America in the 1850s

The Compromise of 1850

What did the Compromise of 1850 entail?

In several different pieces of legislation, shepherded through Congress by Henry Clay (1777–1852), the Compromise of 1850 attempted to settle the slave question for once and for all.

California was admitted as the thirty-first state of the Union. California entered as a free state, in which slavery was expressly forbidden. The slave trade in the District of Columbia was abolished (slavery itself was not). It had long been a source of embarrassment that men and women were bought and sold within a few blocks of the White House and the Capitol. New Mexico and Utah were organized as territories, and it was agreed that when they were ready for statehood, the people of those territories would exercise popular sovereignty, meaning they would vote whether to enter as slave or free states. Finally, perhaps most importantly, a new, much tougher Fugitive Slave Law was written.


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