The Compromise of 1850

The Compromise of 1850

Slavery has played a critical part in shaping America’s history and had significant impact in areas like politics, economy, and science. The compromise of 1850 primarily addressed slavery, which resulted in dissension between the South and the North. Moreover, it maintained peace and curbed eruption of war triggered by the contentious issues of slavery and lands attained after the Mexican American War. The concession of 1850 resolved to admit California into the union as a free state while proposing various resolutions to stop the predicament between the North and the South.

The Antebellum differences manifested during the presidential election resulting in interregional differences as the Second Party system sought to eliminate issues of slavery from politics. The Compromise of 1850 is made up of five laws that dispensed with issues of territorial expansion and slavery. California wished to also be a part of the Union as an equally free state, therefore unsettling the sense of balance between the slave and Free states. Thus, Senator Henry Clay proposed various determinations seeking to reach a compromise and stop the crisis between the South and North. The Fugitive Slave Act was thereafter modified, put an end to slave trade, created a territorial government in Utah, and California entered the Union (Acharya, et al., 2016). Moreover, the Senate passed an act resolving the dispute between New Mexico and Texas, which enabled New Mexico to establish a territorial government. After the Compromise, the states in the South remained divided over the fairness of the deal and contemplated extending their sovereignty to other territories. Admission of California as a free state was unpopular in the South as manifested during the 1851 gubernatorial elections, where the right extremists openly expressed their thoughts on secession (Acharya, Blackwell, &Sen, 2016). Low-slave states did not actively engage in anti-slavery and resist secession activities while the high-slave areas easily compromised on slavery issues.

The issue of slavery was critical in 1850 and the cause of sectional conflicts in the senate and across America. State equality became a major topic of discussion in the 31st Congress. Southern states believed that equality of all states in the Union granted the citizens equal rights to property and territories acquired from the war with Mexico (Maizlish, 2018). Political parties experienced internal divisions over the issue of temperance reforms, as Congress members were unwilling to take strong positions against or for restrictive legislation and attacks on the ethnic and religious affiliation of party supporters. However, America continued to experience ant-catholic and anti-immigrant prejudice. This led to an increase in racist violence and suppression as a method of disenfranchising blacks. 

After the freedom of slaves, elites in the South engaged in various tactics like anti-vagrancy laws, racial violence, convict leasing, and anti- enticement laws to gain an advantage in black labor. Technological advancements resulted in a drop in demand for black labor, resulting in high poverty and unemployment rates (Acharya, Blackwell, &Sen, 2016). There is integrational transfer of political attitudes passed down generations and continues to shape contemporary life aspects in local institutions. Moreover, these ideologies have trickled down from parents to children and through intergenerational socialization. This continues to play a crucial role in the political and racial inheritance of ideologies from previous generations to the present society.

The compromise of 1850 temporarily resolved the contentious issue of slavery and territorial acquisition between the northern and southern states of America. Resolutions of the compromise allowed the South to continue engaging in slavery. The contemporary society is still affected by the attitudes of slavery on the Southern whites as manifested through their attitudes towards blacks, attitudes of affirmative action, partisan affirmations, and racial resentment.


Acharya, P. Blackwell, M. &Sen, M. (2016). The political legacy of American slavery. The Journal of Politics, 78(3), 621- 641.

Maizlish, S. (2018). Rehearsing for the Great Debate of 1850: The controversy over seating Father Theobald Mathew on the floor of the Senate. Civil War History, LXIV, 4, 365-384.

Waugh, J. (2020). The compromise of 1850. Essential Civil War Curriculum. Retrieved from

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