The sign said:
The Historic Missouri Compromise Line of 1820
I had forgotten that the Missouri Compromise Line reached into modern day Oklahoma (what was in 1820 part of Arkansas Territory).
The Missouri Compromise was an agreement passed in 1820 between the pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions in the United States Congress, involving primarily the regulation of slavery in the western territories. It prohibited slavery in the former Louisiana Territory north of the parallel 36°30' north except within the boundaries of the proposed state of Missouri. The free states were becoming concerned that too many slave states were being entered into the union, and the balance was shifting toward slavery because of the number of congressional delegates from these new slave states. The Missouri Compromise insured that any new states from the Western Territories would be free states.
The little strip of what we now call Northern Oklahoma, where slavery was forbidden, is where I live. Even when Congress created Indian Territory, slavery was barred in the land of the red people north of the 36°30' Missouri Compromise line (the Choctaw word for 'land of red people' is "Oklahoma").
In an April 22, 1820 letter to John Holmes, Thomas Jefferson wrote that the division of the country created by the Compromise line would eventually lead to the destruction of the Union. He predicted, forty years before it occurred, what we know as the Civil War. Jefferson wrote:
"... (This Compromise), 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."
Pay close attention to Jefferson's words: A geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, 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.
I believe there are some extraordinary parallels with the 1820 Missouri Compromise and the 2007 SBC. A line has been drawn in the sand and many in the SBC are saying, "You will go no further in an attempt to enslave us to your views on secondary and tertiary matters." The angry passions of men and women have been aroused and every new irritation seems to make the division only deeper.
How will it end? Only the Lord knows, but it is my prayer that rather than a civil war, Southern Baptists will be able to move forward in a spirit of cooperation as we fulfill our gospel mission. But make no mistake - the line has been drawn - and it is effectively known as the Garner motion.
In His Grace,