Compromise of 1850

TheGreatTriumvirateHenry Clay (The Great Pacificator)

  • ability to work out difficult compromises
  • in his seventies and sick
  • proposed compromise that called for North and South to give and take

o   Congress admit California as a free state

o   Enact a stricter Fugitive Slave Law

o   Popular Sovereignty would decide slavery issue in Utah and New Mexico

o   Slave trade only would end in Washington DC

o   Texas paid $10 million for New Mexico

John C. Calhoun

  • also old and sick…had to have someone else read his speech regarding Clay’s compromise plan
  • believed a final solution to the slave issue was needed or disunion was inevitable
  • did NOT think Clay’s plan gave enough protection to the South
  • If the North did not agree to the demands of the South, they would secede – break away from the Union


Daniel Webster

  • also old and sick…
  • tried to bring North and South together in unity
  • urged Senate to accept the Clay compromise
  • did not think cotton or tobacco would grow in California anyway
  • popular sovereignty would protect South but not necessarily spread slavery to the west
  • 3 hour speech
  • Many abolitionists did not feel it was strong enough
  • Persuaded many to support compromise


Many compromises to protect the unity of the nation over the years

  • Northwest Ordinance of 1787
  • Missouri Compromise of 1820
  • Now…Compromise of 1850


Compromise of 1850

  • based on Henry Clay’s proposal   comp 1850 debate
  • ratification debate was heated

o   Northern radicals argued the morality of slavery was more important than unity

o   Southern radicals organized boycotts of northern goods- some promoted secession

o   Sometimes violent

  • Henry Foote of Mississippi aimed gun at Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri over it
  • Stephen Douglas of Illinois took charge of getting it passed

o   Got each measure through Congress separately

  • Calhoun and President Taylor had died by September 1850
  • New President Millard Fillmore favored the Compromise
  • FINALLY passes


fugitive slave lawNew Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

  • amended the earlier law with strict provisions
  • required private citizens to assist with apprehending runaway slaves
  • citizens helping fugitive slaves could be fined or put in prison
  • angered the North
  • were forced to support the slave system
  • many captured “fugitives” were actually free blacks kidnapped and sold into slavery

o   could appeal to judges for release

  • judges earned more money if they found in favor of the slave owner
  • North resented increased federal intervention in the affairs of states

o   Some states passed Personal Liberty Laws

Nullified Fugitive Slave Act and allowed state to arrest slave catchers for kidnapping