Compromise of 1850

The Compromise of 1850 was a package of five separate bills passed by the United States Congress in September 1850, which defused a four-year political confrontation between slave and free states on the status of territories acquired during the Mexican–American War (1846–1848). The compromise, drafted by Whig Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky and brokered by Clay and Democratic Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois, reduced sectional conflict, although controversy eventually arose over the Fugitive Slave provision. Although the compromise was greeted with relief, each side disapproved of some of its specific provisions:

  • Texas surrendered its claim to New Mexico as well as its claims north of 36°30'. It retained the Texas Panhandle, and the federal government took over the state's public debt.
  • California was admitted as a free state, with its current boundaries.
  • The South prevented the adoption of the Wilmot Proviso, which would have outlawed slavery in the new territories.[1] The new Utah Territory and New Mexico Territory were allowed, under popular sovereignty, to decide whether to allow slavery within their borders. In practice, these lands were generally unsuited to plantation agriculture, and their settlers were uninterested in slavery.
  • The slave trade, but not the institution of slavery, was banned in the District of Columbia.
  • A more stringent Fugitive Slave Law was enacted, requiring law enforcement in free states to support the capture and return of fugitive slaves, and increasing penalties against people who tried to evade the law.

The Compromise became possible after the sudden death of President Zachary Taylor. Although a slave owner, he had wanted to exclude slavery from the Southwest. Whig leader Henry Clay designed a compromise, which failed to pass in early 1850 because of opposition by both pro-slavery southern Democrats, led by John C. Calhoun, and anti-slavery northern Whigs. Upon Clay's instruction, Stephen Douglas divided Clay's bill into several smaller pieces and narrowly won their passage, over the opposition of radicals on both sides.

United States 1849-1850
Before the compromise:
  • (Gold Rush) California applies to become a free state
  • Texas claims territory as far as the Rio Grande
  • New Mexico resists Texas, applies to become a free state
United States 1850-1853-03
Territorial results of the Compromise:
  • California is admitted as a free state
  • Texas trades some territorial claims for debt relief
  • New Mexico becomes New Mexico Territory with slavery undecided


Missouri Compromise Line
  Free states in early 1850
  Slave states (without Texas' claims to New Mexico)
  Territories (later state borders, Gadsden Purchase)

Soon after the start of the Mexican War, when the extent of the contested territories was still unclear, the question of whether to allow slavery in those territories polarized the Northern and the Southern United States in the most bitter sectional conflict until then. A state the size of Texas attracted interest from both state residents and pro-slavery and anti-slavery camps on a national scale. Texas claimed land north of the 36°30' demarcation line for slavery, set by the 1820 Missouri Compromise.

The Texas Annexation resolution had required that if any new states were formed out of Texas' lands, those north of the Missouri Compromise line would become free states.[2]

According to historian Mark Stegmaier, "The Fugitive Slave Act, the abolition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia, the admission of California as a free state, and even the application of the formula of popular sovereignty to the territories were all less important than the least remembered component of the Compromise of 1850—the statute by which Texas relinquished its claims to much of New Mexico in return for federal assumption of the debts."[3]

Stegmaier also refers to "the principal Southern demand for a division of California at the line of 35° north latitude" and says that "Southern extremists made clear that a congressionally mandated division of California figured uppermost on their agenda."[4]

During the deadlock of four years, the Second Party System broke up, Mormon pioneers settled Utah, the California Gold Rush settled northern California, and New Mexico under a federal military government turned back Texas's attempt to assert control over territory Texas claimed as far west as the Rio Grande. The eventual compromise preserved the Union but only for another decade.

Various proposals

Proposals in 1846 to 1850 on the division of the Southwest included the following:

  • The Wilmot Proviso banning slavery in any new territory to be acquired from Mexico, not including Texas, which had been annexed the previous year. It passed the House in August 1846 and February 1847 but not the Senate. Later, an effort failed to attach the proviso to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
  • The Extension of the Missouri Compromise line was proposed by failed amendments to the Wilmot Proviso by William W. Wick and then Stephen Douglas to extend the Missouri Compromise line (36°30' parallel north) west to the Pacific (south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California) to allow the possibility of slavery in most of present-day New Mexico and Arizona, and Southern California. That line was again proposed by the Nashville Convention of June 1850.
  • Popular sovereignty, developed by Lewis Cass and Stephen Douglas as the position of the Democratic Party, was to let each territory decide for itself whether to allow slavery.
  • William L. Yancey's "Alabama Platform", endorsed by the Alabama and the Georgia legislatures and by Democratic state conventions in Florida and Virginia, called for no restrictions on slavery in the territories by the federal government or territorial governments before statehood, opposition to any candidates supporting either the Wilmot Proviso or popular sovereignty, and federal legislation to overrule Mexican anti-slavery laws.
  • Two free states were proposed by Zachary Taylor, who served as President from March 1849 to July 1850. As President, he proposed that the entire area become two free states, called California and New Mexico but much larger than the ones today. None of the area would be left as an unorganized or organized territory, which would avoid the question of slavery in the territories.
  • Changing Texas's borders was proposed by Senator Thomas Hart Benton in December 1849 or January 1850. Texas's western and northern boundaries would be the 102nd meridian west and the 34th parallel north.
  • Two southern states were proposed by Senator John Bell, with the assent of Texas, in February 1850. New Mexico would get all Texas land north of the 34th parallel north, including today's Texas Panhandle, while the area to the south, including the southeastern part of today's New Mexico, would be divided at the Colorado River of Texas into two Southern states, balancing the admission of California and New Mexico as free states.[5]
  • The first draft of the compromise of 1850 had Texas's northwestern boundary be a straight, diagonal line from the Rio Grande 20 miles north of El Paso to the Red River (Mississippi watershed) at the 100th meridian west, the southwestern corner of today's Oklahoma.

Final proposed compromise

Henry Clay Senate3
"The United States Senate, A.D. 1850" (engraving by Peter F. Rothermel):
Henry Clay takes the floor of the Old Senate Chamber; Vice President Millard Fillmore presides as John C. Calhoun (to the right of the Speaker's chair) and Daniel Webster (seated to the left of Clay) look on.

