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THE FORMATIVE PERIOD
The Republican party was organized in 1854. That was the time of the third great crisis in the domestic history of the nation. The first had occurred in the very establishment of our constitutional system. The second had its culmination in the Missouri Compromise of 1820, when, by giving formal recognition and assent to sectional lines, it was hoped to allay the rising menace of sectionalism against nationality. For a generation that compromise endured, though the inexorable logic of events was steadily working against its perpetuity. Its principle had been to divide the United States west of the Mississippi River on the geographical line of 36° 30′ north latitude, with free territory at the north and slave territory at the south, and to admit a state from one side concurrently with a state from the other, so as to keep the balance even between the two at Washington. That seemed like an extension of the provision of the Ordinance of 1787 which made the Northwest Territory—afterward Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin—free soil, while leaving the Southwest—Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Gulf States—to slavery.
Before a dozen years had passed, however, it became apparent that there was more territory for free states north of the Missouri Compromise line than for slave