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Efforts to Compromise

Senator John J. Crittenden of Kentucky was the leading Southern supporter of loyalty to the Union. In December 1860, he proposed a series of constitutional amendments and Congressional legislation aimed at averting war. Under the terms of the Crittenden Compromise the following were proposed, that:

  • The Missouri Compromise line (36?30’ north latitude) be extended through the territories to California; north of the line were to be free states and slave states to the south
  • Congress would not attempt to regulate slavery where it then existed
  • Congress would provide compensation for the owners of fugitive slaves.
A constitutional amendment was necessary for revival of the line separating slave from free states because the Supreme Court had struck down the Missouri Compromise in the Dred Scott decision. Lincoln, awaiting inauguration, expressed willingness to support compensation and allow slavery to continue where it already existed, but he would not sanction extension of the institution. Keeping the territories free from slavery was the backbone of the Republican Party; to have capitulated on that point would have forced him to enter office without a united party behind him. The Crittenden proposal died in committee. In February 1861, another effort dedicated to achieving a compromise solution took place. Former president John Tyler presided over the Richmond Convention, but their offerings were again rejected by Lincoln.