On January 29, 1850, Whig Senator Henry Clay gave a speech for compromise on the issues dividing the Union. However, Clay's specific proposals for achieving a compromise, including his idea for Texas's boundary, were not adopted in a single bill.[6] Upon Clay's urging, Senator Stephen A. Douglas, Democrat of Illinois, divided Clay's bill into several smaller bills and passed each separately. When he instructed Douglas, Clay was nearly dead and unable to guide the congressional debate any further. The Compromise came to coalesce around a plan dividing Texas at its present-day boundaries; creating territorial governments with "popular sovereignty", without the Wilmot Proviso, for New Mexico and Utah; admitting California as a free state, abolishing the slave trade in the District of Columbia, and enacting a new fugitive slave law.

The Compromise of 1850 was formally proposed by Clay and guided to passage by Douglas over Northern Whig and Southern Democrat opposition. It was enacted September 1850 with the following terms:

  1. California admitted as a free state.
  2. Utah Territory and New Mexico Territory organized with slavery to be decided by popular sovereignty.
  3. Texas dropped its claim to land north of the 32nd parallel north and west of the 103rd meridian west in favor of New Mexico Territory, and north of the 36°30' parallel north and east of the 103rd meridian west which became unorganized territory. Texas's boundaries were set at their present form. Senator James Pearce of Maryland drafted the final proposal[7] in which Texas ceded its claims to land which later became half of present-day New Mexico, a third of Colorado, and small portions of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming to the federal government, in return for the assumption of $10 million of the old republic's debt.[8][9] El Paso, where Texas had established county government, was left in Texas.
  4. Slave trade was abolished in the District of Columbia but not the institution of slavery.
  5. The Fugitive Slave Act was strengthened, requiring compliance by law enforcement in free states and increasing penalties.

Division of Whigs

Most Northern Whigs, led by William Henry Seward, who delivered his famous "Higher Law" speech during the controversy, opposed the Compromise as well because it would apply the Wilmot Proviso to the western territories and because of the pressing of ordinary citizens into duty on slave-hunting patrols. That provision was inserted by Democratic Virginia Senator James M. Mason to entice border-state Whigs, who faced the greatest danger of losing slaves as fugitives but were lukewarm on general sectional issues related to the South on Texas's land claims.[10]

Zachary Taylor avoided the issue as the Whig candidate during the 1848 US presidential election but then as President, he attempted to sidestep the entire controversy by pushing to admit California and New Mexico as free states immediately to avoid the entire territorial process and the Wilmot Proviso question. Taylor was one of the few Southerners to support that idea.[11]

Northern Democrats and Southern Whigs supported the Compromise. Southern Whigs, many of whom were from the border states, supported the stronger fugitive slave law.

Debate and results

US Slave Free 1789-1861
An animation showing slave and free states and territories, 1789–1861

On April 17, a "Committee of Thirteen" agreed on the border of Texas as part of Clay's plan. The dimensions were later changed. That same day, during debates on the measures in the Senate, Vice President Fillmore and Senator Benton verbally sparred, with Fillmore charging that the Missourian was "out of order." During the heated debates, Compromise floor leader Henry S. Foote of Mississippi drew a pistol on Benton.

In early June, nine slaveholding Southern states sent delegates to the Nashville Convention to determine their course of action if the compromise passed. While some delegates preached secession, the moderates ruled and proposed a series of compromises, including extending the dividing line designated by the Missouri Compromise of 1820 to the Pacific Coast.

The various bills were initially combined into one "omnibus" bill. Despite Clay's efforts, it failed in a crucial vote on July 31, opposed by southern Democrats and by northern Whigs. He announced on the Senate floor the next day that he intended to pass each individual part of the bill. The 73-year-old Clay, however, was physically exhausted as the effects of tuberculosis, which would eventually kill him, began to take their toll. Clay left the Senate to recuperate in Newport, Rhode Island, and Stephen A. Douglas wrote the separate bills and guided them through the Senate.[12]

The situation had been changed by the sudden death of Taylor and the accession of Vice President Millard Fillmore to the presidency, on July 9, 1850. Fillmore, anxious to find a quick solution to the conflict in Texas over the border with New Mexico, which threatened to become an armed conflict between Texas militia and the federal soldiers, reversed the administration's position late in July and threw its support to the compromise measures.[13] The Northern Democrats held together and supported each of the bills and gained enough Whigs or Southern Democrats to pass all of them. They were signed by President Fillmore between September 9 and September 20, 1850.

  1. California was admitted as a free state. It passed the House 150–56.[14][15] It passed the Senate 34–18.[16]
  2. The slave trade was abolished (the sale of slaves, not the institution of slavery) in the District of Columbia.
  3. The Territory of Utah was organized under the rule of popular sovereignty. It passed the House 97–85.[17]
  4. The Territory of New Mexico was organized under the rule of popular sovereignty. It passed the House 108–97.[18] It passed the Senate 30–20.[19]
  5. A harsher Fugitive Slave Act was passed by the Senate 27–12,[20] and by the House 109–76.[21]
  6. Texas gave up much of the western land it claimed and received compensation of $10,000,000 to pay off its national debt.

Clay was still given much of the credit for success. It quieted the controversy between Northerners and Southerners over the expansion of slavery and delayed secession and civil war for another decade. Senator Henry S. Foote of Mississippi, who had suggested the creation of the Committee of Thirteen, later said, "Had there been one such man in the Congress of the United States as Henry Clay in 1860–'61 there would, I feel sure, have been no civil war."[22]


Map of Free and Slave States
Map of free and slave states c. 1856

The Compromise proved widely popular politically, and both parties committed themselves in their platforms to the finality of the Compromise on sectional issues. The strongest opposition in the South occurred in the states of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, but Unionists soon prevailed, spearheaded by Georgians Alexander Stephens, Robert Toombs, and Howell Cobb and the creation of the Georgia Platform. The peace was broken only by the divisive Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 introduced by Stephen Douglas, which had the effect of repealing the Missouri Compromise and led directly to the formation of the Republican Party, whose capture of the national government in 1860 led directly to the secession crisis of 1860–1861.

