Turmoil in the Second House – The U.S. Pluto Return (2021-2023) Part 3: History Rhymes (1)

Part 3 is a survey of the crucial points of the U.S. Pluto cycle. These dates are determined by aspects formed between the transiting Pluto and the U.S. Pluto. Only major aspects – 60, 90, 120, and 180 degree – are included. As mentioned in part 2, for the sake of precision, I use an 1-degree orb, i.e. only events that took place when the transiting and natal Pluto are within 1-degree of forming an exact aspect are included. –Author

Transit Pluto Sextile Natal Pluto: Panic of 1819 and The Missouri Compromise (1819-1821)

Active period:

April 10, 1819 – September 19, 1819

February 25, 1820 – May 28, 1820

July 30, 1820 – April 1, 1821

October 4, 1821 – February 15 1822

Themes:

Panic of 1819

  • Free trade vs. embargo
  • Economic boom-and-bust
  • Monetary and credit expansion
  • Financial crisis and depression
  • Public–private entanglement and corruption
  • Business consolidation
  • Central bank and government intervention
  • Debt default and relief

Missouri Compromise

  • Political expediency that at the cost of moral principles and long-term peace
  • Maintaining status quo and social cohesion at all costs
  • Federal government vs. individual states
  • Political polarization and disunion threats
  • Legitimized oppression of minorities
  • Congressional power struggle
  • Infringement of property right and individual freedom
  • Fear mongering and conspiracies

Adams-Onis Treaty (Enacted on February 22, 1821): Territory expansion

Wild, J. C. (John Caspar), United States Bank, Chestnut Street, Philadelphia. https://www.loc.gov/item/2021670221

Panic of 1819

Dubbed “America’s first great depression,” the financial crisis in 1819 was a result of contraction of demand and money supply at the end of Anglo-French war in 1815.

The Panic was precipitated by the need for the Bank of the United States to save itself by reversing its credit expansion and contracting its loan sharply. This sudden contraction, precipitated in the summer and fall of 1818, forced the state banks to contract their loans as well. It brought an unpleasant day of reckoning to those over-inflated banks, which were now called upon to meet their unfulfillable promise to redeem their banknotes in specie. The result was a run of bank failures, and a severe contraction of banknotes throughout the country.

Murray N. Rothbard, “The Frankfort Resolutions And The Panic Of 1819.”

U.S. prospered during the European conflict as the neutral exporter to the warring countries. Owing to the disruption in European agriculture production, American agriculture imports were in high demand. U.S. domestic inflation further elevated the price of produce such cotton, tobacco, and wheat. Farmers and investors, anticipating sustained price increase, rushed to expand their land holding, creating the “land boom.”

The land rush was also promoted by the U.S. government, who incurred massive national debt during the Louisiana Purchase and The War of 1812. In anticipation of a revenue boost, millions of acres of western land were released to the public with generous purchasing terms. Buyers with insufficient funds were allowed to purchase with credit.

After the termination of First Bank of the United States in 1811, U.S. government, citizens and enterprises had relied on unregulated and under-capitalized “wildcat” state banks for funding. The suspension of specie (gold and silver coins) conversion in 1814 allowed these banks to freely issue banknotes with minimal reserve, subsequently greatly expanded the money supply. Between 1811 and 1815, the number of state banks in the U.S. rose from 88 to 208 while the national money supply doubled (Rothbard, 2007).

Money, or what passed for money, was the only cheap thing to be had…. The State banks were issuing their bills by the sheet, like a patent steam printing press its issues; and no other showing was asked of the applicant for the loan than an authentication of his great distress for money. …They generously loaned all the directors could not use themselves, and were not choice whether Bardolph was the endorser for Falstaff, or Falstaff borrowed on his own proper credit, or the funds advanced him by Shallow.

Joseph G. Baldwin. The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi.

The money supply exploded, wildly variable discount rates among banks began to cause chaos in the financial system. Premiums for redeeming specie were common place. Some banks even resorted to intimidation and lawsuits when customers attempted to convert their banknotes for specie. (Rothbard, 2002). The Second Bank of the United States was chartered in 1816 to establish uniformed convertibility among banknotes and restore trust in banks.

The largest corporation in its time, the national bank was owned by the federal government as well as foreign and domestic shareholders. The bank was entrusted with conducting all fiscal transactions for the U.S. Government, and paradoxically, according to secretary of the treasury William Crawford (1816-1825): “The first duty of the Board is to the stockholders; the second is to the nation.” (Browning, 2019).

With this conflict of interests in mind, perhaps it was not astonishing that the bank not only caved in to the financial and political interests of its shareholders, drastically amplifying the money supply and inflation, it was also derelict in reinforcement of the specie conversion, “outright fraud abounded” (Rothbard, 2002).

