IGCSE History Component-2: Specimen Questions with Answers 2 - 2 of 6


Section B: American Option

The Origins of the Civil War, 1846 - 1861

The Missouri Compromise, 1820

Read the sources and then answer both parts of the question.

Source A
  • An Act to authorize the people of the Missouri Territory to form a Constitution and State government, and for the admission of such state into the Union on an equal footing with the original states, and to prohibit slavery in certain territories.
  • Section 8: Be it further enacted that in all the territory ceded by France under the name of Louisiana, which lies north of thirty six degrees and thirty minutes north latitude, not included within the state contemplated by this Act, slavery and involuntary servitude shall be forever prohibited. Provided always that any person escaping into this territory from whom labor is lawfully claimed in any state or territory of the United States such fugitive may lawfully be reclaimed.
  • Approved March 6 1820.
  • From the Act of Congress known as the Missouri Compromise.
Source B
  • I thank you, dear sir, for the copy you have been so kind as to send me of the letter to your constituents on the Missouri question. I had, for a long time, ceased to read newspapers or pay any attention to public affairs, content to be a passenger in the boat to the shore from which I am not distant, but this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened me and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the death knell of the Union. A geographical line coinciding with a marked principal, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper. I regret that I am now to die in 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 passions of their sons and that my only consolation is to be that I live not to weep over it.
  • From a letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Holmes, Massachusetts politician, 22 April 1820.
Source C
  • Of the President՚s views, I know nothing. But this I do know, that he has not disguised or concealed his opinion on the subject of the attempt to make a Constitution for Missouri. I think I report him faithfully when I understood him as advising ‘mildness and firmness and decision’ . I trust this may be no cause for a division of sentiment in Virginia as to his re-election for the Missouri Crisis has arrived which demands unanimity on the part of the South. I am afraid that he might put his veto on any Bill which attempts to restrict a territory about to become a state in the exercise of it՚s sovereign power.
  • From a letter from John Tyler, US Representative for Virginia, 12 February 1820.
Source D
  • President Monroe approved and signed the Bill on the sixth day of March 1820. The President at the first believed the Bill to be unconstitutional and in the draft of a veto message which he did not send to Congress, lest it might cause a civil war, he used this language that the proposed restriction to territories which are to be admitted to the Union, if not a direct violation of the constitution, is repugnant to its principle. What other motive may have influenced him is not easy to determine but a Presidential election was approaching.
  • From ‘The True History of the Missouri Compromise and it՚s Repeal’ , published in 1899. The author of this source was married to the Senator who replaced Henry Clay on his death in 1852.

Answer both parts of the question with reference to the Sources.

Question 2 (2 of 2 Based on Passage)


Describe in Detail


How far do Sources A to D support the assertion that the Missouri Compromise was in fact a victory for the North? [Marks 25]


Source A, from the Missouri Compromise itself, can be used on both sides of the argument:

  • Source A supports the assertion in that it mentions the 36°30′ dividing line between free and unfree states. The state of Missouri excepted, no slave states can be established north of that line in the lands bought from France seventeen years before.
  • Source A challenges the assertion in that it mentions the fugitive slave law which still applies in the lands above 36°30′ line.
  • The best way of evaluating Source A in relation to the question is by using contextual knowledge. Slavery was definitely prohibited north of 36°30′ from 1820 on wards – until 1854 at least. The fugitive slave law, which benefited the South, depended upon the co-operation of the authorities in the North. Source A is only partly accurate in conveying the legal reality. Thus, it is not wholly reliable.
  • Source B challenges the assertion in that it argues that the Missouri Compromise, and especially its geographical dividing line, will risk conflict between free and unfree states and thus threaten the very existence of the USA. No one will gain from agreeing the Missouri Compromise. This is a letter written by a leading Founding Father and thus authoritative, if very pessimistic. He was also a slave-owner, if one who took the view that emancipation would eventually come. Thus, his slave-holding could be used either way, to decide the source is unreliable – because pro-South – or reliable because he could recognize arguments on both sides. What cannot be used as part of the evaluation process are his expectations for the future, however accurate they might be.
  • Source C also supports the assertion in that it argues that Monroe might veto a states rights bill. To stop such a bill would be disastrous for the South. In addition, the possibility of the South dividing would also mean a victory for the North; the South must remain united. Written by a Southern politician a few weeks before the Missouri Compromise was signed and while Monroe՚s attitude was unclear, this is probably an attempt to rally Southern support in order to influence the content of the Compromise. Cross-referencing to Source D shows that the fear of a veto was not unfounded. Despite this, Source C is unreliable because it is from a party politician seeking to gain political support.
  • Source D largely supports the assertion. It shows Monroe signing the Compromise, despite his doubts about its constitutionality, Source A tells us that the Compromise was, on balance, a victory for the North. If Monroe signs the bill, then he is helping the North to gain the quantifiable benefits of several new Free states while the South gains only the unquantifiable benefit of the extension of the Fugitive Slave Act.
  • The provenance of the source raises doubts about its reliability. The authorship suggests a likely partiality while the title suggests the book focuses more on the link between the two Compromises on inclusion of new states, those of 1820 and 1850, rather than on the Missouri Compromise itself. Cross referencing to Source C shows that Monroe issuing veto was a matter of debate in 1820, which suggests some reliability. Thus, the reliability of Source D is open to detailed discussion.

Note: The Context of the Missouri Compromise of 1820.

  • The 1820 Missouri Compromise was a response to the need to convert more US territory into states, while retaining the numerical balance between free and slave states. It resulted in the inclusion of Missouri, which chose to be a slave state, as well as the free state of Maine. Crucial to the Compromise was the exclusion of slavery from any lands gained from France in 1803 north of latitude 36°30′ , which was a huge area of land to the north-west of the Mississippi. The only exception agreed by Congress was Missouri itself, most of its southern border being drawn at .
  • The Compromise successfully balanced the interests of northern and southern states. It proved quite durable, lasting until the 1850s, when the USA faced the problems of including the new lands gained from Mexico in 1848 as well as Texas. In terms of sectional politics, the South – and especially the state of Virginia – dominated the early politics of the USA. Five of the first six Presidents, including Monroe, came from Virginia.
  • The party divisions of the late 1810s and early 1820s were relatively minor. The period of Monroe՚s two presidencies, 1817 – 25, is often equated with what was called at the time the Era of Good Feelings. Monroe was re-elected unopposed in 1820. The only sectional dispute of the time was the debate concerning the admission of Missouri itself.

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