to THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in VOA Special English.
As we said last week, Spain
asked other European countries to help it put down rebellion among Spanish
colonies in Latin America. Some of these colonies had overthrown their Spanish
rulers and declared themselves independent.
Britain wanted no part of the
Spanish proposal. It was trading heavily with these new Latin American
countries. Spanish or even French control of this area would destroy or limit
So Britain proposed a joint
statement with the United States to say that neither country wanted any of
Spain's territory in the New World. Britain also wanted the United States to
join in opposing the transfer of any of Spain's American territories to any
other power in Europe.
Now, Maurice Joyce and Harry
Monroe continue the story.
Most of President James Monroe's
advisers urged him to accept the British offer. Secretary of State John Quincy
Adams opposed it. He did not believe the United States should tie itself to any
European power, even Britain.
Monroe accepted the advice of
his secretary of state. He included Adams' ideas in his message to Congress in
December eighteen twenty-three. This part of the message became known as the
The president said no European
power should, in the future, try to establish a colony anywhere in the
Americas. He said the political system of the European powers was very
different from that of the Americas. Monroe said any attempt to extend this
European system to any of the Americas would threaten the peace and safety of
the United States.
The president also said the
United States had not interfered with the colonies of any European power in
South America and would not do so in the future.
But, said Monroe, a number of
these former colonies had become independent countries. And the United States
had recognized their independence. We would see it as an unfriendly act, he
said, for any European power to try to oppress or control these new American
countries in any way.
At the same time, Monroe said,
the United States never had -- and never would -- take part in any war among
the European powers. This statement of Monroe's was only part of a presidential
message to Congress. But it clearly stated one of the most important of
America's foreign policies.
The nation had continued to grow
during Monroe's term as president. A number of new states were added to the
union. Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois, and Alabama all became states before
eighteen twenty. Louisiana had become the first state to be formed from part of
the Louisiana territory that the United States bought from France.
The rest of this great area was
given the name of the Missouri Territory. By eighteen nineteen, there were
enough people in part of the Missouri Territory for that part to become astate. It would be known as the state of Missouri. But Missouri could not become
a state without the approval of Congress. And this approval was almost
impossible to get.
The problem was slavery. Slaves
were not new in America. Spain had brought them to the West Indies hundreds of
years before. In sixteen nineteen, a ship brought twenty African slaves to
Jamestown, Virginia. These black men were sold to farmers. Over the years, the
use of slaves spread to all the American colonies.
There were many more slaves in
the agricultural South than in the North. The farms in the North were smaller
and needed less man-power. But in the South, farms were much larger, and needed
many men. Slaves were the least expensive form of labor.
Most of the northern states had
passed laws before eighteen hundred freeing slaves. Even the southern states
made it illegal to import more slaves from Africa. But those southerners who
already owned slaves believed they were necessary, and they refused to free
Slavery had been legal when
France and Spain controlled the Louisiana territory. The United States did
nothing to change this when it purchased the area. So slavery was permitted in
the Missouri Territory at the time it asked for statehood.
A New York congressman, James
Tallmadge, offered an amendment to Missouri's request to become a state.
Tallmadge proposed that no more slaves be brought into Missouri, and that the
children of slaves already there be freed at the age of twenty-five. His
proposal started a debate that lasted a year.
Supporters of Tallmadge argued
that his proposed amendment was Constitutional. The Constitution, they said,
gave Congress the right to admit new states into the union. This also meant,
they said, that Congress could refuse to admit new states unless these states
met conditions demanded by Congress.
Supporters of the amendment also
said small farmers of the North and East could not compete with the southern
farmers and the free labor of slaves. They argued that these northern and
eastern farmers had as much right to the land of Missouri as anyone else. The
Louisiana territory had been paid for by the taxes of all Americans.
Those opposed to slavery also
argued that slave-holding states would be given too great a voice in the
government if Missouri joined them.
Under the Constitution, three of
every five slaves were included in the population count to decide membership in
the House of Representatives. In the past, each time a slave state was admitted
to the union, a free state also had been admitted. This kept a balance in
Southerners had an answer for
each argument of those supporting the Tallmadge amendment. They agreed that
Congress had the Constitutional right to admit or reject a state. But they said
Congress did not have the right to make conditions for a territory to become a
William Pinkney of Maryland
argued that states already in the union had joined without any conditions. If
Congress, he declared, had the right to set conditions for new states, then
these new states would not be equal to the old ones. The United States no
longer would be a union of equal states.
The debate was violent on both
sides. Representative Howell Cobb of Georgia told Tallmadge: "You have
started a fire. All the waters of the oceans cannot put it out. Only seas of blood
can do so."
The House of Representatives
passed the Missouri bill with the Tallmadge amendment. It was rejected by the
Senate. The people of Missouri would try again for statehood when the new
Congress met in eighteen twenty.
By this time, another free state
was ready to enter the union. Maine -- with the permission of Massachusetts --
asked to become a separate state. Once again, a New York congressman tried to
put a condition on statehood for Missouri. He offered an amendment that Missouri
should agree never to permit any kind of slavery inside its borders.
House Speaker Henry Clay said
that as long as any kind of condition was put on Missouri, he could never
permit Maine to become a state. Clay was not strong enough to prevent the House
from approving statehood for Maine. This bill was sent to the Senate for its
approval. The Senate, however, joined the Maine bill with the one for unlimited
statehood for Missouri. Senators refused to separate the two.
Finally, Senator Thomas of
Illinois offered a compromise. He said Missouri should be admitted as a state
permitting slavery. But he said no other state permitting slavery could be
formed from the northern part of the Louisiana territory.
The compromise was accepted. And
Congress approved statehood both for Missouri and Maine. But they would not
become states until President Monroe signed the bills. President Monroe had to
make a difficult decision. He was a slave-holder. Many of his friends urged him
to veto the bills, which would limit slavery in the Louisiana territory. And
electors would soon be chosen for the next presidential election. Still, a
decision had to be made.
Our program was written by Frank
Beardsley. The narrators were Maurice Joyce and Harry Monroe. To learn more
about America's fifth president, go to voaspecialenglish.com. You can download
transcripts of our programs, along with MP3s and podcasts. Join us again next
week for THE MAKING OF A NATION – an American history series in VOA Special
This is program #51 of THE
MAKING OF A NATION