On the eve of the crisis, the explosion of money and credit spilled into infrastructure construction and international trade. Inflation was rampant. An outflow of specie drained the bank reserves across the country. Vicious dumping of cheap British imports devastated the once-burgeoning domestic manufacturing, an urban depression was underway. Since Britain’s conditional ban on imported grain in 1815, Europe has recovered from previous crop failure and resumed post-war agriculture production, which lead to reduced demand and production of American agriculture imports. The sudden collapse in price was precipitated by Britain’s switch to cheap Indian cotton in 1818. Farmers’ and investors’ profit plummeted, defaulted on their loans, setting off bank failures.

It was not until mid-1818, when U.S. must repay foreign debtor in gold or silver, did the national bank abruptly restricted loans and demanded immediate specie redemption from state banks. These high-flying banks, unable to meet the requirement, in turn recalled loans and demand immediate payment from their stressed borrowers. Mass default and bankruptcy ensued, triggering a banking crisis and the Panic of 1819. The money supply contracted 50% between the spring of 1818 and summer of 1819. The price of staples fell by 51% between November 1818 and June 1819 (Rothbard, 1963). Farmers and investors saw the price of their land dropped as much as 75%. In once thriving urban manufacturing centers, employment and income plummeted. Unemployment reached 50% in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia (Browning, 2019). Poverty was widespread and middle class crowded the debtors’ prison.

All the flourishing cities of the West are mortgaged to this money power. They may be devoured by it at any moment. They are in the jaws of the monster! A lump of butter in the mouth of a dog! One gulp, one swallow, and all is gone.

Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton (1821-1851)

The banking crisis lasted from 1818 to 1819. The depression was lifted in 1821, but its impact persisted into mid-1820s. The national bank, through increasing reserve requirement, quickly brought the financial crisis under control — at the cost of exacerbating and prolonging the depression. Distressed assets from borrowers were seized by the national bank and sold cheaply to those with means. State governments were powerless to restrain the federal bank.

In 1820, congress reduced the size and price of public land and banned the purchase of public land on credit installments. Subsequent relief programs for earlier buyers (1821) included interest forgiveness, price reduction, extended loan terms and return options. These relief measures set the precedent for controversial government interventions during future crisis.

This crisis was regarded as the start of modern boom-bust economic cycle. The corruption of banks and government were on full display throughout the first nationwide crisis. It became apparent that banks served their shareholders at the expense of their customers, and the wealthy and well-connected was able to ride out, even profited from the financial devastation. Predictably, the distressed asset price paved way for future consolidation. It also deepened the riff between states and federal government, the industrialized North and export-dependent South, the conservative East and expansionist West. The nationwide hatred toward the banks would last for decades and the bitterness toward the federal government would feed Southern sectionalism and sow the seed of civil war. The heated debate between sound money vs. debasement persisted to this day.

Further Reading:

Browning, Andrew H. The Panic of 1819 the First Great Depression. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2019.

Catherwood, Jamie. “Panic Series (Pt. II) – 1819.” Investor Amnesia, 12 Sept. 2021, https://investoramnesia.com/2021/09/12/the-panic-series-pt-ii-1819/.

Haulman, Clyde. “The Panic of 1819: America’s First Great Depression.” Financial History, Museum of American Finance, Winter 2010, https://www.moaf.org/exhibits/checks_balances/andrew-jackson/materials/Panic_of_1819.pdf.

Rothbard, Murray N. “The Frankfort Resolutions And The Panic Of 1819.” The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 61, no. 3 (1963): 214–19. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23375967.

Rothbard, Murray N. 2002. A History of Money and Banking in the United States. Ludwig Von Mises Institute.

Rothbard, Murray Newton. The Panic of 1819: Reactions and Policies. Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2007. https://cdn.mises.org/The%20Panic%20of%201819%20Reactions%20and%20Policies_2.pdf.

Primm, James Neal. “A Foregone Conclusion: Chapter One – the Nineteenth Century Background: St. Louis Fed.” Saint Louis Fed. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, June 25, 2021. https://www.stlouisfed.org/a-foregone-conclusion/chapter-one.

Ward, Michael. “Panic of 1819.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. Alabama Humanities Alliance, April 10, 2010. http://encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-2568.

The Missouri Compromise

Modern School Supply Company. Historical-geographical maps of the United States: The Missouri Compromise 1820. https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3701sm.gct00483/?sp=22&r=0.05,-0.093,1.279,0.801,0

Evidently, a narrative that negates all traces of a matter as massive as slavery must inevitably distort the rest of the story as well. From the meaning of freedom to the understanding of human nature, to the perception of God’s Providence, all elements of Americans’ understanding of their great national experiment were warped and reshaped to conform to the demands of a version of the tale in which the enslavement and dehumanization of millions of their fellow creatures could be deemed compatible with the values of the republic.

Robert Pierce Forbes. The Missouri Compromise and Its Aftermath.

Founders’ Compromise

Reason, justice, equity never had weight enough on the face of the earth to govern the councils of men; it is interest alone which does it, and it is interest alone which can be trusted.

