, who shall be apportioned amongst the several counties as follows… (3.1)

    This was a significant area of compromise between the authority of both state and federal power. While the right to elect its own representatives was reserved by Missouri citizens, the right to formulate its own districts for the purposes of such an election wasn't. Congress determined how many delegate each district would receive for the constitutional convention.

    And the election for the representatives aforesaid shall be holden on the first Monday, and two succeeding days of May next, throughout the several counties aforesaid in the said territory, and shall be, in every respect, held and conducted in the same manner, and under the same regulations as is prescribed by the laws of the said territory regulating elections therein for members of the general assembly, except that the returns of the election in that portion of Lawrence county included in the boundaries aforesaid, shall be made to the county of Wayne, as is provided in other cases under the laws of said territory. (3.16)

    This part of the Compromise is designed to ensure that the election of representatives for the constitutional convention follows the same laws that the state had already been using. The power of the state was recognized in the formation of its own laws, and the power of Congress was recognized by removing Missouri's ability to tamper with existing laws for its own benefit.

    And be it further enacted, That until the next general census shall be taken, the said state shall be entitled to one representative in the House of Representatives of the United States. (5.1)

    A simple and elegant solution to the problem of representation in the House of Representatives. While an official headcount wasn't possible, this allowed Missouri to retain its power within the Senate without over-representing the new state in the House.

    And be it further enacted, That the following propositions be, and the same are hereby, offered to the convention of the said territory of Missouri, when formed, for their free acceptance or rejection, which, if accepted by the convention, shall be obligatory upon the United States... (6.1)

    Here, Congress does a little take for all their give in this process.

    Allowing Missouri to determine its own constitution was seen a pretty big concession on the part of Congress, so Congress included a couple of provisos on the acceptance of Missouri's constitution. Most of these concerned the way certain funds would be handled, designating specific portions of certain revenues for basic goods and services a state should provide.