The United States Senate, A.D. 1850, by Robert E. White Church. Courtesy of the U.S. Senate Collection.
Back in Congress, the House and Senate remained deadlocked. Congressmen were divided on whether they believed Congress had the authority to place conditions, in this instance, a restriction on slavery in Missouri, on a state before its admission into the Union. This Missouri Question created a crisis that demanded an answer to a long-unanswered constitutional question: How should power be divided between the federal government and the states?
As the debate dragged on Congress descended into disunion. In the impassioned and aggressive speeches of both sides, the beginning of the Civil War could be heard. But in December of 1819, a potential solution arose when Maine, then formally part of Massachusetts, requested admission into the Union as a free state. Lead by Speaker of the House Henry Clay, Missouri and Maine were included in a joint bill for admission into the Union maintaining the balance of representation between northern and southern states.