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The new territories acquired from Britain, France, and Mexico were the subject of major political compromises.
By 1850, the newly rich cotton-growing South was threatening to secede from the Union, and tensions continued to rise.
For slavery among Native Americans, see Slavery among Native Americans in the United States.
For slavery in the colonial period, see Slavery in the colonial United States.
As the West was developed for settlement, the Southern state governments wanted to keep a balance between the number of slave and free states to maintain a political balance of power in Congress.
Domestic slave trading, however, continued at a rapid pace, driven by labor demands from the development of cotton plantations in the Deep South.
More than one million slaves were sold from the Upper South, which had a surplus of labor, and taken to the Deep South in a forced migration, splitting up many families.
The United States became polarized over the issue of slavery, represented by the slave and free states, in effect divided by the Mason–Dixon line which delineated (free) Pennsylvania from (slave) Maryland and Delaware.
Congress during the Jefferson administration prohibited the importation of slaves, effective 1808, although smuggling (illegal importing) was not unusual.
Slaves could be held if they were captives of war, if they sold themselves into slavery or were purchased from elsewhere, or if they were sentenced to slavery as punishment by the governing authority.