Compromise of 1850

Compromise of 1850

Overview
The Compromise of 1850 was a package of five bills, passed in September 1850, which defused a four-year confrontation between the slave state
Slave state
In the United States of America prior to the American Civil War, a slave state was a U.S. state in which slavery was legal, whereas a free state was one in which slavery was either prohibited from its entry into the Union or eliminated over time...

s of the South
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

 and the free states of the North regarding the status of territories acquired during the Mexican-American War (1846–1848). The compromise, drafted by Whig Henry Clay
Henry Clay
Henry Clay, Sr. , was a lawyer, politician and skilled orator who represented Kentucky separately in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives...

 and brokered by Clay and Democrat Stephen Douglas, avoided secession or civil war and reduced sectional conflict for four years.
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Encyclopedia
The Compromise of 1850 was a package of five bills, passed in September 1850, which defused a four-year confrontation between the slave state
Slave state
In the United States of America prior to the American Civil War, a slave state was a U.S. state in which slavery was legal, whereas a free state was one in which slavery was either prohibited from its entry into the Union or eliminated over time...

s of the South
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

 and the free states of the North regarding the status of territories acquired during the Mexican-American War (1846–1848). The compromise, drafted by Whig Henry Clay
Henry Clay
Henry Clay, Sr. , was a lawyer, politician and skilled orator who represented Kentucky separately in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives...

 and brokered by Clay and Democrat Stephen Douglas, avoided secession or civil war and reduced sectional conflict for four years. The Compromise was greeted with relief, although each side disliked specific provisions.
  • Texas surrendered its claim to New Mexico
    New Mexico
    New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

    , which it had threatened war over, as well as its claims north of the Missouri Compromise Line
    Parallel 36°30' north
    The parallel 36° 30′ north is a circle of latitude that is 36 and one-half degrees north of the Equator of the Earth. This parallel of latitude is particularly significant in the History of the United States as the line of the Missouri Compromise, which was used to divide the prosepctiveslave and...

    , transferred its crushing public debt to the federal government, and retained the control over El Paso
    El Paso
    El Paso, a city in the U.S. state of Texas, on the border with Mexico.El Paso may also refer to:-Geography:Colombia:* El Paso, CesarSpain:*El Paso, Santa Cruz de TenerifeUnited States:...

     that it had established earlier in 1850, with the Texas Panhandle
    Texas Panhandle
    The Texas Panhandle is a region of the U.S. state of Texas consisting of the northernmost 26 counties in the state. The panhandle is a rectangular area bordered by New Mexico to the west and Oklahoma to the north and east...

     (which earlier compromise proposals had detached from Texas) thrown in at the last moment.
  • California's application for admission as a free state with its current boundaries was approved and a Southern proposal to split California at parallel 35° north to provide a Southern territory was not approved.
  • The South avoided adoption of the symbolically significant Wilmot Proviso
    Wilmot Proviso
    The Wilmot Proviso, one of the major events leading to the Civil War, would have banned slavery in any territory to be acquired from Mexico in the Mexican War or in the future, including the area later known as the Mexican Cession, but which some proponents construed to also include the disputed...

     and the new New Mexico Territory
    New Mexico Territory
    thumb|right|240px|Proposed boundaries for State of New Mexico, 1850The Territory of New Mexico was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from September 9, 1850, until January 6, 1912, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of...

     and Utah Territory
    Utah Territory
    The Territory of Utah was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from September 9, 1850, until January 4, 1896, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Utah....

     could in principle decide in the future to become slave states (popular sovereignty
    Popular sovereignty
    Popular sovereignty or the sovereignty of the people is the political principle that the legitimacy of the state is created and sustained by the will or consent of its people, who are the source of all political power. It is closely associated with Republicanism and the social contract...

    ), though these lands were generally unsuited to plantation agriculture and their existing settlers were non-Southerners uninterested in slavery, and even though Utah and a northern fringe of New Mexico were north of the Missouri Compromise Line where slavery was previously banned in territories. The unsettled southern parts of New Mexico Territory, where Southern hopes for expansion had been centered, were left attached to New Mexico instead of becoming a separate territory similar to the Confederate Territory of Arizona proclaimed during the Civil War.
  • The most concrete Southern gains were a stronger Fugitive Slave Act
    Fugitive Slave Law of 1850
    The Fugitive Slave Law or Fugitive Slave Act was passed by the United States Congress on September 18, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850 between Southern slave holding interests and Northern Free-Soilers. This was one of the most controversial acts of the 1850 compromise and heightened...

    , the enforcement of which outraged Northern public opinion, and preservation of slavery in the national capital, although the slave trade was banned there except in the portion of the District of Columbia that had rejoined Virginia.


The Compromise became possible after the sudden death of President Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor was the 12th President of the United States and an American military leader. Initially uninterested in politics, Taylor nonetheless ran as a Whig in the 1848 presidential election, defeating Lewis Cass...

