Jesse Burgess Thomas was born in 1777 at Shepherdstown, Virginia (now West Virginia).
Jesse studied law in Mason County, Kentucky and served as the county clerk until 1803.
He then moved north of the Ohio River to Lawrenceburg in Indiana Territory, where he continued to practice law and became the territorial deputy attorney general in 1805.
In the same year, he began serving as a delegate to the Territorial house of representatives, and was the body’s speaker from 1805-1808.
When Benjamin Parke resigned as the territorial delegate to Congress, Thomas was appointed to fill the vacancy from October 22, 1808 until he moved to Kaskaskia, Illinois on March 3, 1809.
When Illinois became a territory in 1809, Jesse Thomas was appointed judge of the United States court for the northwestern judicial district, a position he held from 1809 until 1818.
In 1818, Jesse presided over the Illinois State Constitutional Convention and upon admittance to the Union, he served as a Illinois Senator for two terms.
The United States Senate and the House of Representatives were at odds not only on the issue of slavery, but also on the parliamentary question of the inclusion of Maine and Missouri within the same bill.
A bill to enable the people of the Missouri Territory to draft a constitution and form a government preliminary to admission into the Union came before the House of Representatives in Committee of the Whole, on February 13, 1819.
James Tallmadge of New York offered an amendment, named the Tallmadge Amendment, that forbade further introduction of slaves into Missouri, and mandated that all children of slave parents born in the state after its admission should be free at the age of 25. The committee adopted the measure and incorporated it into the bill as finally passed on February 17, 1819, by the house. The United States Senate refused to concur with the amendment, and the whole measure was lost.
During the following session (1819–1820), the House passed a similar bill with an amendment, introduced on January 26, 1820, by John W. Taylor of New York, allowing Missouri into the union as a slave state. The question had been complicated by the admission in December of Alabama, a slave state, making the number of slave and free states equal.
In addition, there was a bill in passage through the House (January 3, 1820) to admit Maine as a free state.
The Senate decided to connect the two measures, one for the admission of Maine, the other enabling the people of Missouri to form a state constitution with no restrictions on slavery.
Before the bill was returned to the House, a second amendment was adopted on the motion of Jesse B. Thomas of Illinois, excluding slavery from the Louisiana Territory north of the parallel 36°30′ north (the southern boundary of Missouri), except within the limits of the proposed state of Missouri.
The Jesse Thomas bill became known as the Missouri Compromise.
The vote in the Senate was 24 for the Missouri compromise, to 20 against.
The House of Representatives then approved the Senate compromise amendment, on a vote of 90 to 87, with those 87 votes coming from free state representatives opposed to slavery in the new state of Missouri.
The House then approved the whole bill on March 5, 1820, with 134 votes for and 42 votes against (the latter votes being from southern states).
The Missouri Compromise was signed by President James Monroe on March 6, 1820.
Jesse refused the nomination for a third term and moved to Mount Vernon, Ohio in 1829.
Jesse Burgess Thomas then committed suicide on May 2, 1853. He is buried in Mound View Cemetery.
Now WE know em