Software for the finest computer – The Mind


Posted by Tim Bryce on January 22, 2019


– The past may very well forecast our future.

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Some time ago, I happened to make a comparison between the period leading up to the American Civil War (1820-1860) and the discourse of today. I wish to take this a bit further so people can better understand the parallel.

Back in the early 1800’s, the country was still divided over the question of slavery, primarily along sectional lines, north versus south. As the young country began to expand in a westerly direction, both sides grew concerned over losing power in Congress through the annexation of new states on either side of the slavery issue. If one side gained more votes than the other, it was conceivable they could implement policies and laws detrimental to the other side. Although there was initially balance between the states, a flash point erupted when the citizens of Missouri applied for statehood as a slave state. This led to an impasse in both houses of Congress as the discourse heated up. The debates were so passionate they began to draw large audiences in the galleries. Both sides were adamant in their position and settlement of the issue seemed impossible.

After several attempts, the Missouri Compromise was finally drafted whereby Missouri would be allowed to join the country as a slave state, and Maine, which had been a part of northeastern Massachusetts, was admitted as a free state, thereby maintaining parity over Congress. Further, an amendment was added whereby slavery would be excluded in all territories and future states north of the parallel 36°30′ north (the southern boundary of Missouri).

The compromise was a clumsy document and only delayed the inevitable dispute over slavery. Former President Thomas Jefferson believed it would eventually lead to the destruction of the Union. He summed up the sentiments of the day in a letter to his friend, John Holmes on April 22, 1820; Jefferson wrote:

“…But this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. It is hushed indeed for the moment, but this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence, a geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper.”

For the next thirty years, both sides carefully watched the balance of power. In 1836 when Michigan was admitted as a free state, Arkansas was admitted as a slave state. The Compromise of 1850 dealt with the admittance of Texas and consideration for states in the southwest, including California.

It wasn’t until the passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854, drafted by Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, that the Missouri Compromise was finally made obsolete. Under the Act, the voters of each state would determine the issue of slavery internally, not by the Congress, thereby negating the intent of the Missouri Compromise. Although the Act was intended to appease both sides, it was ultimately perceived as supporting the slave powers of the South.

The debate over the Act went on for four months and featured the political luminaries of the day, including Douglas, Salmon P. Chase (OH), William Seward (NY), and Charles Sumner (MA). The New York Tribune wrote on March 2nd that, “The unanimous sentiment of the North is indignant resistance,” which sounds remarkably like Congress today.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act eventually passed but set the country on a course towards Civil War. In the process, it caused chaos among the political parties which were split up and redefined. For example, it gave rise to the Republican Party in 1856 which primarily consisted of northerners who were antislavery.


Both disputes, then and now, are cultural in nature. Whereas slavery was the issue driving the disagreements of the early 1800’s, today it is socioeconomics. Both issues were extremely divisive and incongruous to the point of being irreconcilable. Today’s discourse is every bit as bitter and reminiscent of the period preceding the Civil War, and the void between the two sides is just as large and insurmountable. Again, it is all about control over the Congress and which side will force their way of life on the other.

If the Missouri Compromise and Civil War has taught us anything, the only way such sharp disputes can be resolved is through armed conflict. This is not only a scary proposition for the country internally, but it would have far reaching effects on the world at large, as it would finally present the opportunities our enemies have been waiting for in order to dismantle the free world.

I sincerely hope nobody truly wants armed conflict as we should have learned this lesson through our first Civil War, but the divisiveness of the country makes you wonder how we can possibly avoid it. Let us not forget, the period leading up to the Civil War spawned zealots like abolitionist John Brown who advocated and practiced armed insurrection. You have to wonder who will be the zealot of our time.

First published: June 18, 2010. Updated 2019.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

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Copyright © 2019 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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  1. Tim Bryce said

    An M.W. of Virginia wrote…

    “Well written Tim. I’ve often thought that the divide today is similar to the one before the civil war. The Dem party has really taken a sharp turn left. 2020 will pull them even further. Here is the question- how much crazier can they get? – Men in ladies bathrooms and competing in women’s sports (have you seen the boy running track in CT against girls, beating records, winning all the races- he just ‘feels’ like a girl.), demonization of high school kids at a pro life rally, supporting criminal illegals, etc. It’s kind of amazing to watch how crazy they get. “


  2. Joe Duhamel said

    I’ve been saying since the W Bush days, we should amicably split into red and blue Americas. The states do not need to be congruous. I honestly don’t believe that with all the available resources each state offers, that the union needs to remain intact. No need for armed conflict (what would we be fighting over)? Like the petulant child who moves out, let us part ways. The blue states can write their new constitution to include universal healthcare and cradle-to-grave entitlements for all, including immigrants. The red states should keep the original constitution intact and return to the constitutional republic she was always meant to be, with very limited gov’t. When the blue states eventually collapse (I give them a single generation), the red states can annex them back, just as West Germany received East Germany.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. William Achbach said

    Well done, Tim and an excellent illustration, as well, of the notion that “Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it!”

    I’d draw out the parallel just a step further to point out that the current impasse and crisis is also about slavery, every bit as much as that of the early 19th century. Then the two sides debated and fumed, fundamentally, over the issue of whether a large segment of the inhabitants of this nation would remain in chains. Today, whatever issue fuels the argument at any given moment, the debate is over whether there will be, for an ever-increasing proportion of the people, an ever-increasing dependence upon a central authority controlled by an arrogant elite. Then the controversy was over whether an enslaved people should be free; today the issue, ultimately, is whether a free people will be slaves.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Joseph Paul Passanise said

    The issue is not so much social-economics as it is immigration which wasn’t the issue in 2010 when the original article was written. With the Kansas-Nebraska Act, can each state especially our states along the southern border decide that there should not be any obstruction to illegal immigration? This, of course, would be in conflict with President Trump’s position on the need for the Wall. Will such division say between California and the US result in military conflict between Cal. state militia and the US Military? It would be hard to believe this could happen. History could repeat itself, but this time the guns are bigger and more deadlier.


  5. Arthur C said

    Hi Tim,
    Food for thought for sure. The parallels between the issues then and the issues now is, I believe, not so much the issues themselves but with the nature of the human beings involved in the choice of how to work through the growing emotional storm within each of us as it seeks to find a resolution. War, with its attendant horrors, took about 5 years before the storm to a level that people were willing to live with. That storm never ended. Not really. It just submerged its head for a while, only showing its existence in more subtle and individual ways. Now, when an increasing number of people are feeling fearful of harm as they attempt to make life choices, (those choices which determine how and where they will live, what they will do with their lives, as well as keeping any loved one safe and happy), more and more of those choices are being affected by fear. Who and what do I choose to trust? Who and what do I choose to mistrust?
    The only answers I have seen, so far, are personal answers that I can only apply to my own life and to the choices that are mine to make.

    Right now, my choice is to take care of myself by going to sleep for the night and continue learning and making choices for tomorrow when tomorrow has arrived.

    Good night!

    Liked by 1 person

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