, who, although a slaveowner, had favored excluding slavery from the Southwest. Whig
Whig Party (United States)
The Whig Party was a political party of the United States during the era of Jacksonian democracy. Considered integral to the Second Party System and operating from the early 1830s to the mid-1850s, the party was formed in opposition to the policies of President Andrew Jackson and his Democratic...

 leader Henry Clay
Henry Clay
Henry Clay, Sr. , was a lawyer, politician and skilled orator who represented Kentucky separately in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives...

 designed a compromise, which failed to pass in early 1850. Upon Clay's instruction, Democratic Senator Stephen Douglas (Illinois
Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

) then divided Clay's bill into several smaller pieces and narrowly won their passage over the opposition of those with stronger views on both sides, including Senator John C. Calhoun
John C. Calhoun
John Caldwell Calhoun was a leading politician and political theorist from South Carolina during the first half of the 19th century. Calhoun eloquently spoke out on every issue of his day, but often changed positions. Calhoun began his political career as a nationalist, modernizer, and proponent...

 of South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

.

Background



Soon after the start of the Mexican War, when the extent of the territories to be acquired was still unclear, the question of whether to allow slavery in those territories polarized the Northern and Southern United States
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

 in the most bitter sectional conflict up to this time. Since Texas was a slave state, not only the residents of that State, but the pro- and anti-slavery camps on a national scale had an interest in the size of the state of Texas. Texas claimed land north of the 36°30' demarcation line for slavery set by the 1820 Missouri Compromise.

The Texas Annexation
Texas Annexation
In 1845, United States of America annexed the Republic of Texas and admitted it to the Union as the 28th state. The U.S. thus inherited Texas's border dispute with Mexico; this quickly led to the Mexican-American War, during which the U.S. captured additional territory , extending the nation's...

 resolution had required that if any new states were formed out of Texas’ lands, those north of the Missouri Compromise
Missouri Compromise
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'...

 line would become free states.

Senator Joseph Underwood referred to "the threatened civil war, unless we appease the hot bloods of Texas."

According to historian Mark Stegmaier, "The Fugitive Slave Act, the abolition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia, the admission of California as a free state, and even the application of the formula of popular sovereignty to the territories were all less important than the least remembered component of the Compromise of 1850--the statute by which Texas relinquished its claims to much of New Mexico in return for federal assumption of the debts..."
Stegmaier also refers to "the principal Southern demand for a division of California at the line of 35° north latitude
35th parallel north
The 35th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 35 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Africa, the Mediterranean Sea, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America and the Atlantic Ocean....

" (just north of Santa Maria
Santa Maria, California
Santa Maria is a city in Santa Barbara County, on the Central Coast of California. The 2010 census population was 100,062, putting it ahead of Santa Barbara for the first time and making it the largest city in the county...

 and the Grapevine
Grapevine, California
Grapevine is an unincorporated community in Kern County, California. At an elevation of 1499 feet , the community is located at the foot of a road grade known as The Grapevine through the Grapevine Canyon to Tejon Pass in the Tehachapi Mountains at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley along...

) and says that "Southern extremists made clear that a congressionally mandated division of California figured uppermost on their agenda."

During the deadlock of four years, the Second Party System
Second Party System
The Second Party System is a term of periodization used by historians and political scientists to name the political party system existing in the United States from about 1828 to 1854...

 broke up, Mormon pioneers settled Utah, the California Gold Rush
California Gold Rush
The California Gold Rush began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. The first to hear confirmed information of the gold rush were the people in Oregon, the Sandwich Islands , and Latin America, who were the first to start flocking to...

 settled California, and New Mexico under a federal military government turned back Texas's attempt to assert control over territory Texas claimed as far west as the Rio Grande
Rio Grande
The Rio Grande is a river that flows from southwestern Colorado in the United States to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way it forms part of the Mexico – United States border. Its length varies as its course changes...

. The eventual Compromise of 1850 preserved the Union, but only for another decade.

Proposals for compromise



Proposals during 1846-50 on the division of the Southwest included:
  • The Wilmot Proviso
    Wilmot Proviso
    The Wilmot Proviso, one of the major events leading to the Civil War, would have banned slavery in any territory to be acquired from Mexico in the Mexican War or in the future, including the area later known as the Mexican Cession, but which some proponents construed to also include the disputed...

     banning slavery in any new territory to be acquired from Mexico, not including Texas, which had been annexed the previous year. Passed by the House in August 1846 and February 1847 but not the Senate. Later an effort failed to attach the proviso to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
  • Failed amendments to the Wilmot Proviso by William W. Wick
    William W. Wick
    William Watson Wick was a U.S. Representative from Indiana.The son of Presbyterian Minister the Rev. William Wick, and his wife Elizabeth the daughter of an officer in the Continental Army; the younger Mr...

     and then Stephen Douglas extending the Missouri Compromise
    Missouri Compromise
    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'...

     line (36°30' parallel north) west to the Pacific (south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
    Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
    Carmel-by-the-Sea, often called simply Carmel, is a small city in Monterey County, California, United States, founded in 1902 and incorporated in 1916. Situated on the Monterey Peninsula, the town is known for its natural scenery and rich artistic history...

    ), allowing the possibility of slavery in most of present day New Mexico and Arizona, and Southern California. The line was again proposed by the Nashville Convention
    Nashville Convention
    The Nashville Convention was a political meeting held in Nashville, Tennessee, on June 3 – 11, 1850. Delegates from nine slave holding states met to consider a possible course of action if the United States Congress decided to ban slavery in the new territories being added to the country as a...

     of June 1850.
  • Popular sovereignty
    Popular sovereignty
    Popular sovereignty or the sovereignty of the people is the political principle that the legitimacy of the state is created and sustained by the will or consent of its people, who are the source of all political power. It is closely associated with Republicanism and the social contract...

