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A nation divided

Compromise of 1850

John C. Calhoun

Daniel Webster
In 1849, the number of free states and slave states was still equal. California, New Mexico and Utah wished to enter the Union as free states.

Congress wanted to keep the number of slave states and free states the same, but there was a new idea of popular sovereignty. Popular sovereignty meant the states had the right to decide for themselves whether to allow slavery.

Three prominent men in the Senate took center stage during the debate. John C. Calhoun favored states' rights and the extension of slavery in the territories. He threatened that if the Union could not compromise, the Southern states were likely to leave the Union. Daniel Webster, a northerner, did not agree with slavery, but wished the United States to stay as a whole country and spoke for the preservation of the Union. Henry Clay, who had helped form the Missouri Compromise, also created the Compromise of 1850.

The compromise stated that California would be admitted as a free state, but New Mexico and Utah were to decide by popular sovereignty - the right to decide for themselves whether to allow slavery.

A new fugitive slave law, stronger than the first, was written. Slave trading was banned in Washington, D.C., but slavery was still permitted in the capital. Americans thought the fighting over slavery was finally over.

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The story

1. A Nation Divided

2. Events and Battles

3. Leaders

4. Daily Life

5. Aftermath


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