The Compromise of 1850 was an effort to pacify the rising tensions between the north and the south. The issue of slavery was becoming a problem that none could overlook. This bitter rivalry was heating up even more so after the Mexican-American war. America won substantial amount of land, which stretched all the way to Mexico City. This land would give the south a grand portion of political power, surpassing the North. Henry Clay, supported by President Fillmore, created a compromise with the purpose of peacefully defusing the arguments that arose because of the war.
However, Congress refused to pass this initial attempt. Fredrick Douglas would not let this answer stand, so he discovered a way to pass is through. He divided Clay’s bill into five different parts, some that favored the south, and others that favored the North. This led to a narrow victory for all of the separate bills in September of 1850, which together created The Compromise of 1850. The first section of the compromise dealt entirely with Texas. It was a grand lot of land, much larger than today’s borders.
It was very large, and therefore had many congressional representatives in The House of Representatives. Moreover, because it was a southern state, the representatives usually had southern morals, outbalancing the northerners and stirring up tensions even further. Texas also consisted of land north of the Missouri Compromise line of 1820, opening the possibility for other states with southern morals to creep up to the North. The Compromise of 1850 ordered that the New Mexico and Utah territories would no longer be a part of Texas, as would the land north of the 36, 30° line.
The latter was one of the most important parts of the compromise, because the land to the north would be free soil. It also further solidified the boundaries between the north and south. In return for giving up the land, the federal government would release Texas from all of its debt. California was the subject of the second section in the compromise. It was another part of the land obtained through the Mexican-American war. The south wanted the land to divide at the 35° North latitude, allowing for not one states but two. One would have been slave, and the other, free.
But due to this section in The Compromise of 1850, California was admitted as a free state, and its boundaries remain the same to this day, favoring the Northerners. The next section dealt with the New Mexico and Utah territories, which were now separate from the territory of Texas. In the favor of the south, it prevented the Wilmot Proviso, which would have outlawed the slave trade in all territories gained in the Mexican American War. It also introduces “popular sovereignty,” a vote from the populous, as a way for a new territory to decide whether or not they would be a slave or free soil territory.
However, this was not a pure system. The territories faced the same issue as “bleeding Kansas. ” The north sent their own people to the territories as did the south. It became a competition of who could send more people. The last two sections dealt with the slavery issue directly. The first of the two banned slave trade in Washington D. C. although, the compromise did not outlaw slavery itself. The last section is best known as The Fugitive Slave Act. Congress enacted the Fugitive Slave Act to assist the South with maintaining a tight rein on slaveholders’ property.
It meant that slaves that escaped to the north would be returned to the south. Even though this sounded like it would be a benefit for the south, this law ended up backfiring in a big way. The Fugitive Slave Act converted the passive anti-slave northerners into extreme abolitionists. The local states in the north had to pay for the cost of capturing and returning slaves, using the tax money from their citizens. Any black determined to be more than a certain number of miles from his home was automatically considered a fugitive and could be thrown in jail or sent south. No limitations whatsoever were applied.
The local government officials could command anyone around to aid in the recapture of slaves. Buying slave-produced cotton was one thing, but being personally responsible for re-shackling slaves and condemning them to a life of mistreatment was another thing entirely. People rebelled by writing books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, making court cases, or even retorting with violence. The Fugitive Slave Act worsened the tensions between the north and the south, helping lead the south to secede. In response to the Mexican-American War, The Compromise of 1850 was created to diffuse the tensions between the north and the south.
In reality, it accomplished just the opposite. The north and south dug in their heels with their respective positions. The north hoped for dominance in Congress, while the south hoped for federal backing behind slavery. Both of these stances were just loading the cannons for war. President Fillmore called the compromise “final and irrevocable,” enraging the anti-slavery Whigs to the point of blocking his nomination for president in 1852. The only states of true compromise were Maryland, Tennessee, Missouri and Kentucky. Nevertheless, these states were where the loaded cannons took their aim.