An Impending Crisis The Missouri Compromise provided for the admission of Maine into the Union as a free state, the admission of Missouri into the Union as a slave state, and the removal of slavery north of Missouri. Importantly, this compromise reaffirmed the principle established in the Northwest Ordinance that Congress could, if it chose, prohibit slavery in the territories. While the Northwest Ordinance excluded slavery from the unorganized region of the nation west of Pennsylvania and north of the Ohio River, the Missouri Compromise appeared to resolve the issue of slavery in the territories, but the war with Mexico rearoused the controversy. Representative David Wilmot introduced a provision stating that slavery should never exist in any territory that might be gained from Mexico shortly after the war started. Though it passed the House, the slave states blocked it in the Senate. The Wilmot Proviso came to symbolize the issue of slavery in the territories. By 1850, the South, fearing that the strength of the North in Congress might lead to an attack on slavery where it already existed, was determined that slavery should expand. In contrast, the North was determined to prevent the expansion of slavery in the territories. Therefore, the issue was the status of the territory acquired from Mexico. Should the territory be slave or free? Congress was forced to face the problem when California requested for admission to the Union with a constitution prohibiting slavery. Nevertheless, In 1850, Henry Clay presented a package bill to the Senate designed to settle all the issues at once. After being broken up into separate elements that were voted on individually, the series of measures became the Compromise of 1850.
In January 1854, continuous angers were again aroused when Senator Stephen Douglas proposed to establish territorial government in the Nebraska country, part of the Louisiana Purchase, on the basis of popular sovereignty. By allowing popular sovereignty to decide whether or not slavery would be allowed in the Nebraska country, Douglas' bill would reverse the provision of the Missouri Compromise and prohibit slavery in the Louisiana Purchase. The Kansas-Nebraska Bill sponsored by Douglas would organize the Nebraska country into two territories. Kansas would be slave and Nebraska would be free. Congress debated the Kansas-Nebraska Bill for four months. President Franklin Pierce supported the bill and urged Northern congressmen to support it. The president's intervention proved crucial, and the bill was passed in May 1854 mainly with the support of the Southerners. The issue of slavery resurfaced throughout the history of early America. It brought about turmoil which would inevitably divide the Union and would endanger its stability. A majority of the resolutions essentially gave America more time to ponder the issue not effectively dealing with the problem. Heated debate came from all corners of the government as an impending crisis loomed.