Thomas Jefferson, “12 July, 1776” in Jefferson Autobiography

Coincided with the Panic of 1819, unprecedented threats of disunion and civil war erupted over the future of slavery. 

The anti-slavery language was left out in the Declaration of Independence for the sake of unanimity. At Constitutional Convention of 1778, the delegates again faced the same quandary: a union with slavery vs. no slavery, no union.

Great as the evil is, a dismemberment of the Union would be worse. If those states should disunite from the other states for not indulging them in the temporary continuance of this (slave) traffic, they might solicit and obtain aid from foreign powers.

James Madison, Debate in Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 15, 1788

The political evil was inherent in the constitution itself, which brought States slaveholding and non-slaveholding into indissoluble bonds, providing no radical means for assimilating their condition. The anti-slavery spirit of 1776 had died out, or rather had exhausted its power of persuading States to emancipate…

James Schouler, History of the United States, Volume IV

Northern delegates conceded again, acquiescent in the belief that slavery will eventually become economically unsustainable and die out. With no foreseeable increase in demand of slave labor, the delegates prohibit the restriction of –thus continuing – Atlantic slave trade for the next twenty years, and left the thorny issue to individual states in the Tenth Amendment (1791): “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

After the “Act Prohibiting the Importation of Slaves” took effect in 1808, the nation settled on the future decline of slavery, yet domestic slave trade remained. The entire U.S. population continued to participate in trading and consuming goods produced by domestic and oversea slave labor. The invention of cotton gin in 1793 had revolutionized cotton processing, vastly increased the productivity and profit of cotton production, which almost entirely the product of slave labor. The “cotton boom” after the War of 1812 sent the production and worldwide demand for American cotton soaring. U.S. cotton export grew from $5,700,000 to $20,000,000 between 1800 and 1820, and the value of slaves was said to have increased three-fold in the same period. (Woodburn, 1894) Slavery became profitable and vital to the national economy once more.

The Tallmadge Amendment

In 1812, Louisiana territory –the first from the Louisiana Purchase – entered the union as a slave state. Missouri territory was expected to follow suit in 1818. In the course of debate, New York Representative James Tallmadge Jr. and Charles Baumgardner submitted two amendments to Missouri’s admission to the union:

“… that the further introduction of slavery or involuntary servitude be prohibited, except for the punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been fully convicted; and that all children born within the said State, after the admission thereof into the Union, shall be free at the age of twenty-five years.”

The Tallmadge Amendment was the first serious challenge to the southern status quo, an uneasy balance of power based on the joint evasion of morality of human bondage and servitude. The debate largely focused on the interpretation of the constitution. The discourse on morals was considered offensive by the southerners as it violates the state sovereignty and the long-standing understanding between the two sides of the slavery issue.

The debate on Tallmadge’s amendment was inconceivably intense and hostile, and involved open threats of disunion and civil war:

“If a dissolution of the Union must take place, let it be so! If civil war, which gentlemen so much threaten, must come, I can only say, let it come!”

Representative James Tallmadge Jr. of New York

The measure passed the house but failed in the Senate. Missouri’s statehood was in limbo at the close the 15th session of Congress. Over the recess, bitter resentment, and indignation raged across the country in town hall meetings, pamphlets, petitions, and newspaper essays. Northern antislavery force demanded that Missouri abandons slavery and the prohibition extended to all future territories. Missourians and their southern supporters decried the unwarranted delay and unfair restriction.

Political Distrust

…we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.

Letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Holmes (April 22, 1820)
Self-Preservation

Southerners did not trust the North’s humanitarian anti-slavery argument. Rather, they viewed Northern restrictionists’ effort as a plot to revive the Federalist party and return to an era of a strong national government. The call for Revolutionary ideal of liberty and equality was perceived as encroachment on state sovereignty and dreaded incitement to slave riots.

The crux of the pro-slavery argument was the Southern slave holders’ prosperity and political dominance. Virginian planter class, and by extension, Southern slaveholders, have served almost consecutively in the White House and held high offices since the founding of the nation. The nation’s capital, border on Virginia and Maryland, was the center of domestic slave trade. Virginia held almost 1/3 of the nation’s slave population and was eager to push the surplus to the new territories.

Southern Founding Fathers, James Madison and Charles Pinckney stressed that the Constitutional Convention had not authorized any extraordinary congressional control over slavery. Thomas Jefferson, likewise, recoiled against all the northern constitutional innovations spawned by the Missouri crisis. Jefferson adopted the argument that “diffusion” of the institution in the West would not increase the total number of slaves and “would make them individually happier and facilitate their eventual emancipation.”

Don E. Fehrenbacher. The Slaveholding Republic.

Since the industrialization of cotton production and the upsurge of cotton export, slavery not only became enormously profitable but made its westward expansion. Up against the enormous economic incentive, Southern antislavery sentiment wavered, and the Revolutionary philosophy became irrelevant and inconvenient history.

