The Divisive Politics of Slavery The Wilmot-Proviso, Compromise of 1850, and Popular Sovereignty
Differences Between the North & South In the North, industrialization shaped the growth of cities and Northern railroads helped rapidly expand the nation westward. Telegraph wires were strung along the 20,000 miles of tracks and allowed for fast communication. The population in the North was diverse due to the large portion of immigrants who worked in the factories. The South remained rural and consisted of plantations and small farms. The South had 1/3rd of the nations population and produced less than 10% of the nations manufactured goods. Immigrants did not settle in the South, and many Southern states had populations with African-Americans in the majority.
The Wilmot-Proviso In 1846, Democrat David Wilmot from PA introduced a military appropriations bill that claimed that no state acquired through war could have slavery. After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, large areas of land were ceded to the U.S. , most of which were below the Missouri Compromise line. What was the nations reaction to this bill, and why did they react in various ways? Northerners agreed with the proviso for two reasons: (1) They were angry about the Southern congressmen who did not vote for internal improvements. (2) They feared the expansion of slave states. The House of Representatives passed the proviso, but the Senate rejected it. Many saw this conflict as a sign of darker times to come. Southerners argued that the proviso violated their constitutional rights to property, since slaves were property.
California The gold rush led to many of the territorial phases being skipped in applying for statehood, and California applied for statehood in 1849. A problem arose when California’s constitution forbade slavery. Southerners assumed that CA and other territories below the 36°30’ would be open to slavery. The president, Zachery Taylor, supported CA being admitted as a free state, as well as arguing that the South could counter abolitionism through allowing the individual territories decide on the matter of slavery. Other issues of slavery also came up with TX and DC, and Southerners began viewing secession as the only means to an end. When the 31st Congress met, the issue of CA statehood was at the top of their agenda.
The Compromise of 1850 Clays compromise had several terms: Clay worked hard to find a balance that would appease both the North and South. 1) California is admitted as a free state. 2) Utah & New Mexico territories decide about slavery. 3) Texas-New Mexico boundary dispute resolved with $10 million payment to TX from the federal gov’t. 4) The sale of slaves is banned in D.C., but slavery would remain legal there. 5) Fugitive Slave Act required people in free states to help capture and return escaped slaves.
Implications of the Compromise The North was appeased with the addition of California as a free state. The South was appeased with the new and more effective Fugitive Slave Act. Popular Sovereignty, or the right of a state to choose whether it is free or slave, appealed to both the North and South. Clay pushed this compromise because he feared the only other option would be disunion or even war.
Calhoun v. Webster John c. Calhoun Daniel Webster • Believed strongly in state’s rights over federal power. • Held the interests of southern slaveholders as a high priority. • Thought Northern abolitionist fueled the sectional issues, and the South had no choice but to secede. • Did not believe that slavery should extend into the territories. • Placed national interests over those of his own, or that of a region, as seen in his response to Calhoun’s threat of secession.
The Compromise is Adopted Although Clay seemed to have all the right ingredients for a good compromise, it was rejected and Clay left Washington discouraged. This was not the end of the compromise though, and Stephen A. Douglas, a senator from Illinois took on the job of passing this essential plan. What ingenious plan did Douglas use to pass the Compromise of 1850 through Congress? Douglas passed each measure of the compromise by introducing them individually rather than as a bundle. Also, the death of both Calhoun and President Taylor took two opponents of the compromise out of the picture.