The Tallmadge Amendment of 1818 was a failed piece of legislation proposed by New York Representative James Tallmadge Jr. (1778–1853) in an attempt to resolve the question of how the Missouri Territory should be admitted to the Union. When the House of Representatives began deliberating the Missouri Territory's admission for statehood, the Union was comprised of equal numbers of free and slave states (eleven each). But Missouri threatened to throw off the balance: slavery was legal in the territory and ten thousand slaves lived there. The issue became a serious debate in the House, where the northern free states (due to their higher population of voters) held the majority. In his amendment to the bill granting Missouri statehood, Tallmadge proposed prohibiting the transport of any more slaves into the Missouri Territory. The measure would have let Missouri keep its slave status, but granted freedom to children born to slaves in the state after admission. By Tallmadge's proposal, Missouri's slave status would be temporary—lasting only until the slaves living there at the time of state-hood died—because no slaves could be brought in and any offspring would be free. The measure passed in the House but was defeated in the Senate. The issue of Missouri's statehood remained unresolved at the end of the Congressional session. By the time Congress next convened, Maine had applied for statehood, giving lawmakers a neat, albeit temporary, way out of the dilemma of how to preserve balance between the free North and the slave South: By the Missouri Compromise of 1820, Missouri was admitted as a slave state, Maine as a free state.
See also: Missouri Compromise, Slavery
TALLMADGE AMENDMENT, a bill proposed on 13 February 1819 by Rep. James Tallmadge of New York to amend Missouri enabling legislation by forbidding the further introduction of slavery into Missouri and declaring that all children born of slave parents after the admission of the state should be free upon reaching the age of twenty-five. The bill provoked heated debate in Congress and nationwide agitation, marking the beginning of sectional controversy over the expansion of slavery. The slave section was convinced of the necessity of maintaining equal representation in the Senate. The House adopted the amendment but the Senate rejected it. The Missouri Compromise (1820) settled the issue.
Fehrenbacher, Don E. Sectional Crisis and Southern Constitutionalism. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1995.
John ColbertCochrane/c. w.