Most southern representatives in the Congress continued to denounce slavery, but their words had become increasingly hollow. Apathy and resignation gradually set in. It was accepted that nothing –nonthreatening to the slaveholding class, at least –could be done. Many simply set the date of eventual abolition to the infinite future.    

Charles Pinckney – founding father, signer of the Constitution, three-term South Carolina governor, ambassador, and two-term congressman –defended slavery. Citing historical precedents in ancient civilization and indigenous slavery in Africa, he asserted that slavery was human nature, and implied that the institution was common good of slaves and slaveholders:

A free black can only be happy where he has some share of education and has been bred to a trade or some kind of business. The great body of slaves are happier in their present situation than they could be in any other, and the man or men who would attempt to give them freedom, would be their greatest enemies.

Charles Pinckney’s Speech to Congress, 1820.

The South also extended their legal argument against the Tallmadge amendment on the sovereignty and equality of the of the state (Woodburn, 1894). Quoting the second half Article, 4 Section 3, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution: “…nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State”, along with the Tenth Amendment, they argued that the Constitution, by intentional omitting the slavery issue, has relinquished its claim to restriction. Slavery is an issue to be decided by individual states. Tallmadge amendment was unconstitutional because it placed the constraint on the admission of Missouri alone. Besides, since slaves were treated as property, banning slavery would amount to illegal seizure of personal property, prohibited by the Fifth Amendment.

Morals and Principles

I was aware of the delicacy of the subject and that I had learned from Southern gentlemen the difficulties and the dangers of having free blacks intermingling with slaves;… While we deprecate and mourn over the evil of slavery, humanity and good morals require us to wish its abolition, under circumstances consistent with the safety of the white population. Willingly, therefore, will I submit to an evil which we cannot safely remedy… But, sir, all these reasons cease when we cross the banks of the Mississippi, a newly acquired territory, never contemplated in the formation of our Government, not included within the compromise or mutual pledge in the adoption of our Constitution, a new territory acquired by our common fund, and ought justly to be subject to our common legislation.

Tallmadge’s Speech to Congress, 1819

The North did not see any attempt to end the slavery on the South’s part. Instead, they saw a revival and the intention to extend and expand. For the Northern restrictionists, the future of slavery was at stake –not only in Missouri, but in all new states and territories. They sought to implement the Northern Ordinance to the regions west of Mississippi River and Florida, and put an end to the expansion of slavery for good.

They argued on humanitarian ground and maintained that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution provided the ground for abolition. While some claimed that Article I Section 8 would suffice to restrict all slave trades, the most eloquent proponent of Tallmadge Amendment, New York Senator Rufus King, cites first part of Article, 4 Section 3, Clause 2: “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States” and contend that the Congress was granted the power to dictate the condition of admission of each state.  Slavery was an evil disgrace forced upon the colonies. This wickedness was only tolerated for the sake of the Union and should be restricted at the earliest expediency.

Almost all debates surrounding Missouri Crisis could be boiled down to the balance of powder, however. Despite dominating the House, North’s demographic lead did not translate into their political sway. Equal number of Senators from each state gave the less populated South an unfair advantage. Maintaining the power balance depends on equal number of free and slave states. 

The North had been pained by the three-fifth clause, which adds 60% of the slave population to the slave states’ free population for calculating taxation and assigning House representative seats. Originally meant as a compromise to discourage the growth of slavery, the three-fifth clause gave southern states more congressional representatives and more electoral votes for president than their white population entitled.

At the time of Missouri’s request of statehood, the nation contained 11 free states and 11 slave states at the time. Missouri’s entry as a slave state would have tipped balance of power in South’s favor; with the Tallmadge Amendment approved the antislavery stance would gain strength going forward. Aggravated by the dominance of “Slave Power,” North feared that if Missouri’s slave state status would solidify South’s dominance. Worse still, it could lead to more slave states and perpetuate their reign in national politics.

Congressional Wrangling

Missouri renewed its request after the Congress reconvened; Maine also applied to join the union. The Senate amended the Maine admission with the unconditional acceptance of a slaveholding Missouri but the coercion was called out by Northern House representatives. Seeking incentivize the bill passage, Senator Jesse Thomas of Illinois added a proviso that allows slavery in Missouri, but “forever prohibits” slavery in all remaining areas of the Louisiana Purchase north of the 36° 30′ parallel, an area mostly uninhabited at the time. The bill passed the Senate and again rejected by the House.

In respond to the Senate’s strong-arming, the House passed its own bill admitting Missouri with the antislavery Tallmadge Amendment. The bill was rejected by the Senate and the Congress came to a deadlock. 

A sullen gloom hung over the nation. All felt that the rejection of Missouri, was equivalent to a dissolution of the Union: because those states which already had, what Missouri was rejected for refusing to relinquish, would go with Missouri.

