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Coming of the Civil War, The Compromise of 1850

Mexican Cession, popular sovereignty, Texas claims, Salt Lake Valley, Armistice

Although no proposed solution was acceptable to all sides, the question of slavery in the territories could not be postponed. In 1848 gold was discovered in California, and thousands of Americans rushed to the region. The previous year, Brigham Young had led Mormon settlers to the Salt Lake Valley, in what became the northeastern corner of the Mexican Cession in 1848. At the same time, slaveholding Texas claimed half of New Mexico. It was at this point that politicians proposed a series of measures that became known as the Compromise of 1850. California was admitted as a free state. The remainder of the land taken from Mexico was divided into Utah and New Mexico territories and organized under popular sovereignty. The Texas claims in New Mexico were denied. The slave trade (but not slavery) was banned in the District of Columbia, and a stronger fugitive slave law went into effect. These measures resolved the question of slavery in the territories in ways that tended to favor the North, then enacted additional measures important to both antislavery and proslavery forces. The compromise was less a permanent solution than an answer to an immediate crisis. It would satisfy neither section. One historian has called it the Armistice of 1850.



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