Many historians argue that the Compromise played a major role in postponing the American Civil War for a decade, while the Northwest was growing more wealthy and more populous and was being brought into closer relations with the Northeast.[23] During that decade, the Whig Party had completely broken down, to be replaced with the new Republican Party dominant in the North and the Democrats in the South.[24]

Others argue that the Compromise only made more obvious the pre-existing sectional divisions and laid the groundwork for future conflict. They view the Fugitive Slave Law as helping to polarize the US, as shown in the enormous reaction to Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. The passage of the Fugitive Slave Law aroused feelings of bitterness in the North. Furthermore, the Compromise of 1850 led to a breakdown in the spirit of compromise in the United States in the antebellum period, directly before the Civil War. The Compromise exemplifies that spirit, but the deaths of influential senators who worked on the compromise, primarily Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, contributed to the feeling of increasing disparity between the North and South.

The delay of hostilities for ten years allowed the free economy of the northern states to continue to industrialize. The southern states, largely based on slave labor and cash crop production, lacked the ability to industrialize heavily.[25] By 1860, the northern states had added many more miles of railroad, steel production, modern factories, and population to the advantages already possessed in 1850. The North was better able to supply, equip, and man its armed forces, which would prove decisive in the later stages of the war.


Three major types of issues were addressed by the Compromise of 1850: a variety of boundary issues, the status of territory issues, and the issue of slavery. While capable of analytical distinction, the boundary and territory issues were actually included in the overarching issue of slavery. Pro-slavery and anti-slavery interests were each concerned with both the amount of land on which slavery was permitted and with the number of States in the slave or free camps. Since Texas was a slave state, not only the residents of that state but also both camps on a national scale had an interest in the size of Texas.

The general solution that was adopted by the Compromise of 1850 was to transfer a considerable part of the territory claimed by the state to the federal government; to organize two new territories formally, the Territory of New Mexico and the Territory of Utah, which expressly would be allowed to locally determine whether they would become slave or free territories, to add another free state to the Union (California), to adopt a severe measure to recover slaves who had escaped to a free state or free territory (the Fugitive Slave Law); and to abolish the slave trade in the District of Columbia.


Texas proposed boundaries
Proposals for Texas northwestern boundary

The independent Republic of Texas won the decisive Battle of San Jacinto (April 21, 1836) against Mexico and captured Mexican president Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. He signed the Treaties of Velasco, which recognized the Rio Grande as the boundary of the Republic of Texas. The treaties were then repudiated by the government of Mexico, which insisted that it was sovereign over Texas and promised to reclaim the lost territories. To the extent that there was a de facto recognition, Mexico treated the Nueces River as its northern boundary control. A vast, largely-unsettled area was between the two rivers. Neither Mexico nor the Republic of Texas had the military strength to assert its territorial claim. On December 29, 1845, the Republic of Texas was annexed to the United States and became the 28th state. Texas was staunchly committed to slavery, with its constitution making it illegal for the legislature to free slaves. With the annexation, the United States inherited the territorial claims of the former Republic of Texas against Mexico. The territorial claim to the area between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande and Mexican resistance to it both led to the Mexican–American War. On February 2, 1848, the war was concluded by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

Among its provisos was the recognition by Mexico of the area between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande as part of the United States.

The Republic of Texas had claimed ownership of the eastern half of present-day New Mexico, along with sections of Colorado, Kansas, and Wyoming, but Texas had never effectively controlled the area, which was dominated by hostile Indian tribes (see Comancheria). However, the federal government now controlled the area after 1846. The Compromise of 1850 solved the problem by setting the present boundaries of Texas, in return for $10 million in federal bonds paid to the State of Texas.[26]

The state was heavily burdened with debt, which had been contracted during its struggles as the Republic of Texas. The federal government agreed to pay $10 million of bonds in return for the transfer of a large portion of the claimed area of the state to the territory of the federal government and the relinquishment of various claims of Texas had on the federal government. (The bonds bore interest at the rate of 5%, which was collectible by Texas every six months, and the principal was redeemable at the end of fourteen years.)[27]

The Constitution (Article IV, Section 3) does not permit Congress unilaterally to reduce the territory of any state, so the first part of the Compromise of 1850 had to take the form of an offer to the Texas State Legislature, rather than a unilateral enactment. This ratified the bargain and, in due course, the transfer of a broad swath of land from the state of Texas to the federal government was accomplished.

Texas was allowed to keep the following portions of the disputed land: south of the 32nd parallel and south of the 36°30' parallel north and east of the 103rd meridian west. The rest of the disputed land was transferred to the Federal Government.

New Mexico and Utah Territories

Boundaries of State of New Mexico proposed in 1850
New Mexico proposed boundary before Compromise of 1850
Utah Territory with Deseret Border, vector image - 2011
The Utah Territory is shown in blue and outlined in black. The boundaries of the provisional State of Deseret are shown with a dotted line.

The first law of the Compromise of 1850 also organized the Territory of New Mexico. The second law, also enacted September 9, 1850, organized the Territory of Utah.

Some of the land had been claimed by the Republic of Texas. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo made no mention of the claims of the Republic of Texas; Mexico simply agreed to a Mexico-U.S. border south of both the "Mexican Cession" and the Republic of Texas claims.[28] Before the Compromise of 1850, the disputed land had been claimed but never controlled by the state of Texas. Of importance in 1850 was land included in present-day eastern New Mexico.

From the Mexican Cession, the New Mexico Territory received most of the present-day state of Arizona, most of the western part of the present-day state of New Mexico, and the southern tip of present-day Nevada (south of the 37th parallel). From Texas, the territory received most of present-day eastern New Mexico, a portion of present-day Colorado (east of the crest of the Rocky Mountains, west of the 103rd meridian, and south of the 38th parallel).

From the Mexican Cession, the Utah Territory received present-day Utah, most of present-day Nevada (everything north of the 37th parallel), a major part of present-day Colorado (everything west of the crest of the Rocky Mountains), and a small part of present-day Wyoming. That included the newly founded colony at Salt Lake, of Brigham Young. From Texas, the Utah Territory received some of present-day Colorado that is east of the crest of the Rocky Mountains.

A key provision of each of the laws respectively organizing the Territory of New Mexico and the Territory of Utah was that slavery would be decided by local option, called popular sovereignty. That was an important repudiation of the idea behind the failure to prohibit slavery in any territory acquired from Mexico.