Abraham Lincoln, Eulogy of Henry Clay

The Senate called for a committee of conference the next day. Kentucky Senator Henry Clay, then Speaker of the House, also known as “The Great Compromiser,” spearheaded the compromise effort. A slave owner himself, Clay had argued for “the inviolability of this species of property” granted by the Constitution and advocated “diffusion” and “colonization” as the ultimate and humane solution to slavery. He, along with Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and then-President James Monroe claimed that it was only humane to disperse South’s surplus slave population westward, and expatriate them when free labor is plenty and slave-holding becomes unaffordable in time. This would defuse the tension among the dense and restless southern slave population and lessen the threat and stress of the slaveholders –while profiting through the domestic slave trade. 

Clay’s optimism about the compromise was soon threatened by the building momentum of the antislavery force. Fearing an impending all-out restriction on slavery, Clay rushed to forge a compromising majority by instilling the fear of disunion and accusing the Federalists of instigating and exploiting the Missouri issue to divide the nation.

We have been told by the Speaker that the people of Missouri are ready to shoulder their muskets, to march en masse, and force their way into this hall, Sir, if this be indeed so, it is time to barricade the doors. If it be an enemy that is advancing, let us bar our gates, and prepare for our defence;…

But not only will Missouri revolt from our authority: the slave-holding states will join with her, and, if this restriction passes, the Union will be dissolved. Such, sir, is the language which I have heard, with infinite regret, upon this floor, not from two or three members merely, but from all those who have spoken against this amendment…

…respecting the motives of the friends of this restriction; and an appeal has been made to vulgar prejudices, by calling it a Federal measure; …it is well known that it originated with Republicans; that it is supported by the Republicans throughout the free states; and that the Federalists of the south are its warm opponents: The question then is not between Federalists and Republicans, but between slave-holders and those who hold no slaves. It is a knowledge of this fact, which has induced the free states, usually so much divided among themselves, to advance on this occasion with so much ardor and unanimity to the attainment of their object.

Speech of Mr. Plumer, of New-Hampshire, on the Missouri question, delivered in the House of Representatives of the United States, February 21, 1820

Clay successfully convinced some Southern pro-slavery House representatives to accept the Thomas proviso and wrangled several Northern representatives to absent or support Missouri as a slave state. By dividing the Compromise into three bills, Henry Clay prevented the North and Southern opponents to join force to defeat the Senate bill.

On the same day, March 2, 1820, the joint committee, carefully chosen by Clay, returned with an endorsement of the original Senate compromise bill, now in three separate parts. Missouri was admitted as a slave state by a margin of three votes, Maine entered as a free state the day before its application expires, and slavery was prohibited north of 36° 30´ parallel, the so-called “Compromise Line. The Missouri Compromise was thus achieved. Clay sneaked the bill to the Senate while blocking the House’s reconsideration. President Monroe signed the bill on March 6, 1820.

He did not confine himself to speeches addressed to the House, but he went from man to man, expostulating, beseeching, persuading, in his most winning way… What helped in him gaining over the number of votes necessary to form a majority was the growing fear that this quarrel would break up the ruling party, and lead to the forming of new divisions.

Carl Schurz, Life of Henry Clay
President Monroe’s Role

President James Monroe was instrumental in fostering the compromise. “Monroe’s endorsement of the Missouri Compromise was a last-ditch effort to defeat a budding antislavery movement that stood a few congressional votes shy of enacting the most meaningful national restrictions on slavery in a generation.” (Hammand, 2019)

 A Virginia slaveholder himself, he regarded the nation’s interests aligned with the prosperity of the South, and concerned himself with maintaining the privilege and security of Virginia’s planter class. Monroe deemed Virginia’s former anti-slavery stance as idealistic and naïve, as the planter class previously had not faced the menacing danger of an ever-increasing and rebellious slave population. Anti-slavery sentiment had become a luxury the Planter Class could no longer afford. He helped promote the idea that the Northerners are ignorant of the South’s peculiar condition and that the expansion of slavery was not only necessary but humane. He and other Republicans, along with Thomas Jefferson, worked to detract and re-frame the antislavery argument by claiming the Federalists and their alleged sympathizers of plotting the Missouri crisis to consolidate the antislavery front, spoil his reelection, and dictate the future of the union.

The Second Missouri Compromise

Missouri adopted a constitution for the new state on July 19, 1820. Bitter and defiant about the delay and insults, Missouri delegates inserted a provision that not only prohibited free blacks from migrating to the state, but also forbade the legislative emancipation of slaves without the slave owners’ consent. This clause was considered in direct violation of the Article IV, Section 2, of the US Constitution: “The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.”

The Missouri crisis was revived. Northern representative who unwillingly compromised were disgusted by the clause and withdrew their support.  The antislavery faction, seeing their hope renewed, seized the last chance to keep a slave-holding Missouri out of the union while the representatives from Missouri waited for their admission at the Congress door.