    , developed by Lewis Cass
    Lewis Cass
    Lewis Cass was an American military officer and politician. During his long political career, Cass served as a governor of the Michigan Territory, an American ambassador, a U.S. Senator representing Michigan, and co-founder as well as first Masonic Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Michigan...

     and Douglas as the eventual Democratic Party position, letting each territory decide whether to allow slavery.
  • William L. Yancey's "Alabama Platform," endorsed by the Alabama and Georgia legislatures and by Democratic state conventions in Florida and Virginia, called for no restrictions on slavery in the territories either by the federal government or by territorial governments before statehood, opposition to any candidates supporting either the Wilmot Proviso or popular sovereignty, and federal legislation overruling Mexican anti-slavery laws.
  • General Zachary Taylor
    Zachary Taylor
    Zachary Taylor was the 12th President of the United States and an American military leader. Initially uninterested in politics, Taylor nonetheless ran as a Whig in the 1848 presidential election, defeating Lewis Cass...

    , who became the Whig candidate in 1848 and then President from March 1849 to July 1850, proposed after becoming President that the entire area become two free states, called California and New Mexico but much larger than the eventual ones. None of the area would be left as an unorganized or organized territory, avoiding the question of slavery in the territories.
  • Senator Thomas Hart Benton
    Thomas Hart Benton (senator)
    Thomas Hart Benton , nicknamed "Old Bullion", was a U.S. Senator from Missouri and a staunch advocate of westward expansion of the United States. He served in the Senate from 1821 to 1851, becoming the first member of that body to serve five terms...

     in December 1849 or January 1850: Texas's western and northern boundaries would be the 102nd meridian west
    102nd meridian west
    The meridian 102° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, North America, the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

     and 34th parallel north
    34th parallel north
    The 34th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 34 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Africa, the Mediterranean Sea, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America and the Atlantic Ocean....

    .
  • Senator John Bell
    John Bell (Tennessee politician)
    John Bell was a U.S. politician, attorney, and plantation owner. A wealthy slaveholder from Tennessee, Bell served in the United States Congress in both the House of Representatives and Senate. He began his career as a Democrat, he eventually fell out with Andrew Jackson and became a Whig...

     (with the assent of Texas) in February 1850: New Mexico would get all Texas land north of the 34th parallel north
    34th parallel north
    The 34th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 34 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Africa, the Mediterranean Sea, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America and the Atlantic Ocean....

     (including today's Texas Panhandle
    Texas Panhandle
    The Texas Panhandle is a region of the U.S. state of Texas consisting of the northernmost 26 counties in the state. The panhandle is a rectangular area bordered by New Mexico to the west and Oklahoma to the north and east...

    ), and the area to the south (including the southeastern part of today's New Mexico) would be divided at the Colorado River of Texas into two Southern states, balancing the admission of California and New Mexico as free states.
  • First draft of the compromise of 1850: Texas's northwestern boundary would be a straight diagonal line from the Rio Grande 20 miles north of El Paso to the Red River (Mississippi watershed)
    Red River (Mississippi watershed)
    The Red River, or sometimes the Red River of the South, is a major tributary of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers in the southern United States of America. The river gains its name from the red-bed country of its watershed. It is one of several rivers with that name...

     at the 100th meridian west
    100th meridian west
    The meridian 100° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, North America, the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

     (the southwestern corner of today's Oklahoma
    Oklahoma
    Oklahoma is a state located in the South Central region of the United States of America. With an estimated 3,751,351 residents as of the 2010 census and a land area of 68,667 square miles , Oklahoma is the 28th most populous and 20th-largest state...

    ).
  • The Compromise of 1850, proposed by Henry Clay
    Henry Clay
    Henry Clay, Sr. , was a lawyer, politician and skilled orator who represented Kentucky separately in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives...

     in January 1850, guided to passage by Douglas over Northern Whig and Southern Democrat opposition, and enacted September 1850,
    • admitted California as a free state
    • organized Utah Territory and New Mexico Territory with slavery to be decided by popular sovereignty.
    • Texas dropped its claim to land north of the 32nd parallel north
      32nd parallel north
      The 32nd parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 32 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Africa, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America and the Atlantic Ocean....

       and west of the 103rd meridian west
      103rd meridian west
      The meridian 103° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, North America, the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

       in favor of New Mexico Territory, and north of the 36°30' parallel north and east of the 103rd meridian west
      103rd meridian west
      The meridian 103° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, North America, the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

       which became unorganized territory
      Unorganized territory
      An unorganized territory is a region of land without a "normally" constituted system of government. This does not mean that the territory has no government at all or that it is unclaimed territory...

      . In return the US government assumed Texas's debts. El Paso
      El Paso
      El Paso, a city in the U.S. state of Texas, on the border with Mexico.El Paso may also refer to:-Geography:Colombia:* El Paso, CesarSpain:*El Paso, Santa Cruz de TenerifeUnited States:...

      , where Texas had successfully established county government, was left in Texas.
    • Also, the slave trade was abolished in Washington, D.C. (but not slavery itself)
    • and the Fugitive Slave Act was strengthened.