Map of Mexico including Yucatan and Upper California 1847
Map of Mexico. S. Augustus Mitchell, Philadelphia, 1847. New California is depicted with a northeastern border at the meridian leading north of the Rio Grande headwaters.

California was part of the Mexican Cession. After the Mexican War, California was essentially run by military governors. President James K. Polk tried to get Congress to establish a territorial government in California officially, but the increasingly-sectional debates prevented that.[29] The South wanted to extend slave territory to Southern California and to the Pacific Coast, but the North did not.

From late 1848, Americans and foreigners of many different countries rushed into California for the California Gold Rush, exponentially increasing the population. In response to growing demand for a better more representative government, a Constitutional Convention was held in 1849. The delegates unanimously outlawed slavery. They had no interest in extending the Missouri Compromise Line through California and splitting the state; the lightly-populated southern half never had slavery and was heavily Hispanic.[30]

The third statute of the Compromise of 1850 allowed California to be admitted to the Union, undivided, as a free state on September 9, 1850.[31]

Fugitive Slave Law

The fourth statute of the Compromise of 1850, enacted September 18, 1850, is informally known as the Fugitive Slave Law, or the Fugitive Slave Act. It bolstered the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793. The new version of the Fugitive Slave Law required federal judicial officials in all states and federal territories, including in those states and territories in which slavery was prohibited, to assist with the return of escaped slaves to their masters actively in the states and territories permitting slavery. Any federal marshal or other official who did not arrest an alleged runaway slave was liable to a fine of $1000. Law enforcement everywhere in the US had a duty to arrest anyone suspected of being a fugitive slave on no more evidence than a claimant's sworn testimony of ownership. Suspected slaves could neither ask for a jury trial nor testify on their own behalf. In addition, any person aiding a runaway slave by providing food or shelter was to be subject to six months' imprisonment and a $1000 fine. Officers capturing a fugitive slave were entitled to a fee for their work.

In addition to federal officials, the ordinary citizens of free states could be summoned to join a posse and be required to assist in the capture, custody, and/or transportation of the alleged escaped slave.

The law was so rigorously pro-slavery as to prohibit the admission of the testimony of a person accused of being an escaped slave into evidence at the judicial hearing to determine the status of the accused escaped slave. Thus, if a freedman were claimed to be an escaped slave, they could not resist their return to slavery by truthfully telling their own actual history.

The Fugitive Slave Act was essential to meet Southern demands. In terms of public opinion in the North, the critical provision was that ordinary citizens were required to aid slave catchers. Many northerners deeply resented that requirement to help slavery personally. Resentment towards the Act continued to heighten tensions between the North and South, which were inflamed further by abolitionists such as Harriet Beecher Stowe. Her book, Uncle Tom's Cabin, stressed the horrors of recapturing escaped slaves and outraged Southerners.[32]

End of slave trade in District of Columbia

The fifth law, enacted on September 20, 1850, prohibited the slave trade but allowed slavery itself in the District of Columbia.[33] Southerners in Congress were unanimous in opposing that provision, which was seen as a concession to the abolitionists, but they were outvoted.[34]

See also


  1. ^ Michael Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party (2003) p. 252
  2. ^ Joint Resolution of Congress, Mar. 1, 1845
  3. ^ Mark J. Stegmaier (1996). Texas, New Mexico, and the compromise of 1850: boundary dispute & sectional conflict. Kent State University Press.
  4. ^ Stegmaier, p. 172 and p. 177
  5. ^ W. J. Spillman (January 1904). "ADJUSTMENT OF THE TEXAS BOUNDARY IN 1850". Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association. 7.
  6. ^ Remini, Robert. Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union (1993) pp 730–61
  7. ^ Texas State Historical Association. "COMPROMISE OF 1850". The Handbook of Texas.
  8. ^ Compromise of 1850 from the Handbook of Texas Online
  9. ^ Cotton Culture from the Handbook of Texas Online
  10. ^ John M. Taylor, William Henry Seward: Lincoln's right hand (1996) p. 85
  11. ^ Elbert B. Smith, President Zachary Taylor: the hero president (2007) p. 238
  12. ^ Eaton (1957) pp. 192–193. Remini (1991) pp. 756–759
  13. ^ Michael Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party (1999), pp. 529–530: "only rapid passage of the omnibus bill appeared to offer a timely escape from the crisis."
  14. ^ "TO PASS S. 169. (P.1772-1)". 2014-11-08. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  15. ^ Holman Hamilton, Prologue to Conflict (University of Kentucky Press, 1965), p. 160
  16. ^ "ON PASSAGE S. 169". 2014-11-08. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  17. ^ "TO PASS S. 225 (9 STAT. 453, APP. 9/9/1850), AN ACT TO ESTABLISH A TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT FOR UTAH. (P.1776-1)". 2014-11-08. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  18. ^ "TO PASS S. 307. (P.1764-3)". 2014-11-08. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  19. ^ "ON PASSAGE OF THE BILL S. 307. (P. 1555-3)". 2014-11-08. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  20. ^ "ON ORDERING ENGROSSMENT AND 3RD READING OF THE BILL S. 23. (P. 1630-2)". 2014-11-08. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  21. ^ "TO PASS S. 23. (P.1817-1)". 2014-11-08. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  22. ^ Remini (1991) pp. 761–62
  23. ^ Robert Remini,The House: A History of the House of Representatives (2006) p. 147
  24. ^ Holt, Michael F. The Political Crisis of the 1850s (1978).
  25. ^ Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Fruits of Merchant Capital (1983).
  26. ^ Mark J. Stegmaier, Texas, New Mexico, and the Compromise of 1850: Boundary Dispute and Sectional Crisis (1998)
  27. ^ Hamilton, Holman (1957). "Texas Bonds and Northern Profits: A Study in Compromise, Investment, and Lobby Influence". The Mississippi Valley Historical Review. Organization of American Historians. 43 (4): 579–94. doi:10.2307/1902274. ISSN 0161-391X. JSTOR 1902274 – via JSTOR. (Registration required (help)).
  28. ^ "Handbook of Texas Online: Compromise of 1850". Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  29. ^ California and New Mexico: Message from the President of the United States. By United States. President (1849–1850 : Taylor), United States. War Dept (Ex. Doc 17 page 1) Google eBook
  30. ^ William Henry Ellison. A self-governing dominion, California, 1849–1860 (1950) online
  31. ^ "A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 - 1875". Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  32. ^ Larry Gara, "The Fugitive Slave Law: A Double Paradox," Civil War History, September 1964, vol. 10#3, pp. 229–240
  33. ^ David L. Lewis, District of Columbia: A Bicentennial History, (W.W. Norton, 1976), 54-56.
  34. ^ Damani Davis, "Slavery and Emancipation in the Nation'S Capital," Prologue, Spring 2010, vol. 42#1, pp. 52–59


