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Compromise of 1850

AUGUST 8, 1846, in the debate in the House on the bill appropriating $2,000,000 to purchase territory from Mexico, Wilmot of Pennsylvania moved as an amendment the proviso "that, as an express and fundamental condition to the acquisition of any territory from the Republic of Mexico by the United States, by virtue of any treaty which may be negotiated between them, and to the use by the Executive of the moneys herein appropriated, neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory, except for crime, whereof the party shall first be duly convicted." The amendment was not accepted, and later attempts to engraft the proviso upon bills to organize the Territory of Oregon failed. In 1848 a bill to organize the Territories of Oregon, New Mexico, and California, with a provision "that all questions concerning slavery in those Territories should be referred to the United States Supreme Court for decision," passed the Senate, but failed in the House. The act of Aug. 14, 1848, organizing the Territory of Oregon, applied to the new Territory the provisions of the articles of compact in the Ordinance of 1787. A bill to establish territorial governments in New Mexico and California, with the Wilmot proviso, passed the House in 1849, but was not acted on in the Senate. Later in the session, the Senate attempted to provide for the organization of the two Territories by means of a "rider" on the general appropriation bill, but the attempt was defeated in the House.

In May, 1848, the Democratic National Convention had rejected, 36 to 216, a resolution offered by Yancey of Alabama, "That the doctrine of noninterference with the rights of property of any portion of the people of this confederacy, be it in the States or Territories thereof, by any other than the parties interested in them, is the true republican doctrine, recognized by this body." The doctrine of "squatter sovereignty" embodied in this resolution now began to be urged in opposition to the doctrine of the Wilmot proviso, and the issue was joined on the question of prohibiting slavery in the new Territories, or allowing the people of each Territory to establish or exclude slavery as they might see fit.

In June, 1849, the people of California adopted a State constitution prohibiting slavery. In his annual message of Dec. 4, President Taylor recommended the admission of California, but suggested the advisability of awaiting popular action in New Mexico before legislating for the organization of that region. January 29, 1850, Clay submitted in the Senate a series of resolutions, intended to afford a basis for adjusting the differences regarding the status and treatment of slavery in the Territories. On the 13th of February the constitution of California was transmitted to Congress. April 18, by a vote of 30 to 22, Clay's resolutions were referred to a select committee of thirteen, of which Clay was chairman. May 8 the committee submitted its report, together with two bills, one to admit California as a State, to establish territorial governments for Utah and New Mexico, and making proposals to

Texas for the establishment of her western and northern boundaries, and the other to suppress the slave trade in the District of Columbia.

The first of these bills, known as the "omnibus bill," was taken up in the Senate May 9. June 17, by a vote of 38 to 12, an amendment applying to Utah the doctrine of "squatter sovereignty" was agreed to; July 31 the sections relating to California, New Mexico, and Texas were stricken out, and Aug. 1 the remainder of the bill passed the Senate as "an act to establish a territorial government for Utah." The House passed the bill Sept. 7, by a vote of 97 to 85, and on the 9th the act was approved. A bill to adjust the Texan boundary passed the Senate Aug. 10, by a vote of 30 to 20; on the 15th the Senate passed the New Mexico bill, the vote being 27 to 10. The House added the New Mexico bill to the Texas bill as an amendment, and Sept. 6 passed the bill in this form by a vote of 108 to 97. The Senate concurred in the House amendment, and on the 9th the act was approved. The bill to admit California passed the Senate Aug. 13, 34 to 18, and the House Sept. 7, 150 to 56; Sept. 9 the act was approved. The fugitive slave bill passed the Senate Aug. 26, without a division, the vote on the third reading being 27 to 12; the House passed the bill Sept. 12, without debate, by a vote of 109 to 76, and on the 18th the act was approved. The act was repealed June 28, 1864. The act to suppress the slave trade in the District of Columbia, the last of the compromise measures, passed the Senate Sept. 16, by a vote of 33 to 19, and the House on the following day, by a vote of 124 to 59; on the 20th the act was approved.

REFERENCES. The text is indicated at the end of each of the extracts following. For the proceedings of Congress, see the House and Senate Journals, 31st Cong., 1st Sess.; for the discussions, see the Cong. Globe, and appendix, or Benton's Abridgment, XVI. A large number of memorials and resolutions are collected in the House and Senate Misc. Doc. of this session; see also Senate Rep. 12. See also Webster's Works (ed. 1857), V., 324-366. 373-405, 412-438; Calhoun's Works (ed. 1854), IV., 535-578; Seward's Works (ed. 1853), I., 31–131; Pierce's Summer, III., chaps 34, 35.

