Compromise of 1850

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Compromise of 1850

By the 1850's the Constitution had become a source of sectional discord and tension due to the different interpretations taken by the North and South. The North's interpretation was that slavery was immoral and not protected under the Constitution. The South, on the other hand, interpreted the Constitution as recognizing slavery where it existed. In addition, the acquisition of new land brought into question the expansion of slavery and the balance of power between the free states and slave states. The interpretations that both sides vindicated were irreconcilable; slavery was a necessity to the Southern way of life, and Northerners shared different views; effective compromises could not be achieved and ultimately this led to failure of the Union that the Constitution had created.

After the Missouri Compromise had established the 36°30' line that divided the national domain between the North and South, the Compromise of 1850 threatened to break the sectional balance.

The admission of California as a free state would create an imbalance in the senate, which stood at 15 states each for the North and South. This is evident from Document A. Essentially, admitting California would grant greater political power to free states, and therefore create a conflict between the North and South. However, the admission of the Utah and New Mexico territory under the premise of popular sovereignty almost guaranteed that they would be slave states; it was mainly inhabited by Southerners and the climate was more conducive for Southern products, namely cotton.

The sectional sentiment that was aroused by the Compromise of 1850 is obviously present in Document B, a letter from an anonymous Georgian. In his "Plain Words for the North" the Georgian emphasizes that the Constitution "recognizes slavery where it exists" and that unless this view is respected by the North,