Slavery was a major issue of contention for America during the 1820s. As the nation continued to expand its land territory, Northern and Southern politicians argued about the morality of slavery and whether to allow it within the union's newly added states. As the abolitionist movement strengthened and the federal government prepared to colonize an African nation with freed slaves, Southern states implemented strict laws to protect the institution of slavery from Northern influence.
The Missouri Compromise
The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was a major event in the history of American slavery. The discord between the North and South was growing, and both sides were concerned about the balance of interests within the federal government. Northern politicians wanted to outlaw slavery within all newly admitted states to the Union. Southern state politicians argued for the admission of new states as slave states, in an attempt to strengthen their numbers and influence within Congress. Ultimately, the Missouri Compromise resulted in the admission of Maine into the union as a free state and the admission of Missouri as a slave state.
Free Slave Colonization
The 1820s brought about the founding of Liberia as an American colony in Africa for free blacks. The American Colonization Society was a group of abolitionists who were instrumental in halting the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The society argued that free blacks would be happier in their own nation, instead of waiting for emancipation in America. In 1822, the ACS founded a colony for free blacks and former slaves, in what is now the independent African nation of Liberia. Opponents of the ACS saw the emigration movement as a way removing the black population from the United States.
Northern abolitionists began creating anti-slavery literature in the 1820s, with "The Genius of Universal Emancipation," the first anti-slavery newspaper published in America. These publications spread quickly and helped lead to legislative changes in Northern states. Pennsylvania implemented an anti-kidnapping law in 1826 to protect free blacks from capture and enslavement. Other Northern states followed with similar statutes against the institution. On July 4, 1827, New York officially abolished slavery throughout the state.
Politicians tried hard to preserve slavery within Southern states. The institution was a way of life, as well as an economic necessity. In 1820, officials in South Carolina implemented a law banning all anti-slavery material. Southern states began shaping their argument of slavery as a positive institution, benefiting the nation as a whole. Inventions such as the cotton gin increased the need for slave labor, and the Southern economy was almost completely dependent on it. A South Carolina slave revolt in 1822 resulted in the execution of more than 40 slaves, demonstrating the Southern commitment to maintaining the economic livelihood and social structure of slavery.
Erika Winston is a Washington, D.C.-based writer, with more than 15 years of writing experience. Her articles have appeared in such magazines as Imara, Corporate Colors E-zine and Enterprise Virginia. She holds a Juris Doctor degree from Regent University and a Masters in public policy from New England College.