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Compromise of 1850

The Compromise of 1850 was primarily about the issue of slavery in America’s new territories acquired after the Mexican War, though other, less important issues were included as well. California had already adopted an anti-slavery constitution and appliedfor statehood. The question, then, was whether slavery should be allowed in the new territories. Both pro-slavery and anti-slavery advocates argued over the issue, yet neither side was strong enough to administer a plan of action.

The slavery issue quickly became a crisis that threatened the Union. In an attempt to maintain a balance between free and slave states, Henry Clay offered the famous compromise. Clay’s Compromise called for the admission of California as a free state, the organization of the new territories of New Mexico and Utah, with the slavery issue left to those citizens, settlement of border disputes between Texas and New Mexico, a prohibition of slave trade in the District of Columbia, and a more stringent Fugitive Slave Law
which outlined penalties for individuals who harbored runaway slaves. The compromise was accepted by moderates throughout the country, and may have postponed southern secession for a decade.

Although the Compromise of 1850 was a good temporary solution, its precedent led to future violence in Kansas, and ultimately, could not prevent the onset of the Civil War eleven years later.