The American Revolution drove a wedge between slave states and free states, a division that assumed clearer shape and became more important in the early nineteenth century. The identity of both the free and the slave states was defined by the unexpected expansion of slavery during this period. The Missouri Crisis of 1819, which arose when Missouri's application for admission to the Union as a slave state was rejected by Northerners in the House, bridged the early national and antebellum politics of slavery. In this politics of slavery, there were several important players, from partisans and patriots to abolitionists and advocates of slavery, along with free blacks and the slaves themselves. Throughout the early nineteenth century, the sectional politics of slavery presented striking paradoxes involving the North and South. Whereas the North was proud to call itself “the free states,” the South seemed to feel the opposite for being “the slave states.” And if sectionalism in the North was more confident than in the South, its expression was suppressed by the national political structure.
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