The Missouri Compromise and Its Aftermath

Slavery and the Meaning of America

By Robert Pierce Forbes

384 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 1 map, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-6183-7
    Published: September 2009
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-7758-6
    Published: January 2009
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7072-8
    Published: January 2009

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit

Awards & distinctions

A 2007 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Robert Pierce Forbes goes behind the scenes of the crucial Missouri Compromise, the most important sectional crisis before the Civil War, to reveal the high-level deal-making, diplomacy, and deception that defused the crisis, including the central, unexpected role of President James Monroe. Although Missouri was allowed to join the union with slavery, the compromise in fact closed off nearly all remaining federal territories to slavery.

When Congressman James Tallmadge of New York proposed barring slavery from the new state of Missouri, he sparked the most candid discussion of slavery ever held in Congress. The southern response quenched the surge of nationalism and confidence following the War of 1812 and inaugurated a new politics of racism and reaction. The South's rigidity on slavery made it an alluring electoral target for master political strategist Martin Van Buren, who emerged as the key architect of a new Democratic Party explicitly designed to mobilize southern unity and neutralize antislavery sentiment. Forbes's analysis reveals a surprising national consensus against slavery a generation before the Civil War, which was fractured by the controversy over Missouri.

About the Author

Robert Pierce Forbes is assistant professor of history at the University of Connecticut. He is coauthor of Francis Kernan, Esq.: The Life and Times of a Nineteenth-Century Politician from Upstate New York.

For more information about Robert Pierce Forbes, visit the Author Page.


"An important book offering the first systematic reinterpretation of the Missouri Compromise and its aftermath in more than a generation. . . . A brilliant and an essential reconsideration of an important episode in American history. It is a work of thorough scholarship and penetrating insights."--American Historical Review

"Forbes's account of the sectional conflict from the time of the Missouri crisis is well written and thoroughly researched and will repay a reader's careful and thoughtful consideration."--Journal of American History

"A compelling case study of the centrality of slavery to early national America."--Journal of Southern History

"This is an important book that only begins to untangle the shifting political alliances, issues, and ideologies that sustained debates over slavery during the 1820s."--Journal of the Early Republic

"[An] exemplary study. . . . A resolutely intelligent book, provocative in its thesis, broad in its reach, patient in its execution, and sober in its judgments."--Political Science Quarterly

"Certain to become essential reading on the era of good feelings and the origins of the second-party system. . . . Extremely rich and complex. . . . Important and intriguing."--Journal of Interdisciplinary History