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Chapter 2: the Background

Let us consider the first fifty years of our national history. There was never a moment during this time when the slavery issue was not a sleeping serpent. That issue lay coiled up under the table during the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. It was, owing to the invention of the cotton gin, more than half awake at the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803; and slavery was continued in the Louisiana Territory by the terms of the treaty. Thereafter slavery was always in everyone's mind, though not always on his tongue. A slave state and a free state were, as a matter of practice, always admitted in pairs. Thus, Vermont and Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio, Louisiana and Indiana, Mississippi and Illinois, had each been offset against the other. This was to preserve the balance of power. The whole country, however, was in a state of unstable equilibrium and

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