The admission of Missouri to the Union quickly became a constitutional crisis of the first order, inciting an intensive reexamination of the U.S. Constitution by Congress. At the heart of the matter was whether that body possessed the authority to place conditions on a territory, in this instance Missouri, regarding restrictions on slavery—before its admittance to the Union.
The larger question with which the legislators grappled involved the limits of the Constitution’s provisions granting Congress the authority to affect the institution of slavery, both where it already existed and where it could expand. What would come to be known as the Missouri Crisis severely tested the still young republic and, some four decades later, would all but rend it asunder. Edited by Dr. William S. Belko, Contesting the Constitution: Congress Debates the Missouri Crisis, 1819-1821 is a collection of original essays thoughtfully engaging the intersections of history and constitutional law presented by this historic impasse. Join us for a program on this timely volume that’s certain to find eager readers among historians, legal scholars, political scientists, as well as many others who call Missouri home.
Belko is the Executive Director of the Missouri Humanities Council. He’s also published several monographs and award-winning articles on various early 19th century American history subjects. Belko comes from a long line of families that settled in Missouri during its territorial and early statehood period, and who rose to prominence during the development of the St. Louis area.