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The Origin of Disunion? Rethinking the Missouri Compromise

September 25, 2018 from 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

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The panic of 1819 and the debate over the presence of slavery in Missouri shattered the illusion that America could exist without political factions or parties. But did the Missouri Compromise put the United States on the road to war?

Join Poplar Forest and Dr. Adam W. Dean, an associate professor of history at the University of Lynchburg specializing in slavery, the American Civil War and Reconstruction, for an exploration of the origins and aftermath of the debate over slavery in the Louisiana Purchase. Dr. Dean will suggest that while the Missouri Compromise showed the potential for sectional divisions on slavery, it did not mean that the Civil War was inevitable.

Dr. Dean, who earned his PhD in 19th-century United States history from the University of Virginia in 2010, will focus on using insights from environmental and social history to answer long-standing questions about the Civil War. His first book, An Agrarian Republic: Farming, Antislavery Politics, and Nature Parks in the Civil War Era, was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2015. Dr. Dean has published articles in Civil War History and The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography.

About the Missouri Compromise

In 1820, Congress made an effort to ease tensions between the slave and free states by passing the Missouri Compromise, which permitted Missouri’s request to join the Union as a slave state, admitted Maine as a free state to maintain numerical balance between slave and free states and set a physical boundary between the free and slave regions of the country. Bitter debates and anxieties ensued across the country and here in Virginia, where slave owners and enslaved individuals alike pondered how the compromise might affect their futures.

"But this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror." –JEFFERSON DISCUSSING THE MISSOURI QUESTION TO JOHN HOLMES, APRIL 22, 1820

In addition to Dr. Dean’s talk, Poplar Forest will present “Fire Bell in the Night,” a dynamic new tour of Poplar Forest, on Saturday, October 6th.

Experience an evening with Thomas Jefferson at his Poplar Forest plantation in the aftermath of the Missouri Compromise of 1820. “Fire Bell in the Night” brings history to life with a guided tour where participants interact with historical actors and interpreters in and around Jefferson’s retreat house, exploring the fears and hopes of Thomas Jefferson, the enslaved men and women and our new nation. Offered for one night only!

Hear Jefferson’s anxiety regarding the Missouri Compromise, which he said was “the death knell of the Union.” Engage with Burwell Colbert, Jefferson’s enslaved butler, and other enslaved workers on the property as they ruminate on their concerns about this political compromise that ensured their continued enslavement at the same time it secured others’ freedom. Tours will begin at 6 p.m. and run every 30 minutes through 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 per person and are available below.

For more information and tickets to "Fire Bell in the Night" on October 6

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September 25, 2018
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Event Category:


Poplar Forest
1776 Poplar Forest Parkway
Lynchburg, VA 24502 United States


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