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In a last-ditch effort to preserve the Union following Abraham Lincoln’s election to the presidency, Kentucky senator John Crittenden proposed legislation in December 1860 that was intended to derail the burgeoning secession movement. His plan called for dividing the United States in half, with slavery prohibited north of a dividing line and permanently guaranteed to its south. The Crittenden Compromise essentially reinstated the Missouri Compromise line (which had been nullified in 1854 by the Kansas-Nebraska Act) and extended it west to California. Most Northern legis-lators, including President-elect Lincoln, rejected a plan that expanded slavery and made any future abolition legislation unconstitutional.

Crittenden prevented his home state of Kentucky from seceding from the Union with the other Southern states, but the Civil War sowed division in his family. Two of his sons served as major generals in the Civil War: one fighting for the Union, the other for the Confederacy.

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