The debate centered around the citizenship of free blacks and by extension, their rights under the Constitution. A compromise Proviso by Tennessee Senator John Eaton passed the Senate: “That nothing herein contained shall be so construed as to give the assent of Congress to any provision in the Constitution of Missouri, if any such there be, which contravenes the clause in the Constitution of the United States that ‘the citizen of each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.’”

The House rejected this and several subsequent proposals for Missouri’s admission, leaving the Congress in deadlock and Missouri without a legal status. On February 2, 1821, a joint committee was formed, focusing solely on forming an amendment to guard “against the violation of the privileges and immunities of citizens of other states in Missouri.” The House rejected the bill by a vote of 88 to 82.

South Carolina senator and Constitution’s framer Charles Pinckney proclaimed that the oppositions’ rejection was trivial, and accused them of breaching of faith and deception:

The article of the Constitution on which now so much stress is laid—‘the citizens in each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities in every State.’—having been made by me, it is supposed that I must know, or perfectly recollect, what I meant by it. In answer, I say that, at the time I drew that article, I perfectly knew that there did not then exist such a thing as a black or color citizen of the United States, and knowing that all the Southern and Western States had for many years passed laws to the same effect, which laws are well known to Congress, being at this moment in their library and within the walls of the Capitol, and which were never before objected to by them or their courts, they (the people of Missouri) were no doubt warranted in supposing they had the same right…

On February 21, 1821, Kentucky Senator William Brown demanded the Missouri enabling act repealed, claiming that “The plighted path of Congress for the admission of Missouri has been violated… the course of the majority can be justified by no principle of reason or sound policy, but must rest for its support on pious fraud”. On the next day, Clay assembled a congressional committee with his chosen candidates. The elected committee members agreed that Missouri to be admitted with the original condition and the controversial clause (fourth clause of the twenty-sixth section of the third article of the constitution) “shall never be construed to authorize the passage of any laws, and that no law should ever be passed, by which any citizen, of either of the states in Union, shall be excluded from the enjoyment of any of the privileges and immunities to which such citizen is entitled under the constitution of the United States; that the legislature of said State, by a solemn public act, shall declare the assent of said State to the said fundamental condition.” The Senate passed the measure by a four-vote margin.

By applying circular logic, the provision suggested that the Missouri’s constitution was in fact unconstitutional, and deftly circumvented the question of whether free blacks were U.S. citizens and equally protected by the constitution. This purposely obstruse provision is known as the Second Missouri Compromise.

President Monroe proceeded to proclaim Missouri’s contingent statehood on March 2, 1821. Missouri subsequently denied the Congress’s right to demand such a statement and openly declared “A Solemn Public Act” a farce:

 …this general assembly are of opinion that the congress of the United States have no constitutional power to annex any condition to the admission of this state into the federal Union, and that this general assembly have no power to change the operation of the constitution of this state

the Solemn Pubic Act passed the Missouri by overwhelming margin, possibly owing to the fact that the incorrect clause was cited in the congressional resolution. The clause the Congress objected to, “free negroes and mulattoes were to be prevented from coming to and settling in the State” was actually the first clause –not the fourth – of the controversial passage. Therefore “the assent given to it by the Legislature of Missouri was without binding force, moral or legal, upon any human being whatsoever.” (Carr, 1900)

President Monroe received a copy of the Act and on August 30, 1821, declared that the condition had been complied and the Missouri’s admission to the Union was complete. The Solemn Public Act was overturned on March 14, 1835, when free Blacks must meet onerous conditions to obtain a “freedom license” to legally remain in Missouri.

National Suicide and the Prelude to Civil War

I have favored this Missouri compromise, believing it to be all that could be effected under the present Constitution, and from extreme unwillingness to put the Union at hazard. But perhaps it would have been wiser as well as a bolder course, to have persisted in a restriction upon Missouri, till it should have terminated in a convention of the States to revise and amend the Constitution. This would have produced a new Union of thirteen or fourteen States unpolluted with slavery, with a great and glorious object to effect, namely, that of rallying to their standard the other States by the universal emancipation of their slaves. If the Union must be dissolved, slavery is precisely the question upon which it ought to break. For the present, however, this contest is laid asleep.

The Memoirs of John Quincy Adams

The compromise had another sinister feature. The anti-slavery sentiment in the North, invoked by the Missouri controversy, was no doubt strong and sincere. The South threatened the dissolution of the Union; and, frightened by that threat a sufficient number of Northern men were found willing to acquiesce, substantially in the demands of the South. Thus the slave power learned the weak spot in the anti-slavery armor. It was likely to avail itself of that knowledge, to carry further point by similar threats, and to familiarize itself more and more with the idea that the dissolution of the Union would really be a royal remedy for all its complaints.

