The Compromise of 1850: A Fixing Attempt

The Compromise of 1850, rather than being a “cause” of the American Civil War, was a comprehensive temporary fix for a situation that the powers that be feared and hoped to avoid.  Namely, civil war.

The Compromise allowed for slavery and a more stringent Fugitive Slave Act, the end of slavery within the District of Columbia and the admission of California as a free state.


In order to keep the South happy, the government ceded to slavery’s proponents, keeping happy a growing Northern sentiment to anti-slavery, by aboloshing it in the nation’s Capitol.  California’s admission as a free state, blocked Southern expansion.  Had the Southern territory added California, with the recently found gold and broad territory, the South may have won the war.  One of the most difficult aspects of the war for the South was their lack of money and manpower.

The Compromise of 1850,  also claimed the various territories, deemed prizes of the United States after the Mexican-American war.  This would include territories of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Rocky Mountains and small sections of Oklahoma, Kansas and Wyoming.

The “Free Soilers”, who were a political force, having come from the Whig and Democratic parties, with a common belief that slaves should be free and that it would build a more fluent economy, were intensely hated by those of the pro-slavery intent.  They did have some bearing on the Compromise of 1850.  More as a block for them was this “compromise”.  Though this party was shortlived, (1848-1852), it did send two senators and 14 representatives to the thirty-first Congress.  The Free Soilers did not focus on the moral issues of slavery, rather they accepted the Black man as human and showed concern that if the old tradition of slavery continued, it could be used on whites or anyone.  That is, anyone could become a slave, and the Free Soilers believed in a free market as well as, social mobility.

The Fugitive Slave Act which was spawned from the Compromise of 1850, ensured that law enforcement, including federal marshals, would receive a 1,000.00 dollar fine for not arresting and returning any slave.  What this meant was, that many free Blacks were forced back into slavery because they had no rights in court.

It was during the Compromise of 1850 that the Republican party became stronger and associated with anti-slavery philosophy.  The Free Soilers were mostly absorbed by the Republican party.

The Compromise of 1850 was an attempt to save a country already divided philosophically.  The fruition of the civil war bearing the vicious effects of such profound philosophical division. 

That over 600,000 people died in the Civil War within a period of 4 years is a statement as to the depth of the conflict.  Psychologically.  Especially, emotionally.



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