Clay and Douglas draft compromise



Congress convened on December 3, 1849. On January 29, 1850, Whig Senator Henry Clay
Henry Clay
Henry Clay, Sr. , was a lawyer, politician and skilled orator who represented Kentucky separately in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives...

 gave a speech which called for compromise on the issues dividing the Union. However, Clay's specific proposals for achieving a compromise, including his idea for Texas' boundary, were not adopted in a single bill. Upon Clay's urging, senator Stephen A. Douglas
Stephen A. Douglas
Stephen Arnold Douglas was an American politician from the western state of Illinois, and was the Northern Democratic Party nominee for President in 1860. He lost to the Republican Party's candidate, Abraham Lincoln, whom he had defeated two years earlier in a Senate contest following a famed...

, Democrat of Illinois
Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

, divided Clay's bill into several smaller bills, and passed each separately. When he instructed Douglas, Clay was nearly dead and unable to guide the congressional debate any further. The Compromise came to coalesce around a plan dividing Texas at its present-day boundaries, creating territorial governments with "popular sovereignty" (without the Wilmot Proviso) for New Mexico and Utah, admitting California as a free state, abolishing the slave auctions in the District of Columbia, and enacting a new fugitive slave law.

View of Seward and Northern Whigs


Most Northern Whigs, led by William Henry Seward who delivered his famous "Higher Law" speech during the controversy, opposed the Compromise as well because it would not have applied the Wilmot Proviso to the western territories and because of the new fugitive slave law, which would have pressed ordinary citizens into duty on slave-hunting patrols. This provision was inserted by Democratic Virginia Senator James M. Mason
James M. Mason
James Murray Mason was a United States Representative and United States Senator from Virginia. He was a grandson of George Mason and represented the Confederate States of America as appointed commissioner of the Confederacy to the United Kingdom and France between 1861 and 1865 during the American...

 to coerce border-state Whigs, who faced the greatest danger of losing slaves as fugitives but who were lukewarm on general sectional issues related to the South into supporting Texas's land claims.

Whig candidate Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor was the 12th President of the United States and an American military leader. Initially uninterested in politics, Taylor nonetheless ran as a Whig in the 1848 presidential election, defeating Lewis Cass...

 avoided the issue as the Whig candidate during the 1848 U.S. presidential election but then as President attempted to sidestep the entire controversy by pushing to admit California and New Mexico as free states immediately, avoiding the entire territorial process and thus the Wilmot Proviso question. Taylor's stand was unpopular among Southerners and surprised them because Taylor was a Southerner.

Northern Democrats and Southern Whigs supported the Compromise. Southern Whigs, many of whom were from the border states, supported the stronger fugitive slave law.

Debate and results



On April 17, a "Committee of Thirteen" agreed on the border of Texas as part of Clay's plan. The dimensions were later changed. That same day, during debates on the measures in the Senate, Vice President Millard Fillmore and Senator Benton verbally sparred, with Fillmore charging that the Missourian was "out of order". During the heated debates, Compromise floor leader Henry S. Foote
Henry S. Foote
Henry Stuart Foote was a United States Senator from Mississippi from 1847 to 1852 and Governor of Mississippi from 1852 to 1854. His emotional leadership on the Senate floor helped secure passage of the Compromise of 1850, which for a time averted a civil war in the United States.-Biography:Henry...

 of Mississippi
Mississippi
Mississippi is a U.S. state located in the Southern United States. Jackson is the state capital and largest city. The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary, whose name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi...

 drew a pistol on Senator Benton.

In early June, nine slave holding Southern states sent delegates to the Nashville Convention
Nashville Convention
The Nashville Convention was a political meeting held in Nashville, Tennessee, on June 3 – 11, 1850. Delegates from nine slave holding states met to consider a possible course of action if the United States Congress decided to ban slavery in the new territories being added to the country as a...

 to determine their course of action should the compromise take hold. While some delegates preached secession
Secession
Secession is the act of withdrawing from an organization, union, or especially a political entity. Threats of secession also can be a strategy for achieving more limited goals.-Secession theory:...

, eventually the moderates ruled, and they proposed a series of compromises, including extending the geographic dividing line designated by the Missouri Compromise
Missouri Compromise
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'...

 of 1820 to the Pacific Coast
Pacific Coast
A country's Pacific coast is the part of its coast bordering the Pacific Ocean.-The Americas:Countries on the western side of the Americas have a Pacific coast as their western border.* Geography of Canada* Geography of Chile* Geography of Colombia...

.

The various bills were initially combined into one "omnibus" bill. Despite Clay's efforts, it failed in a crucial vote on July 31 with the majority of his Whig Party opposed. He announced on the Senate floor the next day that he intended to persevere and pass each individual part of the bill. Clay, however, was physically exhausted as the effects of the tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 that would eventually kill him began to take its toll. Clay left the Senate to recuperate in Newport
Newport, Rhode Island
Newport is a city on Aquidneck Island in Newport County, Rhode Island, United States, about south of Providence. Known as a New England summer resort and for the famous Newport Mansions, it is the home of Salve Regina University and Naval Station Newport which houses the United States Naval War...

, Rhode Island
Rhode Island
The state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, more commonly referred to as Rhode Island , is a state in the New England region of the United States. It is the smallest U.S. state by area...

