The Compromise of 1850 was a series of five bills intended to stave off sectional strife that passed during Millard Fillmores presidency. With the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo at the end of the Mexican-American War, all the Mexican-owned territory between California and Texas was given to the United States. This included parts of New Mexico and Arizona. In addition, portions of Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and Colorado were ceded to the US.
The question that arose was what to do with slavery in these territories. Should it be allowed or forbidden? The issue was extremely important to both free and slave states because of the balance of power in terms of voting blocs in the US Senate and House of Representatives.
Henry Clay was a Whig Senator from Kentucky. He was nicknamed The Great Compromiser due to his efforts at helping bring these bills to fruition along with previous bills such as the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise Tariff of 1833. He personally owned slaves which he would later free in his will. However, his motivation in passing these compromises, especially the 1850 compromise, was to avoid Civil War.
Sectional strife was becoming more and more confrontational. With the addition of new territories and the question of whether they would be free or slave territories, the need for a compromise was the only thing that at that time would have averted outright violence.
Realizing this, Clay enlisted the help of Democratic Illinois Senator, Stephen Douglas who would eight years later be involved in a series of debates with Republican opponent Abraham Lincoln.
Clay, backed by Douglas, proposed five resolutions on January 29, 1850 which he hoped would bridge the gap between Southern and Northern interests.
In April of that year, a Committee of Thirteen was created to consider the resolutions. On May 8th, the committee led by Henry Clay, proposed the five resolutions combined into an omnibus bill. The bill did not receive unanimous support. Opponents on both sides were not happy with the