  • Bell, John Frederick. "Poetry's Place in the Crisis and Compromise of 1850." Journal of the Civil War Era 5#3 (2015): 399–421.
  • Bordewich, Fergus M. America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union (2012) excerpt and text search
  • Foster, Herbert D. (1922). "Webster's Seventh of March Speech and the Secession Movement, 1850". American Historical Review. 27 (2): 245–270. doi:10.2307/1836156.
  • Heidler, David S., and Jeanne T. Heidler. Henry Clay: The Essential American (2010), major scholarly biography; 624 pp.
  • Hamilton, Holman. Prologue to Conflict: The Crisis and Compromise of 1850 (1964), the standard historical study
  • Hamilton, Holman (1954). "Democratic Senate Leadership and the Compromise of 1850". The Mississippi Valley Historical Review. 41 (3): 403–18. doi:10.2307/1897490. ISSN 0161-391X. JSTOR 1897490.
  • Holman Hamilton. Zachary Taylor, Soldier in the White House (1951).
  • Holt, Michael F. The Political Crisis of the 1850s (1978).
  • Holt, Michael F. The Fate of Their Country: Politicians, Slavery Extension, and the Coming of the Civil War (2005).
  • Johannsen, Robert W. Stephen A. Douglas (1973) (ISBN 0195016203)
  • William Aloysius Keleher (1951). Turmoil in New Mexico. Santa Fe: Rydal Press. ISBN 978-0-8263-0632-6.
  • Knupfer, Peter B. "Compromise and Statesmanship: Henry Clay's Union." in Knupfer, The Union As It Is: Constitutional Unionism and Sectional Compromise, 1787–1861 (1991), pp. 119–57.
  • Morrison, Michael A. Slavery and the American West: The Eclipse of Manifest Destiny and the Coming of the Civil War (1997) (ISBN 0807823198)
  • Nevins, Allan. Ordeal of the Union (1947) v 2, highly detailed narrative
  • Potter, David M. The Impending Crisis, 1848–1861 (1977), pp 90–120; Pulitzer Prize
  • Remini, Robert. Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union (1991)
  • Remini, Robert. At the Edge of the Precipice: Henry Clay and the Compromise That Saved the Union (2010) 184 pages; the Compromise of 1850
  • Rhodes, James Ford. History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850, vol. i. (1896). complegte text online
  • Rozwenc, Edwin C. ed. The Compromise of 1850. (1957) convenient collection of primary and secondary documents; 102 pp.
  • Russel, Robert R. (1956). "What Was the Compromise of 1850?". The Journal of Southern History. Southern Historical Association. 22 (3): 292–309. doi:10.2307/2954547. ISSN 0022-4642. JSTOR 2954547 – via JSTOR. (Registration required (help)).
  • Sewell, Richard H. Ballots for Freedom: Antislavery Politics in the United States 1837–1860 New York: Oxford University Press, 1976.
  • Stegmaier, Mark J. (1996). Texas, New Mexico, and the Compromise of 1850: Boundary Dispute & Sectional Crisis. Kent State University Press.
  • Wiltse, Charles M. John C. Calhoun, Sectionalist, 1840–1850 (1951)

External links

1852 Democratic National Convention

The 1852 Democratic National Convention nominated the dark horse candidate Franklin Pierce for President on the 49th ballot, passing over better known candidates Lewis Cass of Michigan (the previous nominee in 1848), James Buchanan of Pennsylvania, and Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois. It was held at the Maryland Institute in the eastern downtown business district of Baltimore, Maryland, just two weeks before the opposing Whig Party met in the same hall for their nominating convention.

This convention was notable for the hostility between several groups within the party, divided over the "Compromise of 1850". The convention was called to order by Democratic National Committee chairman Benjamin F. Hallett. Romulus M. Saunders served as the temporary convention chairman and John W. Davis served as the permanent convention president.

1852 United States presidential election

The United States presidential election of 1852 was the seventeenth quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 2, 1852. Democrat Franklin Pierce, a former Senator from New Hampshire, defeated General Winfield Scott, the Whig nominee. This was the last election in which the Whigs served as the principal opposition to the Democrats.

Incumbent Whig President Millard Fillmore had acceded to the presidency after the death of President Zachary Taylor in 1850. Due to Fillmore's support of the Compromise of 1850 and his enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law, he was popular in the South but opposed by many Northern Whigs. On the 53rd ballot of the 1852 Whig National Convention, Scott defeated Fillmore to clinch the party's nomination. The Democrats were divided among four major candidates, who traded leads through the first 48 ballots of the 1852 Democratic National Convention. On the 49th ballot, dark horse candidate Franklin Pierce won his party's nomination. The Free Soil Party, a third party opposed to the extension of slavery into the territories, nominated Senator John P. Hale of New Hampshire.

With no major policy differences between the two major candidates, the election became a contest of personalities. Though Scott had been the top U.S. general in the Mexican–American War and had had a long and distinguished military career, Pierce had also served in the Mexican–American War. The Whigs were badly divided between their Northern and Southern wings, and Scott's anti-slavery reputation further damaged his campaign in the South. A group of Southern Whigs and a separate group of Southern Democrats each nominated their own tickets, but both efforts failed to attract support.

Pierce and his running mate William R. King won by a comfortable majority in the popular vote and carried 27 of the 31 states, while Scott won 43.9% of the popular vote. Pierce won the highest share of the electoral vote since James Monroe's uncontested 1820 re-election. In the aftermath of this overwhelming defeat the Whig Party rapidly collapsed as a national political force as internal tensions regarding the issue of slavery caused mass abandonment of the party.

