29 January 1850

Henry Clay introduces the Compromise of 1850 to the U.S. Congress.

The Compromise of 1850 was a series of legislative measures passed by the United States Congress in an attempt to settle various sectional disputes between the Northern and Southern states. It was a response to the ongoing debate over the expansion of slavery into the newly acquired territories from the Mexican-American War.

Key provisions:

California’s Admission as a Free State: California was admitted to the Union as a free state, meaning that slavery was prohibited in its borders. This upset the balance between free and slave states, as it tilted the Senate in favor of the free states.

Territorial Status and Popular Sovereignty: The territories of New Mexico and Utah were organized without specific mention of slavery, and the principle of popular sovereignty was applied. This allowed residents of these territories to decide the slavery issue through popular vote, potentially leading to the expansion or prohibition of slavery based on the will of the settlers.

Slave Trade in the District of Columbia: The slave trade (but not slavery itself) was abolished in the District of Columbia, the nation’s capital. However, this was a symbolic gesture more than a significant practical change.

Stricter Fugitive Slave Law: A more stringent Fugitive Slave Act was enacted, requiring citizens to assist in the capture and return of escaped slaves to their owners. This provision angered many in the North who opposed slavery, as it compelled them to participate in the enforcement of a system they found morally objectionable.

Texas Boundary Adjustment: Texas ceded some of its western claims in exchange for federal assumption of its debt. This compromise was intended to address Texas’s financial difficulties and settle border disputes with the newly acquired territories.