On to address five issues, all of which needed

On January 29, 1850, Henry Clay introduced
several resolutions as a compromise to the rising conflict between the North
and South.1
Clay’s resolutions were meant to address five issues, all of which needed to be
settled. These issues were centered around properties of land and what to do
with them. The crisis between the North and South seemed perilously close to
war, and thus, Clay was determined to find a solution. Though Congress shut
down his resolutions, Daniel Webster, Senator from Massachusetts, and John C.
Calhoun, senator from South Carolina, repackaged the deal into a series of
bills with the of a young Democrat from Illinois, Stephen Douglas.2

Henry Clay of Kentucky was known as
many things, from “congressman, diplomat, secretary of state, U.S. senator, and
five times unsuccessful candidate for president.”3
He created a public image for himself over a period of forty years. His goal
since the; Missouri Compromise has always been to find compromise and unity
between the opposing sides. He has put a huge amount of effort to stop
disunion. Known as the Great Compromiser, the Great Pacificator, he has been
involved in the Missouri Compromise in 1820 and again in 1830 when South
Carolina did not follow a tariff law.4
He saw it as his duty years later that he must step in to find a compromise and
save this nation from the threat of disunion.

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In 1820, a huge acquisition of land,
the Louisiana Purchase, was under disagreement on whether it should be a slave
state or not.5
They ended up reaching an agreement through the Missouri Compromise, but it is
now 1850 and the disagreement is over the land won from the Mexican War. In
both occasions, the South had threatened to secede from the Union. Unlike the
Missouri Compromise, tensions were high, and the threat of disunion and civil
war is more than ever.

To save the Union, Clay planned to
address the following problems. First, there was California and its increase of
population do to the gold fields. California needed government and statehood by
admission into the Union, but the condition was as a free state. Then there
were a couple of issues regarding territory. The first problem was that the
land taken from Mexico, the New Mexico and Utah territories, needed to be dealt
with. The decision had to be made on whether slavery be allowed when it became
ready to join the Union. The other territorial issue was with Texas. Texas
acquired statehood in 1845, and since then has claimed four counties in the New
Mexico territory as their own. This was a very dangerous dispute and needed to
be resolved as soon as possible.

The other two issues that Clay
addresses in his resolutions regarded slavery. In the District of Columbia,
there was slavery and a major slave trade.6
Slavery was extremely disputed as the North wanted the slavery and slave trade
to end and the South believed that the end would be a hit to their cause. The
final issue might have been had the most controversy. There is a law that says
that fugitive slaves that have escaped to the North must be returned to their
masters. The South, made up of slave owners, wanted this law to be enforced.
The North, anti-slavery, were not heeding this law one bit. They ran the
Underground Railroad and did not honor the law, in fact breaking at every

Clay produced a compilation of bills
that he believed would help find middle ground between the conflicting North
and South. He addresses the points separately and effectively. His first bill
would simply allow California to admit themselves as a free state.7
This way, California can make its government and rule without slavery. The
following bill addresses the issue of the Texas border claim. The bill says
that the Texas would have to renounce their hold on the New Mexico territory.
In compensation, the Texas state debt would be paid off by the federal government
with around 10 million dollars.8
The bill regarding the land/territories taken from Mexico stated that “they
would be organized without any restrictions as to slavery.” They would essentially
leave the decision to them, in which they ended up not having slavery. 

The final two bills regarded the two
important slave issues, the slavery in the District of Columbia and the
Fugitive Slave Law. The bill concluded that slavery would continue to be
allowed in the District of Columbia, but to appease the North, the slave trade would
be discontinued. As to the Fugitive Slave Law, it would continue and be “tightened
and reinforced.”

These five bills were the attempted
compromise to the conflict of 1850. The question stands on whether this compromise
works and solves the conflict or not. Clay’s resolutions were immediately shut
down by three large oppositions. There was a lot of disagreement from both the
North and the South, both believing it was in the other’s favor. The South did
not like the fact that slave trade in D.C. would not be continued. The North opposed
the Fugitive Slave Trade and would not reinforce it. The third opposition was the
President, Zachary Taylor, at the time. He did not agree with Clay’s compromise
completely, his own plan just solving two out of the five. He agreed that
California must become a state and that the other territories must be dealt
with as soon as possible, but left out what to do with Texas, slavery in D.C.,
and the Fugitive Slave Act. Due to all this, Clay’s resolutions were far from
being accepted yet.

At the time, there were three of the
most influential people, known as “the great triumvirate.” The triumvirate was
made up of Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, and Daniel Webster.9
Calhoun was one of the strongest supporters of the South, defending their
position for slavery and thus, disagreeing with Clay’s compromise. Near his death,
Calhoun had made a speech which he could not read himself as he was too sick
with tuberculosis. In this speech, he defends the South’s position against the compromise,
stating that any “right to slavery” given up would lead to the loss of all
their rights. His speech rallied the South and angered the North, but his death
came soon after on the last day of March 1850.10

It was a stalemate between the sides
and neither wanted to concede, so Clay knew he needed to tip the scale. The
third member of the triumvirate was none other than Daniel Webster. Though they
had been rivals for the presidency, they both had strong love for the Union and
Clay believed he could gather Webster upon that.

1 *General
Primary Documents*