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Compromise of (1850)

The Compromise of 1850, also known as the Omnibus Bill, was a program of legislative measures enacted by Congress to reconcile the differences existing between the North and South concerning the issue of SLAVERY in newly formed TERRITORIES OF THE UNITED STATES.

The historical background of the enactment of the Compromise involved the increasingly hostile relationship between the northern and southern states of the Union over the existence of slavery. This hostility was partly due to the reluctant enforcement by northern states of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, which established procedures for the return of runaway slaves to their owners. The dissension was exacerbated in 1848 when the United States annexed Texas and gained new territories under the provisions of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which brought about the end of the Mexican American War. Abolitionists continued to favor the antislavery stance of the WILMOT PROVISO prohibiting slavery in the lands acquired from Mexico, which was proposed in 1846, but was never enacted into law. The South vehemently opposed the exclusion of slavery from the new territories.

In 1849 the request of California to join the Union as a free state resulted in heated debates on the floor of Congress. Many viewed the situation as a grave threat to the existence of the Union. HENRY CLAY returned to the Senate to propose measures, based upon the ideas of STEPHEN DOUGLAS, that would reconcile the


different positions of the North and South. The proposals included the admission of California into the Union as a free state, the right of the New Mexico and Utah territories to determine the slavery issue for themselves at the time of their admission to the Union, the outlawing of the slave trade in the District of Columbia, and the congressional enactment of the more stringent FUGITIVE SLAVE ACT OF 1850 (9 Stat. 462).

Due to the efforts of DANIEL WEBSTER and others, these controversial measures, which initially caused heated debate, were enacted by Congress in September 1850. Although labeled a compromise due to its position on slavery, the Compromise of 1850 had short-lived effect as a solution to the issue in light of the subsequent problems resulting in the enactment of the KANSAS-NEBRASKA ACT in 1854 (10 Stat. 277) and the onset of the Civil War less than ten years later.

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