Was the Compromise of 1850 a wise effort to balance sectional differences, or a futile attempt to push the slavery out of sight?

Expert Answers
martinjmurphy eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Compromise of 1850 can be viewed as a futile attempt to push the issue of slavery out of sight.  The Compromise of 1850 deepened the division between the North and South and helped create the conditions for the Civil war.  When the Mexican-American War ended, the United States received the Mexican Cession which included all of California, Nevada and Utah, and parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming.  With this huge land acquisition, the issue of slavery in the new territories was raised.  This led directly to the Compromise of 1850.  This compromise deepened the division between the North and the South.  First, California would be admitted to the Union as a free state, which upset the South.  Two new territories would be established, Utah and New Mexico.  These territories would be open to slavery through popular sovereignty, that is, the people of the territories would decide the issue of slavery.  This upset the people in the North because so much territory could now have slavery. The slave trade was banned in the District of Columbia which upset the South because they saw this as a first step towards abolishing slavery.  There would be a new, strict, fugitive slave law which upset the North because now by law they had to assist in returning slaves to their owners. These tensions created by the Compromise of 1850, which was passed because of the results of the Mexican-American War, helped create the conditions for the Civil War.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The best answer to this is "yes."  In other words, the Compromise of 1850 was both a wise effort and a futile one.

After the Mexican-American War, there were serious splits in the country was to what should be done with the lands taken from Mexico.  There was talk among Southerners of seceding if slavery was not allowed in the new territories.  This was a major crisis that could have led to war.  In such circumstances, it was surely wise (unless you think slavery is such a great evil that war was preferable) to try to balance sectional differences.  In that sense, it was a wise effort.

Of course, we now know it was a futile attempt.  The tensions between the two sections had gotten to be so bad that there was no way that they were going to be patched up.  The Compromise, then, was a futile attempt to stave off an inevitable conflict.

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question