, while Stephen A. Douglas
Stephen A. Douglas
Stephen Arnold Douglas was an American politician from the western state of Illinois, and was the Northern Democratic Party nominee for President in 1860. He lost to the Republican Party's candidate, Abraham Lincoln, whom he had defeated two years earlier in a Senate contest following a famed...

 wrote the separate bills and guided them through the Senate. The situation was changed by the death of President Taylor and the accession of Fillmore on July 9, 1850. The influence of the new administration was now thrown in favor of the compromise. The Northern Democrats held together and supported each of the bills and gained Whigs or Southern Democrats to pass each one. All passed and were signed by President Fillmore between September 9 and September 20, 1850.
  1. California was admitted as a free state. It passed 150-56.
  2. The slave trade was abolished (the sale of slaves, not the institution of slavery) in the District of Columbia.
  3. The Territory of New Mexico
    New Mexico
    New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

     (including present-day Arizona
    Arizona
    Arizona ; is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the western United States and the mountain west. The capital and largest city is Phoenix...

    ) and the Territory of Utah were organized under the rule of popular sovereignty
    Popular sovereignty
    Popular sovereignty or the sovereignty of the people is the political principle that the legitimacy of the state is created and sustained by the will or consent of its people, who are the source of all political power. It is closely associated with Republicanism and the social contract...

    . It passed 97-85.
  4. The Fugitive Slave Act was passed, requiring all U.S. citizens to assist in the return of runaway slaves. It passed 109-76.
  5. Texas gave up much of the western land which it claimed and received compensation of $10,000,000 to pay off its national debt.


Clay was still given much of the credit for the Compromise's success. It quieted the controversy between Northerners and Southerners over the expansion of slavery and delayed secession and civil war for another decade. Senator Henry S. Foote
Henry S. Foote
Henry Stuart Foote was a United States Senator from Mississippi from 1847 to 1852 and Governor of Mississippi from 1852 to 1854. His emotional leadership on the Senate floor helped secure passage of the Compromise of 1850, which for a time averted a civil war in the United States.-Biography:Henry...

 of Mississippi, who had suggested the creation of the Committee of Thirteen, later said, "Had there been one such man in the Congress of the United States as Henry Clay in 1860–'61 there would, I feel sure, have been no civil war."

Implications


The Compromise in general proved widely popular politically, as both parties committed themselves in their platforms to the finality of the Compromise on sectional issues. The strongest opposition in the South occurred in the states of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, but unionists soon prevailed, spearheaded by Georgians Alexander Stephens
Alexander Stephens
Alexander Hamilton Stephens was an American politician from Georgia. He was Vice President of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. He also served as a U.S...

, Robert Toombs
Robert Toombs
Robert Augustus Toombs was an American political leader, United States Senator from Georgia, 1st Secretary of State of the Confederacy, and a Confederate general in the Civil War.-Early life:...

, and Howell Cobb
Howell Cobb
Howell Cobb was an American political figure. A Southern Democrat, Cobb was a five-term member of the United States House of Representatives and Speaker of the House from 1849 to 1851...

 and the creation of the Georgia Platform
Georgia Platform
The Georgia Platform was a statement executed by a Georgia Convention in response to the Compromise of 1850. Supported by Unionists, the document affirmed the acceptance of the Compromise as a final resolution of the sectional slavery issues while declaring that no further assaults on Southern...

. This peace was broken only by the divisive Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 introduced by Stephen Douglas, which repealed the Missouri Compromise and led directly to the formation of the Republican Party
History of the United States Republican Party
The United States Republican Party is the second oldest currently existing political party in the United States after its great rival, the Democratic Party. It emerged in 1854 to combat the Kansas Nebraska Act which threatened to extend slavery into the territories, and to promote more vigorous...

, whose capture of the national government in 1860 led directly to the secession crisis of 1860-61.

Many historians argue that the Compromise played a major role in postponing the American Civil War for a decade, during which time the Northwest was growing more wealthy and more populous, and was being brought into closer relations with the Northeast. During that decade, the Whig Party had completely broken down, being replaced with the new Republican Party dominant in the North and the Democrats in the South. But others argue that the Compromise only made more obvious pre-existing sectional divisions and laid the groundwork for future conflict. In this view, the Fugitive Slave Law helped polarize North and South, as shown in the enormous reaction to Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe was an American abolitionist and author. Her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was a depiction of life for African-Americans under slavery; it reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the United States and United Kingdom...

's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly is an anti-slavery novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Published in 1852, the novel "helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War", according to Will Kaufman....

. The passage of the Fugitive Slave Law aroused feelings of bitterness in the North. Furthermore, the Compromise of 1850 led to a breakdown in the spirit of compromise in the United States in the antebellum period, directly before the Civil War. The Compromise exemplifies this spirit, but the deaths of influential senators who worked on the compromise, primarily Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, contributed to this feeling of increasing disparity between the North and South.

The delay of hostilities for ten years allowed the free economy of the northern states to continue to industrialize. The southern states, to a large degree based on slave labor and cash crop production, lacked the ability to industrialize heavily. By 1860, the northern states had added many more miles of railroad, steel production, modern factories, and population to the advantages it possessed in 1850. The North was better able to supply, equip, and man its armed forces, an advantage that would prove decisive in the later stages of the war.

Issues


Three major types of issues were addressed by the Compromise of 1850, to wit: a variety of boundary issues; status of territory issues; and the issue of slavery. While capable of analytical distinction, the boundary and territory issues were actually included in the overarching issue of slavery. Pro- and anti-slavery interests were each concerned with both the amount of land on which slavery was permitted and with the number of States which respectively would be in the slave or free camps. Since Texas was a slave state, not only the residents of that state, but the pro- and anti-slavery camps on a national scale had an interest in the size of the state of Texas.

