NW Ordinance vs. MO Compromise

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    I’m reading your book about Thomas Jefferson and I have a question regarding Jefferson’s views on the extension of slavery into the territories. Jefferson authored a provision for the NW ordinance that banned slavery in that territory, but during the Missouri Compromise the book says he believed that Missouri was sovereign and that Congress could not dictate to a state whether it should be a free or a slave state. How can we clear up these views? Was it just the difference between the authority of the Articles of Confederation and the new Constitution? It just seems contradictory. Thank you


    You’re right: it does seem contradictory. As Prof. Robert Paquette of Hamilton College will explore in a forthcoming book, Jefferson had become dedicated to the idea of bringing slavery to an end via “diffusion,” followed by state-level emancipation, by the time of the Missouri Crisis. Banning slavery from Missouri would mean that the Atlantic states would have skyrocketing slave populations, thus very little likelihood of ending slavery, and so to him this could only be harmful both to slaves and to masters.

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