- Background Information
- Prior to the compromise of 1850, Zachary Taylor was elected as the Whig president in 1848. As president, he ignored the issue of slavery and refused any sort of compromise that may hurt the country. He included the Whig morality of ignoring an issue to fix the issues. Taylor faced and unexpected death and his vice president, Millard Fillmore, became president. Fillmore was much more open to compromise, and thus emerged the compromise of 1850. This compromise was proposed by "the great compromiser" Henry Clay. The Compromise of 1850 was created to stop the threat of southern sectionalism. The southern economy was based purely on cotton, and to produce more cotton, they needed more workers. For the south, the cheapest and most effective workers were slaves, so with the expansion of cotton came the need for the slaves. The south had an idea of Manifest Destiny (to expand the economy westward) for more cotton and more power. The north and the south had strongly opposing views. The compromise of 1850 emerged because the issue of whether slavery should exist in the new territories or not was ignored until Millard Fillmore came to be president.
Webster, Clay, Douglas and most of the north supported the compromise, while the southerners were mainly against a compromise. Despite this difference, the compromise of 1850 emerged, yet it was arguably too late for a true compromise that would save the nation.
The north received slave trade being banned in D.C. Although slavery itself was not banned, meaning slaves could still be purchased by neighboring states. It acted as "a step in the right direction." The Most important victories for the north was that California would be admitted as a free state, meaning the balance between the free and slave states was put in favor of the north, and Texas giving up land claims to the new territories gained by Mexico.
The south received $10 million for Texas because of lost land. The south also received what was initially a huge victory, the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. This strengthened the previous Fugitive Slave Law of 1793, which was largely ignored. It demanded that officials must catch any and all runaway slaves regardless of morals, the official would be paid $5 for slaves' freedom in a case and $10 for a slaves' return. In addition the slaves were to be given no rights in a court of law. The most important victory for the south was the idea that the new territories gained by Mexico could potentially be slave states by popular sovereignty. This meant that these new territories could decide whether they wanted to be a free or a slave state. This was especially good for the south because this would open up possible slave states passed the line set by the Missouri Compromise in 1820 (36°30).
The southern land by the Mexican cession was too dry for cotton growth, which meant that slavery wasn't particularly necessary for those lands. The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was once again ignored by the North. The north was completely against the fugitive slave law as the once were in 1793, so they passed Personal Liberty Laws which said that local officials did not have to return runaway slaves. Anthony Burns was a runaway slave that was caught but saved by protesters, he was a huge advocate of these laws and preached for the north. Southerners were appalled by these laws because it went against their victory in the compromise. This compromise in their eyes seemed to lean to the north because of all of the problems. This compromise led way to the secession of the south and the inevitable Civil War. This unbalanced event continued the attack on the southern idea of slavery.
This compromise gave an improper balance against the south. The south was already beginning to worry that slavery would be taken away and this compromise helped confirm their beliefs. Slavery was the issue that split the nation right through the middle. The south depended on slavery for their economy, but the north believed that it was immoral to own another human being. The imbalance of this compromise gave way to the idea that the south was not right in its ideas, and gave reason to their secession from the nation as a whole. This eventual secession would thus cause the Civil War.