"Sharing the founders' flame : John Jay, Missouri, and memory" in A fire bell in the past : the Missouri Crisis at 200

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Chapter in a Book

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Many new states entered the United States around 200 years ago, but only Missouri almost killed the nation it was trying to join. When the House of Representatives passed the Tallmadge Amendment banning slavery from the prospective new state in February 1819, it set off a two-year political crisis in which growing northern antislavery sentiment confronted the southern whites’ aggressive calls for slavery’s westward expansion. The Missouri Crisis divided the U.S. into slave and free states for the first time and crystallized many of the arguments and conflicts that would later be settled violently during the Civil War. The episode was, as Thomas Jefferson put it, “a fire bell in the night” that terrified him as the possible “knell of the Union.”

Drawing on the participants in two landmark conferences held at the University of Missouri and the City University of New York, this first of two volumes finds myriad new perspectives on the Missouri Crisis. Celebrating Missouri’s bicentennial the scholarly way, with fresh research and unsparing analysis, this eloquent collection of essays from distinguished historians gives the epochal struggle over Missouri statehood its due as a major turning point in American history.

Contributors include the editors, Christa Dierksheide, David N. Gellman, Sarah L. H. Gronningsater, Robert Lee, Donald Ratcliffe, Andrew Shankman, Anne Twitty, John R. Van Atta, and David Waldstreicher.