America in the 1850s

The Compromise of 1850

How was the Compromise of 1850 received?

With enthusiasm and rejoicing. North and South, East and West, Americans believed that this set of congressional actions would settle, perhaps bury, the slave question for good. There were fireworks in some cities and towns, and parties in which Northern and Southern men and women congratulated each other for having saved the republic. Almost everyone agreed that the question of California’s admittance had brought about a serious crisis and that Congress had risen to the occasion.

The only people who seemed displeased or unhappy were the abolitionists, and even in 1850 it was difficult to say how many of them there were. Longtime leaders of the abolition movement like William Lloyd Garrison and newer members, such as Frederick Douglass, warned their listeners and readers that no compromise, however clever, could ever end the problem of slavery. It was a moral question and could only be settled when the institution was destroyed. As to how it might be destroyed, the abolitionists differed among themselves.


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