The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack

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Today in History: The Compromise of 1850

Posted by Gilbert Stack on September 9, 2018 at 8:25 AM

On this day (September 9) in 1850, the Compromise of 1850 went into effect. 1) California became a state. 2) Texas gave up much of the territory it claimed (including parts of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Wyoming) in exchange for the U.S. paying off $10 million of the debt it accumulated before becoming a state. (You can imagine how big it would have been without this deal.) 3) The Wilmot Provisio (which would have outlawed slavery in new territories) was abandoned in exchange for Popular Sovereignty which let the people of new territories vote on whether or not they would be slave or free states. 4) The slave trade (but not slavery) was outlawed in Washington D.C. But the most important aspect of the compromise was 5) a new, highly controversial, Fugitive Slave Act which required citizens to actively help U.S. marshals recapture escaped slaves and created a “system of justice” in which judges got paid $20 for finding that an alleged escaped slave actually had escaped, but only $10 if he found that he was a free black. Northern abolitionists were horrified by the new Fugitive Slave Act and encouraged them to become much more outspoken in their opposition to slavery with many prominent abolitionists proudly and publicly proclaiming they would go to jail before cooperating with this law. It also encouraged northerners to increase their financial support to men like John Brown and to abolitionist causes such as the violent contest over slavery we now call Bleeding Kansas. So the Compromise of 1850 resolved several short term problems the country was facing, but it moved the country much closer to civil war.

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