California Admission Day

California Admission Day is a legal holiday in the state of California in the United States. It is celebrated as a day of observance annually on September 9 to commemorate the anniversary of the 1850 admission of California into the Union as the thirty-first state.

California was admitted to the Union as part of the Compromise of 1850 as a free state after being ceded to the United States by Mexico at the end of the Mexican–American War in 1848. California directly became a state, it was never required to spend a period of time as a territory.

Compromise of 1790

The Compromise of 1790 was a compromise between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson with James Madison wherein Hamilton won the decision for the national government to take over and pay the state debts, while Jefferson and Madison obtained the national capital (District of Columbia) for the South. The compromise resolved the deadlock in Congress. Southerners were blocking the assumption of state debts by the treasury, thereby destroying the Hamiltonian program for building a fiscally strong national state. Northerners rejected the proposal, much desired by Virginians, to locate the permanent national capital on the Virginia–Maryland border. The compromise made possible the passage of the Residence and Funding (Assumption) Acts in July and August 1790. According to historian Jacob Cooke, it is "generally regarded as one of the most important bargains in American history, ranking just below the better known Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850."

Free Soil Party

The Free Soil Party was a short-lived political party in the United States active in the 1848 and 1852 presidential elections as well as in some state elections. A single-issue party, its main purpose was to oppose the expansion of slavery into the Western territories, arguing that free men on free soil constituted a morally and economically superior system to slavery. It also sometimes worked to remove existing laws that discriminated against freed African Americans in states such as Ohio.The party originated in New York after the state Democratic convention refused to endorse the Wilmot Proviso, a proposed law that would have banned slavery in any territory acquired from Mexico in the Mexican–American War. A faction of New York Democrats known as the Barnburners objected to slavery in the territories and opposed the 1848 Democratic nominee Lewis Cass. The Barnburners and other anti-slavery Democrats joined with some anti-slavery Whigs and the Liberty Party to form the Free Soil Party. Salmon P. Chase, John P. Hale and other party leaders organized the 1848 Free Soil Convention, which nominated a ticket consisting of former President Martin Van Buren and Charles Francis Adams Sr. In the 1848 presidential election, Van Buren won 10.1% of the popular vote and Whig nominee Zachary Taylor defeated Cass.

The Compromise of 1850 reduced tensions regarding slavery, but some remained in the party. In the 1852 presidential election, Hale won 4.9% of the popular vote as the party's nominee. Passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act in 1854 revitalized the anti-slavery movement and the party membership (including leaders such as Hale and Chase) was largely absorbed by the Republican Party between 1854 and 1856 by way of the Anti-Nebraska movement.

Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

The Fugitive Slave Act or Fugitive Slave Law was passed by the United States Congress on September 18, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850 between Southern slave-holding interests and Northern Free-Soilers.

The Act was one of the most controversial elements of the 1850 compromise and heightened Northern fears of a "slave power conspiracy". It required that all escaped slaves, upon capture, be returned to their masters and that officials and citizens of free states had to cooperate. Abolitionists nicknamed it the "Bloodhound Law", for the dogs that were used to track down runaway slaves.

History of Texas (1845–1860)

In 1845, the Republic of Texas was annexed to the United States of America, becoming the 28th U.S. state. Border disputes between the new state and Mexico, which had never recognized Texas independence and still considered the area a renegade Mexican state, led to the Mexican–American War (1846–1848). When the war concluded, Mexico relinquished its claim on Texas, as well as other regions in what is now the southwestern United States.

Texas' annexation as a state that tolerated slavery had caused tension in the United States among slave states and those that did not allow slavery. The tension was partially defused with the Compromise of 1850, in which Texas ceded some of its territory to the federal government to become non-slave-owning areas but gained El Paso

Inauguration of Millard Fillmore

The Inauguration of Millard Fillmore, as the 13th President of the United States, was held on Wednesday, July 10, 1850 at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., following the death of President Zachary Taylor the previous day. Taylor died from a severe intestinal illness which subsequently thrust Millard Fillmore into the role of President [1]. The inauguration marked the commencement of Millard Fillmore's only term (a partial term of 2 years, 237 days) as President, but he faced a stressful climate . There was political hubbub surrounding the Compromise of 1850 decision, which Fillmore had, days before Taylor's death, confessed that he was against his party when it came to this issue. Therefore, as he entered into the presidency, he found himself appointing an entirely new cabinet after Taylor's Cabinet members resigned [2]. During the Inauguration, William Cranch, chief judge of the U.S. Circuit Court, administered the presidential oath of office to Fillmore in the chamber of the House of Representatives. Cranch had also administered the oath to John Tyler in 1841, when Tyler succeeded to the presidency upon William Henry Harrison's death. Millard Fillmore was the last president from neither the Democratic or Republican parties. [3]

James Ford Rhodes

James Ford Rhodes (May 1, 1848 – January 22, 1927), was an American industrialist and historian born in Cleveland, Ohio. After earning a fortune in the iron, coal, and steel industries by 1885, he retired from business. He devoted his life to historical research and publishing a seven-volume history of the United States beginning in 1850; his work was published from 1893-1906. He published an eighth volume in 1920. His work, History of the Civil War, 1861-1865 (1918), won the second-ever Pulitzer Prize for History that year.

Nashville Convention

The Nashville Convention was a political meeting held in Nashville, Tennessee, on June 3–11, 1850. Delegates from nine slave holding states met to consider a possible course of action if the United States Congress decided to ban slavery in the new territories being added to the country as a result of Westward Expansion and the Mexican–American War. The compromises worked out in Nashville paved the way for the Compromise of 1850, and for a time, averted the dissolution of the United States.

The previous year, firebrand states rights advocate John C. Calhoun had urged that a preliminary bipartisan Southern convention be held in Mississippi to address the growing issue of the Federal government placing limits on the growth of slavery. The delegates to the October 1, 1849, Mississippi Convention denounced the controversial Wilmot Proviso, and the slaveholding states agreed to send delegates to Nashville to define a resistance strategy in the face of perceived Northern aggression. Mississippi's legislature appropriated $20,000 for the expenses of their Nashville delegates and $200,000 for any "necessary measures for protecting the state ... in the event of the passage of the Wilmot Proviso."

