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This Day in History, Jan 29 – Compromise of 1850

Article audio is made possible by CAST11 Prescott Podcast Network. A Talking Glass Media production.

It was 169 years ago today, on January 29, 1850, that American politicians agreed to a compromise that was created to keep the peace between the north and south over the question of representation and slavery as the nation expanded westward. After the incredible American victory in the Mexican-American War, the United States paid for a large amount of Mexican territory. With this new land and the California Gold Rush, American men and their families traveled westward looking to build themselves and their families a better life. However, not all was fine and dandy.

This Day in History, history, American History

Though victory in the War united the country, it also began the question once again about slavery. Most northern states had banned slavery, while southern states promoted it. In the Compromise of 1820, slavery was not meant to expand westward of Texas. Now the south had all this new land in which to grow, should slavery be allowed to expand into it, giving the pro-slavery states more power in Congress?

Finally, it was Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky that introduced on this day a Compromise that both sides agreed to. Texas, which desired the New Mexico Territory, relinquished their claim. California would be admitted to the Union as a free state. The territories of Utah and New Mexico, which at the time included Arizona, were allowed to use Popular Sovereignty, or the vote, to decide if they wanted to be pro-slavery or anti-slavery. The slave trade, but not slavery, was banned in D.C., and a strong Fugitive Slave Law was enacted, which forced northerners to help find and return runaway slaves. Though no means to an end, the decision did prevent war for the time being, while only delaying it until 1861. It is stated that the Compromise of 1850 simply passed the buck on the issue of slavery, Congress has a history of doing such things. In the end, the lid was shut on the boiling pot of division in the states, 169 years ago today.

About the Author

Ronald G. Mayer Jr. is a Native of Arizona and a graduate of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. He teaches history at Liberty Traditional School in Prescott Valley where he resides. He looks forward to a career as a Professor of History.

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