James Monroe appears to have written this letter as a draft before he sent out a final version, as indicated by numerous revisions. Monroe writes to an unknown person about the "Missouri question." In 1819 the Missouri Territory requested admission to the Union as a slaveholding state, threatening to upset the balance of slave and free states in Congress. In his letter, Monroe gives his "correct view in regards to this Missouri question," asserting that all states of the United States must have equal rights. Monroe admits that slavery is recognized by the Constitution but he "has doubts" whether slaveowners could retain the slaves they take into the territories. The Missouri Compromise, negotiated in Congress and signed into law by Monroe in 1820, admitted Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state. The Compromise was a major milestone in the debate over slavery that led to the American Civil War.