Here is the next article for you that don't know much about the civil war.
The Compromise of 1850, were five bills that were intended to crush regional bitter conflict. The goal was to handle the spread of slavery into territories in order to keep the northern and southern interests in balance.
It had been nearly 75 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the federal government was still permitting professional and merciless slave traders to sell and buy people right next to the White House and the Capital. President Millard Fillmore took steps to finally abolish the slave trade in Washington on September 20, 1850 but he had been up against a bitter battle.
The abolition (ending of slavery) was a controversial component of the Compromise of 1850. Congress negotiated between pro and anti-slavery forces to allow several new states and territories to join the United States. Few Congress members were pleased with the Compromise. A pro-slavery Senator Jefferson Davis and later president of the Confederacy, went after its supporters as “sycophants, deserters, and ambitious demagogues.” A Senator by the name of Salmon P. Chase of Ohio claimed that it provided “sentiment for the north and substance for the south.” As President Fillmore signed the document ending Washington’s slave trade, he did so under an atmosphere of separation and hostility, but he changed the capital city of America.
Northern abolitionists had been lobbying Congress on the matter since 1820. Defenders of slavery (advocates) argued that the federal government had no authority to regulate the existing commercial practices of slave states such as South Carolina. Abolitionists did recognize the political strength of this argument even though they disagreed with it, so they turned their attention on the nation’s capital. The Constitution placed the capital under federal control. Abolitionists delivered petition after petition to the Capitol until 1836, when Henry Pinckney, a South Carolina Representative, headed a committee to institute a rule to automatically delay petitions without consideration. This change only increased the number of petitioners and they became more active. The biggest obstacle the petitioners had was that Washington was essentially a Southern city. Many Southern Congressmen had brought their domestic slaves with them to their residences in Washington D.C. and believed they were entitled to purchase additional slaves as needed. In 1850 blacks outnumbered the European immigrants two to one and they occupied jobs that the immigrants would have had in a typical Northern city. The majority of these blacks were free but thier numbers gave the city a feeling of a slave-driven Southern town. The abolitionists were finding this a hard place for their petitions to be accepted.
After this setback in 1836, they found themselves in a new political setting in the years that followed.
Southern leaders believed the expansion of slavery was vital to the survival of the institution. Northern politicians felt that such a thing was unacceptable. Senator Henry Clay stepped in again like he did during the admission of Missouri to the Union and mediated the dispute. He set out 40 resolutions and tried to put together a group of bills that would satisfy all parties. By September these resolutions were reduced to five bills. These bills would pacify the Southerners by opening up new districts of Utah and New Mexico with no slavery restriction. This would also strengthen the Fugitive Slave Law, but would admit California as a free state and abolish the slave trade in Washington D.C.
In February 1848, the United States and Mexico signed a treaty (Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo) that ended the Mexican War and gave the United States a large portion of the Southwest, which also included California. On January 24, 1848, gold had been discovered in Sacramento on the American River. With this gold rush came a huge population growth, which increased the need of civil government. California sought statehood in 1849. The U.S. Congress had heated debates over California because of the slave issue but in 1850 California was admitted to the Union as a nonslavery state by the Compromise of 1850.
The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, or Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 as it was also called, stated that any United States marshal or official who did not arrest an alleged runaway slave was liable to pay a fine of $1,000. Law enforcement officials have a duty to arrest anyone suspected of being a runaway slave. The slave could not ask for a jury trial or testify on his or her behalf. Also, any person who aided a runaway slave by providing food or shelter was subject to six months imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. Officers who captured a fugitive slave were entitled to a fee. The Fugitive Slave Act was the most controversial of all five bills.
The longest-debated of all five of these bills was the Washington bill. Pro-slavery politicians saw this as a strong censure of slavery and also feared that it would start the first nationwide abolition movement, which were what the slavery’s opponents wanted. Many Southern Congress members understood that this could be a painless concession and in return they could gain much more. There were only 10 Southern votes in favor of the bill but they were willing to let the bill pass.
In 1849 Utah petitioned for statehood and a constitutional convention was called to draft a State Constitution to propose State of Deseret (a territory established by the Mormons in 1849) on March 8, 1849. The U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate rejected the proposed state and instead created the Territory of Utah. New Mexico also became the Territory of New Mexico, which included the present-day Arizona and a portion of southern Nevada and was organized without any restrictions of slavery. Both territories were organized on the same day that California was admitted to the Union.
New Mexico and Utah were allowed to use popular sovereignty to decide the issue of slavery. Popular sovereignty was the political doctrine, which provided for the settlers of federal territorial lands to decide the status (free or slave) under which they would join the Union. The concept was aired in the late 1840s, but was widely popularized by Stephen A. Douglas in 1854. Douglas, who came up with the term, thought the settlers should vote on their own status early in the territories development. Others took a different stance, arguing that the status should be determined by a vote taken when the territory was fully prepared for statehood.
In 1836 the Republic of Texas had legalized slavery. By 1842 Texans wanted to be annexed into the United States but abolitionist blocked Texas admission because they were a slave state. On December 29, 1845 Texas was finally admitted to the Union but there was a dispute concerning the borders. The Texas territory was about fifty percent larger than it is today. It included parts of present states of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming. Other groups contested the land so much that by 1850 it reached a point of hostility. The U.S. Congress began plans for settling the dispute. There were four plans that were under consideration:
Thomas Benton Plan (January 16) – would divest Texas of its northern and western territory and later split Texas into two states.
John Bell Plan (February 28) – similar to Benton’s Plan, but would split Texas into three states.
Henry Clay Plan, representing a committee of thirteen (April 17) – reduced the size of Texas by about the same amount, but with no provision for further subdivision.
James Pearce Plan (August 5) – similar to Clay’s Plan, but set the boundaries known today.
On September 9, 1850, the Pearce Plan was adopted and Texas lost almost one-third of its territory. The settlement also included compensation of $10,000,000, which provided much needed funding for Texas to pay its pre-statehood debts.
The Compromise of 1850 came from the Senate but much of the debating was by less prominent people, including:
Henry Clay of Kentucky – who was 72 years of age, near the end of his ellustrious career and had finally rid himself of presidential ambitions. He introduced a bill that lumped all parts of the compromise into a single measure.
Daniel Webster of Massachusetts – who saved one of his greatest formal speaches until the twilight of his career. He expressed the opinion that the maintenance of the Union was more important than the injustices caused by an unpopular piece of legislation, the Fugitive Slave Act. Webster’s support of a strong federal role in returning runaway slaves cost him much support in the North.
William H. Seward of Hew York – who had recently come to the Senate from a distinguished career in state politics, called for a “higher law” than the Constitution in his arguments against slavery.
John C. Calhoun of South Carolina – who was dying of throat cancer, but managed to supply the basic framework for the Southern position. His repeated plea was for the North to stop attacking the South and the institution of slavery.
James Murry Mann of Virginia – who spoke on behalf of the ailing Calhoun.
Stephen A. douglas of Illinois – who secured passage of the compromise by breaking it into segments that could gain majority approval, one by one.
Prior to 1812, the concern about balancing slave-states and free states was not profound.
In the years following 1812, and prior to the Civil War, maintaining the balance of free and slave states within the federal legislature was considered of paramount importance if the Union were to be preserved. The states were typically admitted in pairs.
The Compromise of 1850 was thought to be the answer but with the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 and the tragic events that followed, it proved the doctrine’s shortcomings.