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A Solution? Jefferson Proposes Diffusion

In 1819–20, the question of slavery's expansion into Missouri and other western territories was a matter of fierce political debate.

Jefferson and other southerners favored the "diffusion" of slaves in the west, believing that the spread of enslaved people over a larger geographic area would improve their situation and lead more swiftly to emancipation.

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Jefferson’s “fire bell in the night” letter to John Holmes, dated April 22, 1820, in which Jefferson discusses expatriation and diffusion of slaves.

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Letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Holmes, April 22, 1820.
Library of Congress


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