The Compromise of 1850

By Peyton Clark


The compromise of 1850 consisted of five bills that were created to ensure that there were an equal amount of free and slave states. It was proposed by Henry Clay on January 29, 1850 to satisfy both anti-slavery and pro-slavery movements. It ultimately helped delay the start of the civil war until 1861. However, the fugitive slave act added a lot of tension and offended many Northerners, causing them to become even more determined to end slavery than they did before. It did not settle the overall issue of slavery, but only gained them a fragile and temporary peace.

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Summary of the Bills

The FIRST one entered California as a free state.

The SECOND one allowed the people of New Mexico and Utah to pick whether the states would be slave states or not.

The THIRD one had Texas give up land it claimed in New Mexico and gave them $10 million to pay off their debt to Mexico.

The FOURTH one abolished slave trade in the District of Columbia.

The FIFTH one was the Fugitive Slave Act, which made any federal official who did not arrest or handover a runaway slave pay a fine.

Important People

The president during the debate was Zachary Taylor. However, president Millard Fillmore was elected during July of 1850 and was open to a compromise that would address the concerns of both sides.

Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky was the original proposer of the idea.

Senator Clay Daniel Webster of Massachusetts was one of the leaders of Congress at the time who helped debate the compromise. He gave the famous Seventh of March Speech that lasted for three and a half hours and was in favor of the compromise.

Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina was the other leader of Congress at the time.

Senator Henry Foote of Mississippi suggested turning Henry's ideas into one "omnibus" bill. The idea was used.

Stephen Douglas was a young democrat from Illinois who helped with the compromise by turning it into five bills after the single bill was rejected.

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North and South Gains

The NORTH got
  • California as a free state
  • Slave trade banned in D.C.
  • Boundary dispute between Texas and New Mexico settled
  • The balance of the senate with free states

The SOUTH got

  • No slavery restrictions in Utah or New Mexico
  • Slaveholding allowed in D.C.
  • $10 million for Texas
  • Fugitive Slave Law

People were allowed to own slaves in D.C, they just could not trade them.

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The impact of the Fugitive Slave Law

The fugitive slave law denied fugitives who claimed to be freemen the right to a fair jury trial. It also put all fugitive cases under federal power, which caused free blacks living in the North to no longer be able to legally prove that they were free. Many free blacks were sent back into slavery into the North, and many escaped to Canada to avoid slavery. It affected both free and enslaved blacks and cause the Northerners determination to end slavery to rise.

Today's significance

The Compromise of 1850 had a great impact on our society today for a few reasons. One being that it allowed California into our country. The U.S. was able to expand its territory and it gained a place rich in gold, agricultural products, and other natural resources. This created wealth and helped enrich our country. Another impact it had on us today was that it indirectly led to the abolition of slavery. Though it delayed the start of the civil war, it also boosted the North's determination to end slavery.


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