The general solution that was adopted by the Compromise of 1850 was to transfer a considerable part of the territory claimed by the state of Texas to the federal government, to formally organize two new territories, the Territory of New Mexico and the Territory of Utah, which expressly would be allowed to locally determine whether they would become slave or free territories, to add another free state to the Union (California), adopt a severe measure to recover slaves who had escaped to a free state or free territory (the Fugitive Slave Law), and to abolish the slave trade in the District of Columbia.

Texas


The independent Republic of Texas
Republic of Texas
The Republic of Texas was an independent nation in North America, bordering the United States and Mexico, that existed from 1836 to 1846.Formed as a break-away republic from Mexico by the Texas Revolution, the state claimed borders that encompassed an area that included all of the present U.S...

 won the decisive Battle of San Jacinto
Battle of San Jacinto
The Battle of San Jacinto, fought on April 21, 1836, in present-day Harris County, Texas, was the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution. Led by General Sam Houston, the Texian Army engaged and defeated General Antonio López de Santa Anna's Mexican forces in a fight that lasted just eighteen...

 (April 21, 1836) against Mexico and captured Mexican president Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna
Antonio López de Santa Anna
Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón , often known as Santa Anna or López de Santa Anna, known as "the Napoleon of the West," was a Mexican political leader, general, and president who greatly influenced early Mexican and Spanish politics and government...

. He signed the Treaties of Velasco
Treaties of Velasco
The Treaties of Velasco were two documents signed at Velasco, Texas, on May 14, 1836, between Antonio López de Santa Anna of Mexico and the Republic of Texas, in the aftermath of the Battle of San Jacinto ....

 which recognized the Rio Grande River as the boundary of the Republic of Texas. The Treaties were repudiated by the government of Mexico which insisted it was sovereign over Texas and promised to reclaim the lost territories. To the extent that there was a de facto recognition, Mexico treated the Nueces River
Nueces River
The Nueces River is a river in the U.S. state of Texas, approximately long. It drains a region in central and southern Texas southeastward into the Gulf of Mexico. It is the southernmost major river in Texas northeast of the Rio Grande...

 as its northern boundary control. A huge area lay between the two rivers—largely unsettled. Neither Mexico nor the Republic of Texas had the military strength to effectively assert its territorial claim. On December 29, 1845, the Republic of Texas was annexed to the United States and became the 28th state. Texas was staunchly committed to slavery, with its constitution making illegal the unauthorized emancipation of slaves by their owners. With this annexation the United States inherited the territorial claims of the former Republic of Texas against Mexico. The territorial claim to the area between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande River and Mexican resistance to it led to the Mexican-American War. On February 2, 1848, that war was concluded by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is the peace treaty, largely dictated by the United States to the interim government of a militarily occupied Mexico City, that ended the Mexican-American War on February 2, 1848...

. Among the provisos of the Treaty was the recognition by Mexico of the area between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande River being a part of the United States.

The Republic of Texas claimed ownership of the eastern half of present-day New Mexico, along with sections of Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming. Texas had never effectively controlled the area, which was dominated by hostile Indian tribes (see Comancheria
Comancheria
The Comancheria is the name commonly given to the region of New Mexico, west Texas and nearby areas occupied by the Comanche before the 1860s.-Geography:...

). However the federal government had seized and controlled the area after 1846. The Compromise of 1850 solved the problem by setting the present boundaries of Texas in return for $10 million in federal bonds paid to the state of Texas.

The state of Texas was heavily burdened with debt which had arisen during its struggles as the Republic of Texas. The federal government agreed to pay $10,000,000.00 in "stock" in trade for the transfer of a large portion of the claimed area of the state of Texas to the territory of the federal government and for the relinquishment of various claims which Texas had upon the federal government. (This "stock" bore interest at the rate of 5%, which interest was collectible every six months, and the principal was redeemable at the end of fourteen years.)

The Constitution (Article IV, Section 3) does not permit Congress to unilaterally reduce the territory of any state so the first part of the Compromise of 1850 had to take the form of an offer to the Texas State Legislature, rather than a unilateral enactment. The Texas State Legislature did ratify the bargain and in due course the transfer of a large swath of land from the state of Texas to the federal government was accomplished. Texas was allowed to keep the following portions of the erstwhile disputed land: that which is south of the 32nd parallel
32nd parallel north
The 32nd parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 32 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Africa, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America and the Atlantic Ocean....

, and that which is south of the 36°30' parallel north and east of the 103rd meridian west
103rd meridian west
The meridian 103° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, North America, the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

. The rest of the land which had been disputed between Mexico and the Republic of Texas was transferred to federal government

New Mexico and Utah Territories


The first law of the Compromise of 1850 also organized the Territory of New Mexico. The second law, also enacted September 9, 1850, organized the Territory of Utah.

The land committed to each of these newly organized territories was drawn from two distinct sources.

One of these sources was the Mexican Cession
Mexican Cession
The Mexican Cession of 1848 is a historical name in the United States for the region of the present day southwestern United States that Mexico ceded to the U.S...

 of 1848. The Mexican Cession was a major provision of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the treaty which concluded the Mexican-American War on February 2, 1848. The land transferred from Mexico to the United States by the Mexican Cession included all of present-day California, Nevada
Nevada
Nevada is a state in the western, mountain west, and southwestern regions of the United States. With an area of and a population of about 2.7 million, it is the 7th-largest and 35th-most populous state. Over two-thirds of Nevada's people live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which contains its...

 and Utah
Utah
Utah is a state in the Western United States. It was the 45th state to join the Union, on January 4, 1896. Approximately 80% of Utah's 2,763,885 people live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City. This leaves vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited, making the population the...