Carl Schurz, Life of Henry Clay

To this day, the Missouri Compromise is still seen as a brilliant effort to preserve the balance of power in the U.S. congress, as if the moral dimension of the compromise was beyond the scope of discussion. From http://www.senate.gov:

(the Missouri Compromise) maintained a delicate balance between free and slave states…. Ironically, it was the astute maneuvering of Speaker Henry Clay that helped bring about this new era of Senate debate, creating a legislative forum in which Senator Henry Clay would soon forge other Union-saving compromises.

The confounding inconsistency of the founding fathers and congressional leaders during the Missouri crisis baffled historians. E.g., Thomas Jefferson’s characterization of emancipation as “an abstract principle” and asserted that the abolitionist zeal was destructive, suicidal, and treasonous:

I regret that I am now to die in the belief that the useless sacrifice of themselves, by the generation of ’76. to acquire self government and happiness to their country, is to be thrown away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons, and that my only consolation is to be that I live not to weep over it. if they would but dispassionately weigh the blessings they will throw away against an abstract principle more likely to be effected by union than by scission, they would pause before they would perpetrate this act of suicide on themselves and of treason against the hopes of the world.

Jefferson, Letter to John Holmes, 1820

Some historians have concluded that our founders were self-deluding hypocrites and liars, while others rationalized their comments and actions. In any case, it appeared that the revolutionary spirit had all but dissipated within one generation and the pursuit of equal rights and liberty was only intended for the white men all along. “Americans subscribed in a new understanding that ‘the Declaration of Independence did not in fact proclaim universal human rights, but rather applied to whites alone.’” (Fehrenbacher, 2002)

An uneasy silence dawned in the aftermath of the Missouri Compromise, for discussion on such dedicate subject had been deemed inherently dangerous for the Planter class. The frightened slaveholders were convinced that these prolonged and intense debates incited slave riots, the Demark Vesey uprising of 1822 was a case in point.

Another certain casualty was the “Era of Good Feelings.” The post-war nationalistic sentiment and aligned national interests under one-party rule with was no longer. The crisis precipitously fractured the Democratic Republican Party along the sectional line and caused irreparable damage without warning. “Disunion” and “civil war” were repeated nonchalantly during congressional sessions and presidential meetings. The animosity sown would ultimately lead to the devastating Civil War.

Despite some anti-slavery representatives mourned the intolerable defeat, both sides proclaimed victory Initially. The heated debates forged a unified Southern identity, geographically separated, and forever identified with slavery. Over time, the Compromise Line evolved into both the unbreachable boundary and confinement of slavery expansion. When the Southern interest was cornered a few decades later, their repeal of the Compromise Line led to a full-blown Civil War.

Then Secretary of State John Quincy Adams prophesied the beginning of Southern decline in his personal diary:

(Missouri Compromise was) terrible to the whole Union, but portentously terrible to the South – threatening in its progress the emancipation of all their slaves, threatening in its immediate effect that Southern domination which has swayed the Union for the last twenty years, and threatening that political ascendancy of Virginia, upon which Clay and Crawford had fastened their principal hope of personal aggrandizement.

The two-year congressional battle had exhausted the antislavery movement, re-legitimized slavery, reversed the emancipation momentum, adding insult and injury to free black people nationwide.

In late 1821, Attorney General William Wirt, in response to Secretary of the Treasure William H. Crawford’s inquiry whether free blacks are citizens of the United States, replies: “No person is included in the description of citizen of the United States who has not the full rights of a citizen in the United States.” This statement effective excludes all free black persons living in any states that does not grant full rights to them, which was at least 95% of the free black population of the country at the time (Fehrenbacher, 2002). In the same year, New Jersey Supreme Court rules that all Black men were prima facie slaves. The citizenship and rights of free black people hang in balance and suffered further degradation in the coming decades.

The forced political deal satisfied neither the anti-slavery advocates nor the pro-slavery force. South opposed the bill because it cordoned off too much of the West; North objected to it because it opened the gate for slavery expansion. The uneasy truce was sustained until 1850 by alternating the admission of slave and free states.

U.S. political leadership had hoped the Missouri Compromise would settle the slavery debate once and for all, yet the peace was not to last. The Missouri Compromise was repealed in 1854 and ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court three years later in a move that lead the nation closer to the Civil War.

The Astrological Perspective

Astrologers consider sextile (60-degree) is one of the “easy” or “soft” transits that offers a window of opportunity to prepare for the challenging square transit. In retrospective, the Missouri Compromise was a missed opportunity to right the ship before the union head into the abyss.

By default, the U.S. Sagittarius ascendant will always seek and rationalize easy-and-quick fixes. It is effortless to imagine the Congressional representatives being persuaded to “look at the big picture” and vote for union-saving measures, while overlooking the grander scheme –our founding principles. A judicious study of the U.S. history reveals that time and again, the decision to defuse crises with temporary solutions –from the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the earliest major point of the U.S.’s Pluto cycle, to all the economic and political crises we face today –were the cause of future destruction. The answer to our past and present oppressive burden would have been, and still is to break away from the consensus of compromisers. It is apparent that our political class do not solve problems; they delay and evade, while simultaneously create disabling, contradictory complexities that entrench us into such a gridlock that we either compromise once more or beg for draconian interventions.

