Crittenden Compromise

[ krit-n-duhn ]
/ ˈkrɪt n dən /
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noun U.S. History.
a series of constitutional amendments proposed in Congress in 1860 to serve as a compromise between proslavery and antislavery factions, one of which would have permitted slavery in the territories south but not north of latitude 36°30′N.
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Also called Crittenden Plan .

Origin of Crittenden Compromise

Named after its proponent, John J. Crittenden (1787–1863), U.S. senator from Kentucky

Words nearby Crittenden Compromise

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is the Crittenden Compromise?

The Crittenden Compromise was an 1860 plan that would have made slavery legal forever in American territory located south of latitude 36°30′N, which is at Missouri’s southern border.

The Crittenden Compromise was an attempt to stop the southern US states from seceding from the country.

The Crittenden Compromise had support from the public and 23 Senators voted in favor of it. However, Sen. Crittenden failed to generate enough support in Congress and the proposal ultimately died in the Senate vote.

Why is Crittenden Compromise important?

When Abraham Lincoln won the American presidential election of 1860, several southern states almost immediately began the process of formally seceding from the Union. Kentucky senator John Crittenden was determined to reach a compromise with the South and prevent secession. His solution was a proposal, now known as the Crittenden Compromise, that he presented to Congress in December 1860.

The Crittenden Compromise comprised six constitutional amendments and four resolutions. These amendments would reestablish the line drawn during the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which allowed Missouri to join the Union as a slave state while forbidding any other new slave states located above Missouri’s southern border. These amendments would also permenantly allow slavery in all territory below lattitude 36°30′N and forbid it in any territory above it. Additionally, Congress would never be allowed to intefere with the slave trade, Congress must pay for any slaves rescued from their owners in the future, and Congress could not ban slavery from government property that was located in slave states. Finally, no future amendments could ever be passed to change any of these rules or allow Congress to abolish slavery. John Crittenden believed his compromise was the best chance of reconciling with the South and suggested that a national referendum should be held on his proposal.

The Crittenden Compromise had significant public support and was popular in the states that bordered the South. However, president-elect Lincoln was strongly against the proposal because it did nothing to stop the expansion of the institution of slavery. Because of this, Republican senators voted against the Crittenden Compromise in March 1861 in a close vote of 25 for to 23 against.

Did you know … ?

John Crittenden had been in politics for more than 40 years before he proposed the Crittenden Compromise at age 74. During his long tenure in politics, he was known as a conciliator and peace broker. He was unable to prevent the American Civil War from happening, and two of his sons fought on opposing sides of the war.

What are real-life examples of Crittenden Compromise?

The Crittenden Compromise would have reestablished the depicted line, which was drawn during the Missouri Compromise of 1820. Slavery would have been legal in any United States territory south of this line, such as possible territory acquired in the Caribbean or South America.


The Crittenden Compromise never made it out of the Senate, and today is nothing more than an obscure bit of trivia or a potentially unpleasant topic of alternative history discussions:


Quiz yourself!

True or False?

The Crittenden Compromise would have made slavery legal below latitude 36°30′N and prevented Congress from ever making it illegal below that line.

How to use Crittenden Compromise in a sentence