How did Senator Henry Clay formulate the Compromise of 1850?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Henry Clay was a master at making compromises. Henry Clay realized that for a compromise to work, both sides must get some of the things that are important to them. The compromise must also be balanced. If one side got four important things that they wanted while the other side got only two important things that they wanted, the compromise would lead to trouble and would probably fail. With the Compromise of 1850, Henry Clay tried to satisfy both sides.  The North would be content by allowing California to join the United States as a free state. In reality, Henry Clay had no choice but to do this since California’s state constitution banned slavery. However, the South would be happy by the provision that allowed the people to decide if slavery would exist in the Utah and New Mexico territories. The North would be supportive of the banning of slave trading in Washington, D.C. The South would support the Fugitive Slave Act that would require northerners to help capture and return runaway slaves to their southern slave owners. Thus by granting each side some of what it wanted in regards to the slavery question, Henry Clay was able to develop the Compromise of 1850.

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