One hundred seventy-six delegates from Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Florida, and Tennessee convened at the McKendree United Methodist Church in Nashville for nine days in June 1850. All but 75 of these delegates were from Tennessee, where each county had been allowed to send whomever it wished. In the other cases, the delegates were selected by the state legislatures. A small delegation from Louisiana had been blocked from attending by that state's moderate legislature.

After heated debate, the Southerners who urged secession if slavery were restricted in any of the new territories were eventually overruled by the moderates. Speaking for the moderate position, the presiding officer, Judge William L. Sharkey of Mississippi, declared that the convention had not been "called to prevent but to perpetuate the Union." Thus, the Nashville delegates, while they denounced Henry Clay's omnibus bill and reaffirmed the constitutionality of slavery in a series of 28 resolutions passed on June 10, agreed to a "concession" whereby the geographic dividing line designated by the Missouri Compromise of 1820 would be extended to the Pacific Coast. The convention adjourned without taking any action against the Union, and the issue of secession was temporarily tabled.

In September, the U.S. Congress enacted the Compromise of 1850, and President Millard Fillmore signed it into law. As a result, in November a smaller group of Southern delegates met in Nashville in a second session of the Nashville Convention, this time dominated by the extremists. They denounced the compromise and affirmed the right of individual states to secede from the Union. This second session had little national impact, but the seeds continued to be sown for the American Civil War.

Among the prominent pro-secession delegates at the Nashville Convention was Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, who would a decade later become President of the Confederate States. One delegate who supported the compromise was famed adventurer Sam Houston of Texas.

New Mexico Territory

The Territory of New Mexico was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed (with varying boundaries) from September 9, 1850, until January 6, 1912, when the remaining extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of New Mexico, making it the longest-lived organized incorporated territory of the United States, lasting approximately 62 years.

Northwestern Oklahoma

Northwestern Oklahoma is the geographical region of the state of Oklahoma which includes the Oklahoma Panhandle and a majority of the Cherokee Outlet, stretching to an eastern extent along Interstate 35, and its southern extent along the Canadian River to Noble County. Northwest Oklahoma is also known by its Oklahoma Department of Tourism designation, Red Carpet Country, which is named after the region's red soil and alludes to the metaphor that the panhandle is a "red carpet" into Oklahoma. The region consists of Cimarron, Texas, Beaver, Harper, Woods, Alfalfa, Grant, Kay, Ellis, Woodward, Major, Garfield, Noble, Dewey, Blaine, and Kingfisher counties.

The area is anchored economically by Enid, which also contains the region's largest commercial airport. Other important cities include Guymon, Ponca City, Woodward, and Alva.

Opposition Party (Northern U.S.)

The Opposition Party was a party identification under which Northern, anti-slavery politicians, formerly members of the Democratic and Whig parties, briefly ran in the 1850s. This was in response to the expansion of slavery into the new territories. It was one of the movements which arose from the political chaos in the decade before the Civil War in the wake of the Compromise of 1850. The movement arose before and was quickly subsumed by the coalescence of the Republican Party in 1856.

During the fragmenting of the Second Party System of Jackson Democrats and Clay Whigs, the Democratic efforts to expand slavery into western territories, particularly Kansas, led to organized political opposition, which coalesced in Congress as the "Opposition Party." As the Whig Party disintegrated, many local and regional parties grew up, some ideological, some geographic. When they realized their numbers in Congress, they began to caucus in the same way US political parties had arisen before the Jacksonian national party conventions. Scholars such as Kenneth C. Martis have adopted a convention to explain the Congressional coordination of anti-Pierce and anti-Buchanan factions as the "Opposition Party".

Organic act

In United States law, an organic act is an act of the United States Congress that establishes a territory of the United States and specifies how it is to be governed, or an agency to manage certain federal lands. In the absence of an organic law a territory is classified as unorganized.

The first such act was the Northwest Ordinance, passed in 1787 by the U.S. Congress of the Confederation (under the Articles of Confederation, predecessor of the United States Constitution). The Northwest Ordinance created the Northwest Territory in the land west of Pennsylvania and northwest of the Ohio River and set the pattern of development that was followed for all subsequent territories. The Northwest Territory covered more than 260,000 square miles and included all of the modern states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and the northeastern part of Minnesota.

The District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801 incorporated Washington, D.C. and placed it under the exclusive control of the United States Congress.

The Organic Act for the Territory of New Mexico was part of the Compromise of 1850, passed September 9, 1850. Primarily concerned with slavery, the act organized New Mexico as a territory, with boundaries including the areas now embraced in New Mexico, Arizona, and southern Colorado.

Presidency of Millard Fillmore

The presidency of Millard Fillmore began on July 9, 1850, when Millard Fillmore became President of the United States upon the death of Zachary Taylor, and ended on March 4, 1853. Fillmore had been Vice President of the United States for 1 year, 4 months when he became the 13th United States president. Fillmore was the second president to succeed to the office without being elected to it, after John Tyler, as well as the last Whig president. Fillmore was succeeded by Democrat Franklin Pierce.

Upon taking office, Fillmore dismissed Taylor's cabinet and pursued a new policy with regards to the territory acquired in the Mexican–American War. He supported the efforts of Senators Henry Clay and Stephen A. Douglas, who crafted and passed the Compromise of 1850. The Compromise of 1850 temporarily settled the status of slavery in the lands acquired as result of the Mexican–American War, and led to a brief truce in the political battle between slave and free states. A controversial part of the Compromise was the Fugitive Slave Act, which expedited the return of escaped slaves to those who claimed ownership. Fillmore felt himself duty-bound to enforce it, but his support of the policy damaged his popularity and split both the Whig Party and the nation. In foreign policy, Fillmore's launched the Perry Expedition to open trade in Japan, moved to block the French annexation of Hawaii, and avoided war with Spain in the aftermath of Narciso López's filibuster expeditions to Cuba.

Fillmore somewhat reluctantly sought his party's nomination for a full term, but the split between supporters of Fillmore and Secretary of State Daniel Webster led to the nomination of General Winfield Scott at the 1852 Whig National Convention. Pierce defeated Scott by a wide margin in the general election. Historians generally rank Fillmore as a below average president.

