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The Compromise of 1850 is a controversial act of legislation that will only increase sectional tension between distinct northern and southern regions of the Union. Its provisions including: the admittance of the entirety of California as a free state, Utah territory and New Mexico territory to determine their status on slavery based on popular sovereignty, the yielding by Texas of land to be given to New Mexico, the slave trade to be abolished in DC, and the strengthening of fugitive slave laws. If the preservation of the Union is the main goal of this compromise, it will be unsuccessful and unpopular in its attempts. Rather, it stems for greater discourse and will pursue for the inevitable secession of the Southern states, as the compromise does not ultimately satisfy issues that concern both Northern and Southern states.
The Fugitive Slave Law act is highly opposed by northerners, and the success of the compromise depends on the northerners ability to enforce such legislation. This excerpt from Fergus M. Bordewich’s America’s Great Debate states that “the South obtained the harsh new Fugitive Slave Law that it had long sought, as well as the North’s tacit abandonment of the hated Wilmot Proviso, which would have batted slavery from the new territories” (Bordewich). This act was one of the key elements to the compromise that would have allow for the other provisions of the Compromise of 1850 to pass. Northern states however, having developed a trend of a greater sense of abolition, would squash their hopes of accomplishing that agenda. There are two main flaws that come with the enactment of a stronger Fugitive Slave Law, the first being public discourse from members of Northern states and the second being difficult to enforce such laws, despite being a federally mandated law. The first issue is the beliefs of slavery in these Northern states, people did not agree with these given provisions and having to follow the guidelines stated in the Fugitive Slave Law act requires them to go against their own ethics in order to maintain law. This leads to the second problem, because the Northerners have such an anti-slavery agenda, their enforcement of such an act will most likely be futile. As a result Southerners will lose more from the other elements of the Compromise of 1850, to only be promised a very uncertain and unlikely enforcement to return runaway slaves.
Admitting California as a free state threatens the balance between slave and free states, and will only entitle more power to the Northern states in Congress. Mentioned in one of the resolutions in the Nashville Convention was, “…slavery exists in the United States independent of the Constitution. That it is recognized by the Constitution in a threefold aspect: first as property, second, as a domestic relation of service or labor under the law of a state; and, last, as a basis of political power. And, viewed on any or all of these lights, Congress has no power under the Constitution to create or destroy it anywhere, nor can such power be derived…from any other source but an amendment of the Constitution itself” (Resolutions of the Nashville Convention). Another point mentioned in the convention was “…it is the sense of this Convention that the territories should be treated as property divided between the sections of the Union, so that the rights of both sections be adequately secured in their respective shares…we are ready to acquiesce in the adoption of the line of 36° 30’ north latitude, extending to the Pacific Ocean, as an extreme concession, upon consideration of what is due to the stability of our institution” (Nashville Convention). This compromise would otherwise throw off this balance and create greater tensions between the free and slave states. The admission of California will only make the North stronger, and as a result create bigger problems that the Compromise of 1850 intended to mitigate in the first place.
The abolition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia is unconstitutional. This was determined in the Nashville Convention, in which states, “…the Constitution confers no power upon Congress to regulate or prohibit the sale or transfer of slaves between the states” (Nashville Convention). Having a provision to prevent the growth of the slave industry, one that is of great dependency to the Southern economy would be unfair to the Southern states, especially since it is unconstitutional. DC in itself is not an individual state and preventing the slave trade there is cannot be Constitutional unless it is put in an amendment. Additionally, from a northern perspective the banning of the slave trade doesn’t necessarily mean an end of slavery for
The radical demands of the Fugitive Slave Law act, causing for Northerners to violate their personal ethics, the imbalance of admitting California as a free state, and the unconstitutionality and ineffectiveness of banning the slave trade in the District of Columbia all contribute to why the Compromise of 1850 should not be passed.
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