The great question of "slavery or no slavery in Missouri," having been made the order of the day for the second Monday in January, 1820, it was then accordingly taken up, and discussed with a warmth that had rarely been equaled in Congress. The absorbing interests attached to this question, not only as regards Missouri and the Western States, but with respect to the whole Union, has rendered it of so much importance, that it has become more or less interwoven with the whole subsequent political history of our country, and a full knowledge of it is therefore essential to a clear understanding of much that is to follow.
The discussion, having opened as stated, continued during the session. Various amendments to the resolutions as offered, were proposed in both Houses, but lost.
Application had been made by the people of Maine, with the consent of Massachusetts, to form a State Government and be admitted into the Union. This proposition, for a period, became coupled with the Missouri Question.
In the Senate, on the 3d of February, a senator from Illinois, offered an amendment to the Missouri branch of the bill, in the following words:
" 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, excepting only such part thereof as is included within the limits of the State contemplated by this act, slavery aud involuntary servitude, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall be, and is hereby forever prohibited: Provided, always, That any person escaping into the same, from whom labor 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 labor or service, as aforesaid."
This amendment was adopted in the Senate on the 17th of February, and subsequently became the basis of the " Missouri Compromise." On ordering the bill to a third reading in the Senate, the vote was in the affirmative.