Unionist Party (United States)

The Unionist Party, later re-named Unconditional Unionist Party, was a political party in the United States started after the Compromise of 1850 to define politicians who supported the Compromise. Members included Southern Democrats who were loyal to the Union as well as elements of the old Whig Party and other factions opposed to a separate Southern Confederacy.

It was used primarily as a label by Southerners who did not want to affiliate with the Republicans, or wished to win over anti-secession Democrats.

Utah Territory

The Territory of Utah was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from September 9, 1850, until January 4, 1896, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Utah, the 45th state.

The territory was organized by an Organic Act of Congress in 1850, on the same day that the State of California was admitted to the Union and the New Mexico Territory was added for the southern portion of the former Mexican land. The creation of the territory was part of the Compromise of 1850 that sought to preserve the balance of power between slave and free states. With the exception of a small area around the headwaters of the Colorado River in present-day Colorado, the United States had acquired all the land of the territory from Mexico with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848.

The creation of the Utah Territory was partially the result of the petition sent by the Mormon pioneers who had settled in the valley of the Great Salt Lake starting in 1847. The Mormons, under the leadership of Brigham Young, had petitioned Congress for entry into the Union as the State of Deseret, with its capital as Salt Lake City and with proposed borders that encompassed the entire Great Basin and the watershed of the Colorado River, including all or part of nine current U.S. states. The Mormon settlers had drafted a state constitution in 1849 and Deseret had become the de facto government in the Great Basin by the time of the creation of the Utah Territory.

Following the organization of the territory, Young was inaugurated as its first governor on February 3, 1851. In the first session of the territorial legislature in September, the legislature adopted all the laws and ordinances previously enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Deseret.

Mormon governance in the territory was regarded as controversial by much of the rest of the nation, partly fed by continuing lurid newspaper depictions of the polygamy practiced by the settlers, which itself had been part of the cause of their flight from the United States to the Great Salt Lake basin after being forcibly removed from their settlements farther east.

Although the Mormons were the majority in the Great Salt Lake basin, the western area of the territory began to attract many non-Mormon settlers, especially after the discovery of silver at the Comstock Lode in 1858. In 1861, partly as a result of this, the Nevada Territory was created out of the western part of the territory. Non-Mormons also entered the easternmost part of the territory during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, resulting in the discovery of gold at Breckenridge in Utah Territory in 1859. In 1861 a large portion of the eastern area of the territory was reorganized as part of the newly created Colorado Territory.

The controversies stirred by the Mormon religion's dominance of the territory are regarded as the primary reason behind the long delay of 46 years between the organization of the territory and its admission to the Union in 1896 as the State of Utah, long after the admission of territories created after it. In contrast, the Nevada Territory, although more sparsely populated, was admitted to the Union in 1864, only three years after its formation, largely as a consequence of the Union's desire to consolidate its hold on the silver mines in the territory. Colorado was admitted in 1876.

Whig Party (United States)

This article is about the U.S. political faction. For the modern British party of the same name, see Whig Party (British political party). For the defunct British Party, see Whigs (British political party)

The Whig Party was a political party active in the middle of the 19th century in the United States. Four presidents belonged to the party while in office. It emerged in the 1830s as the leading opponent of Jacksonian democracy, pulling together former members of the National Republican (one of the successors of the Democratic-Republican Party) and the Anti-Masonic Party. It had links to the upscale traditions of the long-defunct Federalist Party. Along with the rival Democratic Party, it was central to the Second Party System from the early 1840s to the mid-1860s. It originally formed in opposition to the policies of President Andrew Jackson (in office 1829–1837) and his Democratic Party. In particular, the Whigs supported the supremacy of Congress over the presidency and favored a program of modernization, banking and economic protectionism to stimulate manufacturing. It appealed to entrepreneurs, planters, reformers and the emerging urban middle class, but had little appeal to farmers or unskilled workers. It included many active Protestants and voiced a moralistic opposition to the Jacksonian Indian removal. Party founders chose the "Whig" name to echo the American Whigs (aka the Patriots) of the 18th century who fought for independence. The political philosophy of the American Whig Party was not related to the British Whig party. Historian Frank Towers has specified a deep ideological divide:

The Whig Party nominated several presidential candidates in 1836. General William Henry Harrison of Ohio was nominated in 1840, former Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky in 1844, General Zachary Taylor of Louisiana in 1848, General Winfield Scott of New Jersey in 1852 and the last nominee, former President Millard Fillmore from New York in 1856. In its two decades of existence, the Whig Party had two of its candidates, Harrison and Taylor, elected president and both died in office. John Tyler succeeded to the presidency after Harrison's death in 1841, but was expelled from the party later that year. Millard Fillmore, who became President after Taylor's death in 1850, was the last Whig President.

The party fell apart because of internal tension over the expansion of slavery to the territories. With deep fissures in the party on this question, the anti-slavery faction prevented the nomination for a full term of its own incumbent President Fillmore in the 1852 presidential election—instead, the party nominated General Scott. Most Whig Party leaders eventually quit politics (as Abraham Lincoln did temporarily) or changed parties. The Northern voter base mostly gravitated to the new Republican Party. In the South, most joined the Know Nothing Party, which unsuccessfully ran Fillmore in the 1856 presidential election, by which time the Whig Party had become virtually defunct having merely endorsed Fillmore's candidacy. Some former Whigs became Democrats. The Constitutional Union Party experienced significant success from conservative former Whigs in the Upper South during the 1860 presidential election. Whig ideology as a policy orientation persisted for decades, and played a major role in shaping the modernizing policies of the state governments during Reconstruction.

Wilmot Proviso

The Wilmot Proviso was an unsuccessful 1846 proposal in the United States Congress to ban slavery in territory acquired from Mexico in the Mexican–American War. The conflict over the Wilmot proviso was one of the major events leading to the American Civil War.

Congressman David Wilmot first introduced the proviso in the United States House of Representatives on August 8, 1846, as a rider on a $2,000,000 appropriations bill intended for the final negotiations to resolve the Mexican–American War (this was only three months into the two-year war). It passed the House but failed in the Senate, where the South had greater representation. It was reintroduced in February 1847 and again passed the House and failed in the Senate. In 1848, an attempt to make it part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo also failed. Sectional political disputes over slavery in the Southwest continued until the Compromise of 1850.

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