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On August 10, 1821, Missouri entered the Union...

 as the 24th state. Named after the native American people that originally inhabited the land, Missouri was acquired by the U.S. as part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. At that time, the territory's 10,000 occupants were mainly French settlers. After the War of 1812, American settlers poured into the region. In 1817, the territory of Missouri applied for statehood. The question of Missouri's admission as a slave or free state led statesman Henry Clay to devise the Missouri Compromise of 1820, admitting Missouri as a slave state while admitting Maine as a free state, and prohibiting slavery in Louisiana Territory north of the parallel 36 30', Missouri's southern border.

This resolution proved temporary. Congress passed the Compromise of 1850 which admitted one more slave and one more free state to the Union, and abolished the slave trade in the District of Columbia, yet avoided a fundamental decision as to the right of slavery to exist under the Constitution. In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act served to abrogate the Missouri Compromise. And in 1857, as a part of the Dred Scott decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the compromise unconstitutional by ruling that Congress had no power to bar slavery from a territory, as it had in 1820. Four years later, the slavery debate erupted in civil war.

The Civil War divided Missourians. Although the state remained with the Union, some of its citizens chose to fight for the Confederacy. In American Life Histories, 1936-1940, John Franklin Smith, the son of a Missouri slave owner, recalls early tensions and violence in the state, including an 1861 incident when a vigilante group opposed to slavery, called the Jayhawkers, visited Smith's house and threatened to kill his father:


 

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