No. 102. Clay's


January 29, 1850

It being desirable, for the peace, concord, and harmony of the Union of these States, to settle and adjust amicably all existing questions of controversy between them arising out of the institution of slavery upon a fair, equitable and just basis: therefore,

1. Resolved, That California, with suitable boundaries, ought, upon her application to be admitted as one of the States of this

Union, without the imposition by Congress of any restriction in respect to the exclusion or introduction of slavery within those boundaries.

2. Resolved, That as slavery does not exist by law, and is not likely to be introduced into any of the territory acquired by the United States from the republic of Mexico, it is inexpedient for Congress to provide by law either for its introduction into, or exclusion from, any part of the said territory; and that appropriate territorial governments ought to be established by Congress in all of the said territory, not assigned as the boundaries of the proposed State of California, without the adoption of any restriction or condition on the subject of slavery.

3. Resolved, That the western boundary of the State of Texas ought to be fixed on the Rio del Norte, commencing one marine league from its mouth, and running up that river to the southern line of New Mexico; thence with that line eastwardly, and so continuing in the same direction to the line as established between the United States and Spain, excluding any portion of New Mexico, whether lying on the east or west of that river.

4. Resolved, That it be proposed to the State of Texas, that the United States will provide for the payment of all that portion of the legitimate and bona fide public debt of that State contracted prior to its annexation to the United States, and for which the duties on foreign imports were pledged by the said State to its creditors, not exceeding the sum of dollars, in consideration. of the said duties so pledged having been no longer applicable to that object after the said annexation, but having thenceforward become payable to the United States; and upon the condition, also, that the said State of Texas shall, by some solemn and authentic act of her legislature or of a convention, relinquish to the United States any claim which it has to any part of New Mexico.

5. Resolved, That it is inexpedient to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia whilst that institution continues to exist in the State of Maryland, without the consent of that State, without the consent of the people of the District, and without just compensation to the owners of slaves within the District.

6. But, resolved, That it is expedient to prohibit, within the District, the slave trade in slaves brought into it from States or

places beyond the limits of the District, either to be sold therein as merchandise, or to be transported to other markets without the District of Columbia.

7. Resolved, That more effectual provision ought to be made by law, according to the requirement of the constitution, for the restitution and delivery of persons bound to service or labor in any State, who may escape into any other State or Territory in the Union. And,

8. Resolved, That Congress has no power to prohibit or obstruct the trade in slaves between the slaveholding States; but that the admission or exclusion of slaves brought from one into another of them, depends exclusively upon their own particular laws.

[Senate Jour., 31 Cong., 1st Sess., pp. 118, 119.]

No. 103. Extract from the Report of the Committee of Thirteen

May 8, 1850

The views and recommendations contained in this report may be recapitulated in a few words:

1. The admission of any new State or States formed out of Texas to be postponed until they shall hereafter present themselves to be received into the Union, when it will be the duty of Congress fairly and faithfully to execute the compact with Texas by admitting such new State or States;

2. The admission forthwith of California into the Union, with the boundaries which she has proposed;

3. The establishment of territorial governments, without the Wilmot proviso, for New Mexico and Utah, embracing all the territory recently acquired by the United States from Mexico not contained in the boundaries of California;

4. The combination of these two last-mentioned measures in the same bill;

5. The establishment of the western and northern boundary of Texas, and the exclusion from her jurisdiction of all New Mexico, with the grant to Texas of a pecuniary equivalent; and the sec

tion for that purpose to be incorporated in the bill admitting California and establishing territorial governments for Utah and New Mexico;

6. More effectual enactments of law to secure the prompt delivery of persons bound to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, who escape into another State; and,

7. Abstaining from abolishing slavery; but, under a heavy penalty, prohibiting the slave trade in the District of Columbia. [Senate Rep. 123, 31st Cong., 1st Sess.,

P. 11.]

No. 104.

Extract from the Utah Act

September 9, 1850

An Act to establish a Territorial Government for Utah.

... "

Be it enacted That all that part of the territory of the United States included within the following limits, to wit: bounded on the west by the State of California, on the north by the Territory of Oregon, and on the east by the summit of the Rocky Mountains, and on the south by the thirty-seventh parallel of north latitude, be, and the same is hereby, created into a temporary government, by the name of the Territory of Utah; and, when admitted as a State, the said Territory, or any portion of the same, shall be received into the Union, with or without slavery, as their constitution may prescribe at the time of their admission: Provided, That nothing in this act contained shall be construed to inhibit the government of the United States from dividing said Territory into two or more Territories, in such manner and at such times as Congress shall deem convenient and proper, or from attaching any portion of said Territory to any other State or Territory of the United States. . .

[U. S. Stat. at Large, IX., 453.]

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