Charles Martel wrote:It seems unimportant to me because the 36 30 line was essentially meaningless. It was never used to decide whether or not a new state had slavery. California, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware were all exceptions to the rule, and after it was implemented, they ignored it the next time they added a state near the line.
You are aware that Kentucky, Virginia, Delaware and Maryland were all slave states BEFORE the Missouri compromise was enacted and therefore the existence of slavery in them has no real bearing on how important the 36'30" parallel is as the Missouri Compromise was never meant to deal with the existence of slavery in organized states?
Charles Martel wrote:
Plenty of treaty stipulations were never implemented in the way they were supposed to, or were totally perverted from their original sense. Is Molotov-Ribbentrop not worth knowing because the Germans eventually ignored it? As Daniel pointed out, the line set at 36 30 was extremely significant in the debates over extending or limiting slavery. Whether all the parties actually acted in good faith and whether it was actually effective seems to me beside the point.
Exactly. Knowing that they had a line, and that it caused debate, is important. That the line was never used to make a single decision means that the exact location of the line is unimportant, and shouldn't be asked about.
Your statement that the exact location of the 36'30" doesn't matter is not backed by facts as it was precisely the EXACT location of the 36'30" that caused a lot of the debates. Many northerners did not want to annex Texas because they knew that the Missouri Compromise, by establishing the 36'30" parallel as the dividing line between new slave and free states, in a sense mandated that Texas, a Republic that had very few slaves, become a slave state. Had the line been drawn significantly differently then the debate could have followed an entirely different course! A large portion of the debate over how the California territory would be divided up centered upon whether or not the 36'30" parallel, and not any other line, should determine where slavery was allowed. If the line had been set higher north or farther south by a significant amount, then the debate would have followed an entirely different course! Additionally a large swath of FREE territory was organized specifically because of the 36'30" provision, thus preventing the entrenchment of slavery in more territories prior to the Civil War. (If you need a map: Map of the United States - 1850
). While much of that territory did not become states until after the Civil War, the fact that the area was mandated to be free by virtue of the Compromise is still important.
On top of this the fact that the line was ignored is important as well. The most contentious portion of the Kansas-Nebraska Act was that of popular sovereignty. A lot of the debate over this provision of the bill revolved around, among other issues, the fact that it outright ignored the 36'30 parallel provision of the Missouri Compromise, by allowing two territories that lay above the 36'30" parallel to vote on whether or not they should become free or slave states. If the 36'30" parallel had not been chosen as the line then the popular sovereignty provision of the Kansas-Nebraska Act would not have been needed to garner southern support for the bill, which was the precise reason that it was added by Stephen Douglas. Also, a lot of the problems arising out of the Kansas-Nebraska bill were specifically caused by the fact that both Kansas and Nebraska had a history of being free territories, specifically because they lay above the 36'30" parallel.
In other words, the 36'30" parallel, both by virtue of being ignored and by virtue of being used, is an important thing to know about.
All of this discussion ignores the arguably more important fact that the 36'30" parallel is something that people do know about and are taught about in school. Not only that, but it is a piece of knowledge that can easily be tested by a quizbowl question, which means that it satisfies both the "Is this known enough to be asked about?" and "Can I actually write a question that asks about this?" criteria for being a good quizbowl answerline.