, most of present-day Arizona
Arizona
Arizona ; is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the western United States and the mountain west. The capital and largest city is Phoenix...

, most of the western part of present-day New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

, present-day Colorado
Colorado
Colorado is a U.S. state that encompasses much of the Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains...

 west of the crest of the Rocky Mountains
Rocky Mountains
The Rocky Mountains are a major mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch more than from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico, in the southwestern United States...

, and a small portion of present-day Wyoming
Wyoming
Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the Western United States. The western two thirds of the state is covered mostly with the mountain ranges and rangelands in the foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains, while the eastern third of the state is high elevation prairie known as the High...

. (A strip of land along the southern border of present-day Arizona and New Mexico was not acquired from Mexico until 1853 with the Gadsden Purchase
Gadsden Purchase
The Gadsden Purchase is a region of present-day southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico that was purchased by the United States in a treaty signed by James Gadsden, the American ambassador to Mexico at the time, on December 30, 1853. It was then ratified, with changes, by the U.S...

.)

The other of these sources was land which had been claimed by the Republic of Texas. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo made no mention of the claims of the Republic of Texas; Mexico simply agreed to a Mexico-U.S. border south of both the "Mexican Cession" and the Republic of Texas claims. Prior to the Compromise of 1850, this disputed land had been claimed but never controlled by the state of Texas. This land included present-day eastern New Mexico, southern and western parts of present-day Colorado, and small parts of present-day Kansas
Kansas
Kansas is a US state located in the Midwestern United States. It is named after the Kansas River which flows through it, which in turn was named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which inhabited the area. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the wind" or "people of the south...

, Oklahoma
Oklahoma
Oklahoma is a state located in the South Central region of the United States of America. With an estimated 3,751,351 residents as of the 2010 census and a land area of 68,667 square miles , Oklahoma is the 28th most populous and 20th-largest state...

, and Wyoming
Wyoming
Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the Western United States. The western two thirds of the state is covered mostly with the mountain ranges and rangelands in the foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains, while the eastern third of the state is high elevation prairie known as the High...

.

From the Mexican Cession, the New Mexico Territory received most of the present-day state of Arizona, most of the western part of the present-day state of New Mexico, and the southern tip of present-day Nevada (south of the 37th parallel
37th parallel north
The 37th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 37 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Europe, the Mediterranean Sea, Africa, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America, and the Atlantic Ocean....

). From Texas, the territory received most of present-day eastern New Mexico, a portion of present-day Colorado (east of the crest of the Rocky Mountains
Rocky Mountains
The Rocky Mountains are a major mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch more than from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico, in the southwestern United States...

, west of the 103rd meridian, and south of the 38th parallel
38th parallel north
The 38th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 38 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Europe, the Mediterranean Sea, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America, and the Atlantic Ocean...

), and a small portion of present-day Wyoming.

From the Mexican Cession, the Utah Territory received present-day Utah, most of present-day Nevada (everything north of the 37th parallel), a major part of present-day Colorado (everything west of the crest of the Rocky Mountains), and a small part of present-day Wyoming.
this included the newly founded colony at Salt Lake of Brigham Young. From Texas, the Utah Territory received most of present day eastern New Mexico, and some of present-day Colorado that is east of the crest of the Rocky Mountains.

A key provision of each of the laws respectively organizing the Territory of New Mexico and the Territory of Utah was that slavery would be either permitted or prohibited as a local option (Popular Sovereignty). This was an important repudiation of the Wilmot Proviso, which would have forbidden slavery in any territory acquired from Mexico.

California


California also became part of the U.S. as a result of the Mexican Cession. After the Mexican War, California was essentially run by military governors. President James K. Polk
James K. Polk
James Knox Polk was the 11th President of the United States . Polk was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. He later lived in and represented Tennessee. A Democrat, Polk served as the 17th Speaker of the House of Representatives and the 12th Governor of Tennessee...

 tried to get Congress to officially establish a territorial government in California, but the increasing North vs. South debates prevented this. The South wanted to extend slave territory to Southern California
Southern California
Southern California is a megaregion, or megapolitan area, in the southern area of the U.S. state of California. Large urban areas include Greater Los Angeles and Greater San Diego. The urban area stretches along the coast from Ventura through the Southland and Inland Empire to San Diego...

 and to the Pacific coast, while the North did not.

Starting in late 1848, Americans and foreigners of many different countries rushed into California for the California Gold Rush
California Gold Rush
The California Gold Rush began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. The first to hear confirmed information of the gold rush were the people in Oregon, the Sandwich Islands , and Latin America, who were the first to start flocking to...

, quickly increasing the population exponentially. In response to growing demand for a better more representative government, a Constitutional Convention was held in 1849. The delegates there unanimously outlawed slavery. They had no interest in extending the Missouri Compromise Line through California and splitting the state; the lightly populated southern half never had slavery and was heavily Hispanic.

The third statute of the Compromise of 1850 allowed California to be admitted to the Union, undivided, as a free state on September 9, 1850.

Fugitive Slave Law


The fourth statute of the Compromise of 1850, enacted September 18, 1850, is informally known as the Fugitive Slave Law or the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. (It bolstered the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793
Fugitive Slave Act of 1793
The Fugitive Slave Clause of the U.S. Constitution guaranteed the right of a slaveholder to recover an escaped slave...

