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Compromise of (1850)

Compromise Of 1850, An Act For The Admission Of The State Of California Into The Union

The Compromise of 1850 is the name given to a series of congressional statutes enacted in September 1850 in an attempt to resolve longstanding disputes over slavery. Southern slave owners had long demanded a more stringent fugitive slave law while Northern abolitionists insisted that slavery should be abolished in the District of Columbia. The unsuccessful WILMOT PROVISO of 1846–1847 also revealed deep opposition to the expansion of slavery into the newly acquired Mexican territories. The debate over slavery intensified in 1849 when California applied for admission to the Union as a free state. Concern grew over the possibility that some Southern states might secede, leading to the dissolution of the Union.

Senator HENRY CLAY of Kentucky, aided by Senators DANIEL WEBSTER of Massachusetts and STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS of Illinois, proposed a compromise that passed the Congress after much difficulty. The compromise consisted of five statutes. One statute created the New Mexico Territory, and a second created the Utah Territory. Both statutes left it up to the inhabitants to decide whether to enter the Union as a free state or a slave state. This approach, whose leading advocate was Douglas, became known as "popular sovereignty." A third statute admitted California to the Union as a free state, and a fourth statute prohibited bringing slaves into the District of Columbia for sale or transportation. The fifth statute was the most controversial, for it established a more rigorous fugitive slave law. The strengthening of federal enforcement of the FUGITIVE SLAVE ACT (9 Stat. 462) angered many Northerners and led to growing sectional conflict.

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