Compromise of 1850

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The Compromise of 1850 was a series of acts passed in 1850, by which the United States Congress hoped to settle the strife between the opponents of slavery in the North and slave owners in the South. There is much speculation about how our country would be without this Compromise. The Compromise is a major stepping stone in United States history because of its many forces and provisions. California's admission to the Union would tip the balance in favor of free states—sixteen free states to fifteen slave states. A balance had been achieved with the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which tried to settle the growing slavery issue at that time by admitting Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state. The proposed admission of California in 1850 was further complicated by unresolved slavery questions in the vast southwestern territory that had been ceded to the United States after the war with Mexico ended in 1848 with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. As he had done with the Missouri Compromise thirty years earlier, U.S. Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky attempted to find a solution in 1850. This time the stakes were higher—the real possibility that the Union would break apart. Now seventy-one years old and in ill health, Clay gave his last great speech to the Senate on February 5–6, 1850, outlining the many features of the compromise, which once again tried to give satisfaction to both sides, and staking his reputation upon its passage. It was Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois, though, who successfully crafted the measures. The Compromise of 1850 called for the admission of California as a free state as well as the organization of the ceded southwestern land into the territories of New Mexico and Utah, without mention of slavery. It stated that, when the territories became states, voting citizens living in those territories could then decide on their slavery status, a solution known as popular sovereignty. The compromise also settled the boundary dispute between...
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