*The Compromise of 1850*
- The first big problem was about California, which had been populated in 1849 as a result of the Gold Rush, and was applying for statehood with a free state constitution [since Congress couldn’t decide what to do, Taylor had told CA to apply for admission directly]. - Southerners, however, wouldn’t accept CA as a free state b/c it would upset the delicate balance between free and slave states – so they tried to make CA a slave state or at least extend the Missouri line. - Sensing another compromise was necessary, Henry Clay [veteran of the 1820 and 1833 deals] stepped back up and, with the help of Stephen A. Douglas, came up with the Compromise of 1850. Obviously, the big issue was when territories could prohibit slavery [North = ASAP, South = very late in process when slaves hopefully already there]. - At first, the bill didn’t pass [Daniel Webster helped by giving it his support, but Calhoun did the opposite w/his speech] – but after Douglas split it up and had Congress vote on each aspect separately it worked. There were 5 basic aspects to the deal…
CA came in as a free state.
Texas boundary kept at present limits but Texas given $10 million in compensation for loss of territory to New Mexico.
New Mexico and Utah territories to be decided by popular sovereignty.
Slave trade banned in Washington DC.
A new harsher fugitive slave law.
- Yeah, it wasn’t so much a decision as it was an evasion [bought time for nation, some say it won war for North b/c it gave them more time to finish industrializing]. - The two major problems with the compromise were as follows:
What the heck does “popular sovereignty” mean? Nobody knew for sure – so the South decided it would mean wait-until-there-are-slaves-and-then-vote, but the North didn’t agree.
The new Fugitive Slave Act: basically it allowed slaveowners to go into court in their states to show evidence their slaves had escaped, have court officials identify the validity of the claim, and then possibly send US marshals after the person [they were paid extra $ to return the person, too]. This was not too popular w/the North, and abolitionists saw it as a violation of American rights. Violent resistance even broke out in many Northern towns as a result of the slave catchers [Shadrach Minkins taken across to Canada in 1851, Jerry McHenry freed by abolitionist mob, “Christiana Riot” occurred in Lancaster County]. - Also on the abolitionist front came Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), which was a huge bestseller. UTC both indicted slavery by describing the horrors of slave life and criticized Northern racism; its approach gave slavery a new human face for many Northerners who had never been to the South. - Then the whole Underground Railroad deal annoyed slaveowners even more – e/t the thing was never as organized as many thought it was, it was a source of constant irritation for the Southerners as it was also a symbol of resistance to oppression and focused more attention on the injustice of slavery.
*The Election of 1852 and the Collapse of Compromise*
- The Democrats ran Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire, and he won easily over the Whig nominee, General Winfield Scott. Pierce defended the rights of each area while Scott ignored the issue, so the South had reason to believe nat’l support for the Compromise of 1850 might get rid of the problem altogether. The Free-Soil party also ran a candidate [anti-compromise, of course]. - But in reality Pierce just won b/c the Whigs were being torn apart by sectional strife [and the deaths of Taylor, Webster and Clay didn’t help either]. By 1852 the Whigs were pretty much a thing of the past. - Anyhow, Pierce’s total support for the compromise aggravated much of the North [esp. his enforcement of the FSA, for ex. the case of Anthony Burns] and radicalized the situation big-time even among former conservatives. Juries stopped convicting abolitionists [ex. ones that stormed...
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