.) The new version of the Fugitive Slave Law required federal judicial officials in all states and federal territories, including in those states and territories in which slavery was prohibited, to actively assist with the return of escaped slaves to their masters in the states and territories permitting slavery. Any federal marshal
United States Marshals Service
The United States Marshals Service is a United States federal law enforcement agency within the United States Department of Justice . The office of U.S. Marshal is the oldest federal law enforcement office in the United States; it was created by the Judiciary Act of 1789...

 or other official who did not arrest an alleged runaway slave was liable to a fine of $1,000. Law-enforcement officials everywhere in the United States had a duty to arrest anyone suspected of being a fugitive slave
Fugitive slave
In the history of slavery in the United States, "fugitive slaves" were slaves who had escaped from their master to travel to a place where slavery was banned or illegal. Many went to northern territories including Pennsylvania and Massachusetts until the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was passed...

 on no more evidence than a claimant's sworn testimony of ownership. The suspected slave could not ask for a jury trial or testify on his or her own behalf. In addition, any person aiding a runaway slave by providing food or shelter was to be subject to six months' imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. Officers capturing a fugitive slave were entitled to a fee for their work.

In addition to federal officials, the ordinary citizens of free states could be summoned into a posse and be required to assist in the capture and/or custody and/or transportation of the alleged escaped slave. This particular law was so rigorously pro-slavery as to prohibit the admission of the testimony of a person accused of being an escaped slave into evidence at the judicial hearing to determine the status of the accused escaped slave. Thus, if a freedman were claimed to be an escaped slave under the Fugitive Slave Law
Fugitive slave laws
The fugitive slave laws were laws passed by the United States Congress in 1793 and 1850 to provide for the return of slaves who escaped from one state into another state or territory.-Pre-colonial and Colonial eras:...

 he or she could not resist his or her return to slavery by truthfully telling his or her own actual history

The Fugitive Slave Act was essential to meet Southern demands. In terms of public opinion in the North the critical provision was that ordinary citizens were required to aid slave catchers. Many northerners deeply resented this requirement that they personally aid and abet slavery. Resentment towards this act continued to heighten tensions between the North and South, as inflamed by abolitionists such as Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe was an American abolitionist and author. Her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was a depiction of life for African-Americans under slavery; it reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the United States and United Kingdom...

. Her book Uncle Tom's Cabin
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly is an anti-slavery novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Published in 1852, the novel "helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War", according to Will Kaufman....

stressed the horrors of recapturing escaped slaves, and outraged Southerners.

Banning slave trade in the District of Columbia


The fifth law, enacted on September 20, 1850, prohibited the slave trade (but not slavery itself) in the District of Columbia. Southerners in Congress were unanimous in opposing this provision, which was seen as a concession to the abolitionists
Abolitionism
Abolitionism is a movement to end slavery.In western Europe and the Americas abolitionism was a movement to end the slave trade and set slaves free. At the behest of Dominican priest Bartolomé de las Casas who was shocked at the treatment of natives in the New World, Spain enacted the first...

, but were outvoted.

Further reading

  • Heidler, David S., and Jeanne T. Heidler. Henry Clay: The Essential American (2010), major scholarly biography; 624pp
  • Holman Hamilton, Prologue to Conflict: The Crisis and Compromise of 1850 (1964), the standard historical study
  • Holman Hamilton. "Democratic Senate Leadership and the Compromise of 1850," The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 41, No. 3. (Dec., 1954), pp. 403–418. in JSTOR
  • Holman Hamilton. Zachary Taylor, Soldier in the White House (1951)
  • Holt, Michael F. The Political Crisis of the 1850s (1978).
  • Holt, Michael F. The Fate of Their Country: Politicians, Slavery Extension, and the Coming of the Civil War (2005).
  • Johannsen, Robert W. Stephen A. Douglas (1973) (ISBN 0195016203)
  • Knupfer, Peter B. "Compromise and Statesmanship: Henry Clay’s Union." in Knupfer, The Union As It Is: Constitutional Unionism and Sectional Compromise, 1787-1861 (1991), pp. 119–57.
  • Morrison, Michael A. Slavery and the American West: The Eclipse of Manifest Destiny and the Coming of the Civil War (1997) (ISBN 0807823198)
  • Nevins, Allan. Ordeal of the Union (1947) v 2, highly detailed narrative
  • Potter, David M. The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (1977), pp 90-120; Pulitzer Prize
  • Remini, Robert. Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union (1991)
  • Remini, Robert. At the Edge of the Precipice: Henry Clay and the Compromise That Saved the Union (2010) 184 pages; the Compromise of 1850
  • Rhodes, James Ford. History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850, vol. i. (1896). complegte text online
  • Rozwenc, Edwin C. ed. The Compromise of 1850. (1957) convenient collection of primary and secondary documents; 102 pp.
  • Russel, Robert R. "What Was the Compromise of 1850?" Journal of Southern History Vol. 22, No. 3 (Aug., 1956), pp. 292-309 in JSTOR
  • Sewell, Richard H. Ballots for Freedom: Antislavery Politics in the United States 1837-1860 New York: Oxford University Press, 1976.
  • Wiltse, Charles M. John C. Calhoun, Sectionalist, 1840-1850 (1951)

External links