Portrait of Henry Clay.

When Congress convened in 1850, Kentucky Senator Henry Clay introduced a series of measures on January 29, aimed at addressing the pressing sectional problems facing the nation. Clay’s proposals became the basis of an omnibus bill known as the Compromise of 1850. [Library of Congress]

Compromise of 1850 Facts

1850

Key facts about the Compromise of 1850.

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  • The Compromise of 1850 was a collection of Congressional legislation enacted to resolve sectional problems in the United States regarding slavery.
  • The author of the original proposals that constituted the Compromise of 1850 was Kentucky Senator Henry Clay.
  • The need for the Compromise of 1850 was prompted by the addition to the United States of territories ceded by Mexico at the end of the Mexican-American War.
  • The United States Senate formed a Select Committee of Thirteen to draft legislation based upon Senator Henry Clay’s proposals, which formed the basis of the Compromise of 1850.
  • Members of the United States Senate Select Committee of Thirteen, formed to draft legislation based upon Senator Henry Clay’s proposals to resolve sectional differences over slavery in the United States, included senators John Bell (Tennessee), John M. Berrien (Georgia), Henry Clay (Kentucky), Solomon W. Downs (Louisiana), William R. King (Alabama), Willie P. Mangum (North Carolina), James M. Mason (Virginia) Jesse D. Bright(Indiana), Lewis Cass(Michigan), James Cooper (Pennsylvania) Daniel S. Dickinson (New York), Samuel S. Phelps (Vermont), and Daniel Webster (Massachusetts).
  • The United States Senate Select Committee of Thirteen, formed to draft legislation based upon Senator Henry Clay’s proposals to resolve sectional differences over slavery in the United States, consisted of Senators from seven slave states and six free states.
  • The United States Senate Select Committee of Thirteen, formed to draft legislation based upon Senator Henry Clay’s proposals to resolve sectional differences over slavery in the United States, consisted of seven members of the Whig Party and six members of the Democratic Party.
  • Opponents of the Compromise of 1850 derisively referred the Senate Select Committee of Thirteen’s proposed legislation as an Omnibus Bill because it was similar to a vehicle know as an omnibus that carried many passengers.
  • On July 31, 1850, the United States Senate defeated the Omnibus Bill drafted by the Senate Select Committee of Thirteen that was designed to resolve sectional differences over slavery in the United States.
  • Unlike his predecessor, Zachary Taylor, who died in office, President Millard Fillmore supported the Compromise of 1850.
  • With Senator Henry Clay’s blessing, Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas dissected the Senate Select Committee of Thirteen’s Omnibus Bill, reducing it to separate measures closely resembling Clay’s original proposals to resolve sectional issues regarding slavery.
  • Congressional leaders, led by Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas, were able to cobble together enough support from various factions, to enact all of separate measures etracted from the 1850 Omnibus Bill.
  • Congressional voting on each of the bills that constituted the Compromise of 1850 was divided upon sectional rather than party lines – a clear sign that the two-party system, along with the fabric of the Union was unraveling.
  • Between September 9 and September 20, 1850, President Fillmore signed into law the separate bills that constituted the Compromise of 1850.
  • In their final form, the bills that constituted the Compromise of 1850 attempted to settle the sectional differences dividing the nation by
  1. Admitting California to the Union as a free state,
  2. Authorizing the territorial legislatures of New Mexico and Utah to determine the status of slavery within their borders,
  3. Settling the Texas boundary dispute in favor of the United States, in exchange for Federal assumption of $10 million of Texas debt,
  4. Abolishing the slave trade, but not slavery, in the District of Columbia, and
  5. Enacting a more stringent fugitive slave law to help ensure the return of runaway slaves.
  • Although hailed by moderates at the time as a “final settlement” to the sectional differences the plagued the nation, the Compromise of 1850 quickly unraveled. Only ten years later, the nation was engaged in civil war to determine the future of the Union, as well as slavery in the United States.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Compromise of 1850 Facts
  • Coverage 1850
  • Author
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date November 29, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update February 17, 2021
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