Compromise of 1850
following the election of the slave-owning Whig Zachary Taylor as President , "the smoldering embers of sectionalism flamed up anew." (p. 67)
in the North: Free Soil Party, Wilmot Proviso, DC slave trade abolishment bill
in the South: western expansion, popular sovereignty, Calhoun's state rights
in the West: California passed constitution thaat prohibited slavery and petitioned for statehood; "The question of California became a touchstone of Southern rights and power." (p. 68)
"In 1850 the republic faced a crisis of the first order" (p. 68); fire-eaters proposed Nashville convention for June; Miss. Sen. Henry S. Foote pulled revolver Apr. 17.
Clay, Webster, Calhoun: "Their crucial roles in the great debate of 1850 marked the passing of leadership to the next generation." (p. 68)
Clay's 8 resolutions Jan. 29: free California but no restrictions on other territories; Texas lost NM boundary but debt assumed; no DC slave trade but slavery allowed; no interference in interstate slave trade; stronger fugitive slave law
Calhoun's March 4 speech opposed Clay's compromises: North was causing schisms, South needed amendment for "concurrent majority" by two presidents each with veto power
Webster's March 7 speech endorsed compromise: allow slavery in Mexican cession, allow fugitive slave law
Seward's March 11 speech opposed compromise: a "Higher Law" than the Constitution demanded prohibition of slavery
Senate in April voted down the separate parts of Clay's compromise; and July 31 voted against his "omnibus bill"
Douglas replaced Clay to assemble coalition of Northern Democrats and upper South Whigs that would support a group of compromises
Nashville convention failed; anti-compromiseTaylor died and was replaced by pro-compromise Fillmore
Separate compromises passed by September: California admitted, Texas border adjusted, NM and Utah territories to decide on their own; DC slave trade abolished; strong fugitive slave law
Most congressmen opposed parts of the compromise; was more an "Armistice" than Fillmore's "final and irrevocable settlement" (p. 72)
Results were unanticipated: NM and Utah allowed slavery but "hollow victory" for the South with few slaves actually held; DC continued selling slaves; Fugitive Slave Law "turned out to be its most explosive feature."
moderates in South prevailed over fire-eaters; "The Georgia Unionists in December 1850 adopted resolutions that furnished the standard platform for the South during the next decade. It was a platform of conditional Unionism."
by 1852 "the Whig party was in serious trouble in the South" (p. 72) due to the rise of antislavery radicals in the North: John Hale of NH, Salmon Chase and Ben Wade of OH, William
Seward of NY; Charles Sumner of MA, Thad Stevens of PA, George Julian of IN
In the 1852 election, Whig Winfield Scott won only 2 states in the South and 2 in the North; "the Whig party is dead" (p. 74) according to Alexander Stephens
- McPherson, James. Ordeal by Fire. NY: McGraw-Hill, 1992.