A Capricorn Pluto is desperately fearful of chaos and disgrace, and would pay any price to maintain its status and respectability. Its antiscion places its secret shadow deep in the shapeless zone of the twelfth house, subjects itself to self-delusion and secretive, underhanded ploys. We as individuals, therefore, are tasked with the mission of acute awareness, to work ourselves out of this collective illusion and paralysis while our nation transforms for better or worse.

During the Pluto return, we could expect that our national founding principles challenged again by commercial interest and matters of national survival. If history is our guide, more compromises could be expected to delay our day of reckoning and the extract a still greater price when the differences of our most fundamental values and principles become irreconcilable.

Further Reading

Adams, John Quincy. 1876. The Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, Comprising Portions of His Diary from 1795-1848. https://ia800902.us.archive.org/29/items/memoirsofjohnqui10adam/memoirsofjohnqui10adam.pdf

Baldwin, Joseph Glover. 1856. “Cotton Boom in Alabama and Mississippi, ca. 1820s” in The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi.

Carr, Lucien. 1900. An Error in the Resolution of Congress Admitting Missouri Into the Union.

“Charles Pinckney’s Speech to Congress, 1820” in A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 – 1875.” n.d. American Memory: Remaining Collections. https://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llac&fileName=036/llac036.db&recNum=24

“Continental Congress, Taxation and Representation” In The Founders’ Constitution, Volume 2, Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3, Document 1. The University of Chicago Press. http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/a1_2_3s1.html.

Dattel, Gene. 2009. Cotton and Race in the Making of America. Government Institutes.

“Debate in Virginia Ratifying Convention,” in The Founders’ Constitution, Volume 3, Article 1, Section 9, Clause 1, Document 14. The University of Chicago Press.  http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/a1_9_1s14.html.

Dixon, Archibald, and Susan Bullitt Dixon. 1899. The True History of the Missouri Compromise and Its Repeal. Cincinnati: The Robert Clarke company.

Forbes, Robert Pierce. 2009. The Missouri Compromise and Its Aftermath. Chapel Hill: Univ of North Carolina Press.

Fehrenbacher, Don E. 2002. The Slaveholding Republic. Oxford University Press.

Hammond, John Craig. “President, Planter, Politician: James Monroe, the Missouri Crisis, and the Politics of Slavery.” Journal of American History 105, no. 4 (March 1, 2019).

Jefferson, Thomas. 1820. “Thomas Jefferson to John Holmes .” Library of Congress | Exhibitions – Thomas Jefferson: The West. Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/jefferson/159.html.

“Missouri Compromise.” n.d. The Lehrman Institute. The Lehrman Institute. https://lehrmaninstitute.org/history/missouri-compromise.html.

“Missouri Compromise.” 2021. Maine State Museum | Exhibition. Maine State Museum. 2021. https://mainestatemuseum.org/exhibit/regional-struggle/missouri-compromise/.

Monroe, Dan. “The Missouri Compromise.” Bill of Rights Institute. https://billofrightsinstitute.org/essays/the-missouri-compromise.

Plumer, William. 1820. Speech of Mr. Plumer, of New-Hampshire, on the Missouri question, delivered in the House of Representatives of the United States, February 21, 1820. https://ia800205.us.archive.org/20/items/speechofmr00plum/speechofmr00plum.pdf.

Schurz, Carl. 1887. Life of Henry Clay.

“Tallmadge’s Speech to Congress, 1819” inA Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 – 1875.” n.d. American Memory: Remaining Collections. https://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llac&fileName=033/llac033.db&recNum=599.

Schouler, James. 1889. History of the United States of America Under the Constitution: 1831-1847.

Wilentz, Sean. 2004. “Jeffersonian Democracy and the Origins of Political Antislavery in the United States: The Missouri Crisis Revisited.” The Journal of the Historical Society, no. 3 (September): 375–401.

Wilentz, Sean. 2016. The Politicians & the Egalitarians: The Hidden History of American Politics, New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Woodburn, James Albert. 1894. The Historical Significance of the Missouri Compromise.

©2022 Brave New Real. All rights reserved.

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Eunice Lo

Eunice is an international astrologer specializing in zodiac degree symbols, modern horary astrology, outer planets, and midpoints. She is also a manifestation and magic coach, working with her clients to create, expand and elevate their personal realities. Coming from a background rich in symbols, rituals, and miracles, Eunice started practicing magic at a very young age and dedicated herself to astrology study after a series of life-changing transits. Her unusual life experience and proprietary techniques are the reasons behind the unparalleled depth and clarity of her readings and consultations. She holds an M.A. in music therapy and is a mental health professional, classically-trained musician and experienced linguist. She is fluent in English, Mandarin, Taiwanese, and can be reached at bravenewreal@gmail.com.

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