Why Did Missouri Become a Slave State and California a Free state? | HistoryNet

Why Did Missouri Become a Slave State and California a Free state?

By Mr. History
5/31/2016 • America's Civil War, Ask Mr. History

Mr. History,

I’m Mikasa and I wanted to know, why did Missouri want to become a slave state and why did California want to become a free state?

Mikasa Ackerman



Dear Mikasa,

Missouri originally favored slavery because its original settlers came mostly from the south via the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 had declared it a slave state (while Maine was created to counterbalance it as a free state). Over the next few decades, however, a new wave of settlers came in, mainly German and Irish immigrants who were opposed to slavery, leaving the state divided by the time a census was taken in 1860—of 1,182,012 Missourians, 475,246 (only 40 percent) had been born there and 114,931 (9.7 percent) were black slaves, mostly in rural areas. At first hoping to remain neutral as war was breaking out, Missouri’s government favored secession when President Abraham Lincoln began raising an army to coerce seceding states back into the Union, but Union Army forces ultimately forced Missouri to remain officially in the Union. Even so, Missouri “orphan” regiments (as well as Major General Sterling Price) fought for the Confederacy in the Frontier Theater of Operations, and itself Missouri was ravaged by a brutal internecine guerrilla conflict between irregular forces—the pro-Union “Red Legs” and “Jayhawkers,” and the secessionist “Bushwhackers” under William Quantrill and Bloody Hill Anderson.

California, with a bulk of its economy focused on either gold in the central regions or mining, shipping and commerce in the north, never viewed slavery as worthwhile when it entered the Union as a free state in 1850. As war clouds gathered some southern settlers and Californios (who rankled at what they considered inequitable tax and land laws) in southern California made tentative attempts at secession and even formed a militia unit, the Los Angeles Mounted Rifles, but they were too few to amount to anything—California voted for Abraham Lincoln by a slim plurality and stayed in the Union when war broke out. Many of the Los Angeles Mounted Rifles rode east to be assimilated into Texas regiments, while Brevet Brigadier General Albert Sidney Johnson, after resigning his commission on April 9, 1861, journeyed even farther east to be made a full general in command of the Confederate Western Military Department (the Mississippi River region) until his death at Shiloh on April 6, 1862.



Jon Guttman

Research Director

World History


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One Response to Why Did Missouri Become a Slave State and California a Free state?

  1. markdouglas says:

    Dont believe that guy. “Missouri” did not want to become a slave state, and no one asked the people there. How dare “Mr History” give you this nonsensical answer.

    Guttman should know that slavery always — always — spread by violence, hate, fear, suppression of speech, violation of religious freedom. For example, even preachers could be and were arrested in the South and subjected to public torture for preaching or even owning a book against slavery.

    Guttman should have told you that.

    Southern politicians simply DEMANDED — under threat of war — that they get a state for slavery, if California came in as a slave state.

    Guttman should know the violence that followed- – and as Llinconl said “WHAT COMPROMISE”/

    Don’t let anyone tell you 1820 or 1850 were “compromises”. They were no more “compromises” than an armed robbery at a 7-11. The tortured, killings, drownings — hangings — by paid thugs, paid by slave power — was as evident as can be in in 1850s, as Southern leaders boasted of exactly that. They did not admit it, they boasted they were killing and torturing to spread slavery. And they spread it against — remember that — against the will of the people in Kansas. They nearly got away with it, but for John Brown and later, a guy named Lincoln.

    But in 1820, there was a big difference. There was no telegraph. Southern leaders and paid killers could do whatever they wanted, and the rest of the country didn’t notice, or only heard bits and pieces later. In the case of 1856, killings and tortures done by US Senator Atchison, and boasted of by him, were known within days or weeks in Chicago, Washington, with all the gorey details. Atchison helped make it clear by boasting of it.

    Guttman’s answer is actually stupid — he claims Missouri became a slave state, because the settlers there came from the South after the “Compromise” of 1820. If he were in my history class, I would flunk him. That answer is not only made up BS, but not logical. The question was HOW it became a slave state, and this guy says it became a slave state because it became a slave state.

    He has no clue, and no information and no documentation that “Missouri” wanted. There was no vote. There was never a vote on slavery, allowed by slave power folks, other than the type involving guns, promises of lynchings, and tortures of anyone who disagreed.

    So don’t believe his answer. He pulled this out of his ass.

    Go back to work, Guttman. You failed big time here. Apologize, and learn,

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