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Compromise of 1850

Millard Fillmore

Compromise of 1850: Millard Fillmore was the 13th American President who served in office from July 9, 1850 to March 4, 1853. One of the important events during his presidency was the Compromise of 1850.

Definition and Summary of the Compromise of 1850
Summary and definition:
What was the Compromise of 1850? The Compromise of 1850, was drafted by Henry Clay, based on the ideas of Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois. The Compromise of 1850 was an attempt to smooth out the confrontation between the slave states of the South and the free states of the North regarding the status of territories acquired during the Mexican-American War (1846-1848).

The Compromise of 1850 allowed California to be admitted as a free state and the admission of New Mexico Territory and Utah Territory with slavery was left to to the decision of the people in relation to Popular Sovereignty on Slavery.

What was the Compromise of 1850?
The Compromise of 1850 consisted of five bills passed in the United States in September 1850 under the following general headings:

  • An Act proposing the Northern and Western Boundaries of Texas

  • An act for the admission of the state of California into the union

  • An act to establish a territorial government for Utah

  • An act to amend the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act

  • An act to suppress the slave trade in the District of Columbia

History of the Compromise of 1850 for kids: Why was the Compromise of 1850 created?
What was the reason for the Compromise of 1850? The Compromise of 1850 was created in an attempt to resolve disputes over slavery between the north and the south. The issue on slavery had intensified with the swift growth of land acquisitions,. The United States believed in its
Manifest Destiny and was determined to achieve Westward Expansion and dominate the whole of the North American continent. The burning issue that divided the north and south related to the expansion of slavery and whether the new territories should become free states or slave states. The differences in opinion between the anti-slavery factions and the pro-slavery factions were irreconcilable. Politicians sought compromises to appease both sides.

History of the Compromise of 1850 for kids: Timeline of Events leading to the 1850 Compromise
Why was the Compromise of 1850 created? This short history timeline details the critical events regarding the issue of slavery that all played a critical part in the creation of the Compromise of 1850.

1820: The first big compromise was made in the 1820 Missouri Compromise which retained the balance between slave and free states.

1832: The sectional interests of the North and the South were delayed, but were brought into open conflict for the first time with the 1832 Nullification Crisis

1833: The Nullification Crisis led to the establishment of the Abolitionist Movement

1836: The Gag Rule was passed banning all petitions calling for the Abolition of Slavery. It remained in place between 1836 and 1844

1845: The dissension was exacerbated with the Annexation of Texas when Texas was admitted as a slave state in 1845

1846: The Wilmot Proviso of 1846, an amendment to the $2million appropriations bill to fund the Mexican-American War, proposed that slavery should be banned in the territories acquired from Mexico.

1846: The Wilmot Proviso was never enacted into  law, but it broke the "Gag Rule", opening the slavery issue to be debated in Congress

1846 - 1848: The Mexican-American War

1848: The differences between the anti-slavery factions and the pro-slavery factions erupted when Mexico ceded Upper California and New Mexico to the United States in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

1850: Henry Clay drafts the Compromise of 1850 which is brokered by Clay and Senator Stephen A. Douglas

The Compromise of 1850 for kids: President Zachary Taylor
President Zachary Taylor became increasingly alarmed by the hostile situation between the northern and southern states. He needed to find a fast resolution before the situation became completely out of hand. President Taylor
also favored admission of California and New Mexico as free states and therefore sent government agents to New Mexico and California to urge the citizens to demand immediate admission to the Union. When Congress met in 1849, President Taylor stated that California had demanded admission as a free state. The Southerners were furious - they had expected that California would become a slave state. Taylor's attempt to diffuse the situation had achieved the opposite. A compromise was needed to calm the two factions, but proposals were impeded by the president. And then, during the midst of all this turmoil, the nation received the news that President Zachary Taylor had died on July 9, 1850. The new President was the conservative Millard Fillmore who made the compromise proposals more feasible. President Fillmore was faced with the unenviable task of calming the nation on the question of slavery.

The Reasons for the Compromise of 1850 for kids: Slavery Issues
The reasons for the Compromise of 1850 highlighted the issues of slavery, that were increasing sectional conflict and the hostile relationships between the northern and southern states of the Union:

  • The request of California to join the Union as a free state

  • The Anti-slavery faction of the North continued to promote the Wilmot Proviso prohibiting slavery in the lands acquired from Mexico

  • The Pro-slavery faction in the South vehemently opposed the exclusion of slavery from the new territories

  • The advocates of Popular Sovereignty were arguing for the right of the people of the New Mexico and Utah territories to determine the slavery issue for themselves

  • Anti-slavery groups were agitating for the slave trade to be outlawed in the District of Columbia

  • The Southern states were complaining that the Northern states were not enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 and returning  runaway slaves to their owners

  • The failure of this compromise was one of the Causes of the Civil War

The Compromise of 1850 for kids: Threat of Civil War
Many politicians were becoming increasingly concerned over the possibility that some Southern states might secede, leading to the dissolution of the Union and Civil War. A compromise had to be made to find some middle ground to avoid this ultimate and disastrous form of confrontation.

The Compromise of 1850 for kids: Henry Clay and the "Union of Hearts"
There were many issues to be addressed on the subject of slavery.
Henry Clay proposed  measures that would become the Compromise of 1850, based upon the ideas of Stephen A. Douglas who advocated the doctrine of Popular Sovereignty. Henry Clay believed his plan would end all disputes between Northerners and Southerners by the acceptance of the compromise which he hoped would result in a "union of hearts." His plan was the Southerners were to permit the admission of California as a free state, and to agree to the abolition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia. The Northerners were to consent to the organization of New Mexico and Utah as territories without any provision for or against slavery. The Texans claimed that a part of the proposed Territory of New Mexico belonged to Texas, so Henry Clay suggested that the United States should pay Texas for this land. The final element of the Henry Clay Compromise of 1850 was that Congress should pass a more stringent Fugitive Slave Act.

The Compromise of 1850 Provisions:
The Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and Stephen A. Douglas spoke eloquently in favor of the Compromise of 1850. The Compromise of 1850 provisions were:

  • Proposals for the Northern and Western Boundaries of Texas

  • California's admission to the Union as a free state

  • The organization of New Mexico and Utah as territories without restrictions on slavery

  • A more stringent fugitive slave law to provide for the return of slaves who had escaped from one state into another

  • The abolition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia

Because it was a compromise, few politicians were in favor of the provisions but when votes were taken on each separate part they all passed. The five compromise measures contained in the Compromise of 1850 were enacted in September 1850.

The Significance and Effects of the Compromise of 1850 for kids
The significance and effects of the Compromise of 1850 were as follows:

  • The Compromise of 1850 was seen as favoring the south

  • Compromise of 1850 was only temporary expedient, not a resolution, to the differing opinions on slavery or a permanent political solution

  • The application of the new strict 1850 Fugitive Slave Act encouraged more people in the north to become involved in the Abolitionist Movement

  • The precedent of Popular Sovereignty in the Compromise of 1850 led to a demand for a similar provision for the Kansas Territory in the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act

  • Following the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act violence broke out between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions and reached a state of low intensity civil war and this devastating event became known  'Bleeding Kansas'

  • The Anti-slavery Whigs disagreed with the Compromise of 1850 and successfully prevented the re-nomination of Millard Fillmore and led to the destruction of the Whig Party

  • The Anti-slavery Whigs also joined the Free Soil Party which eventually emerged as the Republican Party

  • The Compromise of 1850 was designed to avert the threat of dissolution of the Union. It was relatively short-lived as the Civil War  broke out 10 years later

US American History
1850-1865: Secession Era

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