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Primary Documents in American History

Compromise of 1850

The United States Senate, A.D. 1850, drawn by P. F. Rothermel ; engraved by R. Whitechurch
The United States Senate, A.D. 1850. Drawn by P. F. Rothermel; engraved by R. Whitechurch. c1855.
Prints and Photographs Division.
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The Compromise of 1850 consists of five laws passed in September of 1850 that dealt with the issue of slavery. In 1849 California requested permission to enter the Union as a free state, potentially upsetting the balance between the free and slave states in the U.S. Senate. Senator Henry Clay introduced a series of resolutions on January 29, 1850, in an attempt to seek a compromise and avert a crisis between North and South. As part of the Compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was amended and the slave trade in Washington, D.C., was abolished. Furthermore, California entered the Union as a free state and a territorial government was created in Utah. In addition, an act was passed settling a boundary dispute between Texas and New Mexico that also established a territorial government in New Mexico.

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

Digital Collections

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875

This collection contains congressional publications from 1774 to 1875, including debates, bills, laws, and journals.

  • January 29, 1850 - The Compromise of 1850 was introduced by Senator Henry Clay in a series of resolutions.
  • February 5 and 6, 1850 - Senator Henry Clay defended his compromise proposals in a speech.
  • March 4, 1850 - Senator John Calhoun's speech against the Compromise of 1850 was delivered. Calhoun was too weak to give the speech so it was read by Senator James Murray Mason of Virginia.
  • March 7, 1850 - Senator Daniel Webster delivered his speech in favor of the Compromise of 1850 ("Seventh of March" speech).

Search this collection in the 31st Congress, 1st Session, to find additional Congressional documents on the Compromise of 1850.

Words and Deeds in American History: Selected Documents Celebrating the Manuscript Division's First 100 Years

In honor of the Manuscript Division's centennial, its staff has selected for online display approximately ninety representative documents spanning from the fifteenth century to the mid-twentieth century.

America's Library

Jump Back in Time: John C. Calhoun Was Born, March 18, 1782.

Jump Back in Time: The Day Henry Clay Died, June 29, 1852.

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

Chronicling America

This site allows you to search and view millions of historic American newspaper pages from 1789 to 1924. Search this collection to find newspaper articles about the Compromise of 1850.

A selection of articles related to the Compromise of 1850 includes:


American Treasures of the Library of Congress - Compromise of 1850

Exhibit of documents from Senators John C. Calhoun and Daniel Webster on the Compromise of 1850.

Today in History

March 7, 1850

Senator Daniel Webster delivered his famous "Seventh of March" speech urging sectional compromise on the issue of slavery.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

Clay's Last Compromise, United States Senate

The Compromise of 1850,

Daniel Webster: The Constitution & the Union, United States Senate

Our Documents, Compromise of 1850, National Archives and Records Administration

Speech Costs Senator His Seat (Daniel Webster), United States Senate

Struggles over Slavery: The Compromise of 1850, National Archives and Records Administration

Thomas Hart Benton: Against the Compromise of 1850, United States Senate

Selected Bibliography

Bordewich, Fergus M. America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012. [Catalog Record]

Hamilton, Holman. Prologue to Conflict, the Crisis and Compromise of 1850. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1964. [Catalog Record]

Holt, Michael F. The Political Crisis of the 1850s. New York: Norton, 1983. [Catalog Record]

Remini, Robert Vincent. At the Edge of the Precipice: Henry Clay and the Compromise That Saved the Union. New York: Basic Books, 2010. [Catalog Record]

Stegmaier, Mark Joseph. Texas, New Mexico, and the Compromise of 1850: Boundary Dispute & Sectional Crisis. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1996. [Catalog Record]

Waugh, John C. On the Brink of Civil War: The Compromise of 1850 and How it Changed the Course of American History. Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 2003. [Catalog Record]

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  April 25, 2017
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