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Territorial Expansion and Slavery

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     Congress deal with the issue of slavery as new states were admitted and new territories acquired by passing a new law, The Compromise of 1850, which allowed Texas to be admitted to the Union as a slave state and California to be admitted as a free state. Proposals known as popular sovereignty took place and consisted in voters in New Mexico and Utah would decide the slavery question themselves. In addition, the slave trade would be prohibited in Washington, D.C., and a strict fugitive slave law would be enforced nationally. These actions of the US Congress affected the tensions between the North and the South proving that the Congress could not easily resolve the nation’s deep-seated differences over the issue of slavery trying to preserve the Union, it was just a temporary issue that eventually led to Civil War. Some of the arguments centered on slavery and territorial expansion were the balance of Free states and slave states, slavery issues in the new territories, slavery, and the economy.

    The Compromise of 1850 fail to solve those problems because it did not solve the problem of balancing the free states and slave states or the economy concern about how free labor could affect the economy and it made the slave trade illegal but not slavery itself. Northern states passed liberty laws to protect slave fugitives while the South passed Fugitive State Law. 3 Key events from 1850:

    1. Congress passed the Compromise of 1850 which made California free and allowed the people to choose in Utah and New Mexico. This Compromise created a bigger tension between the South and the North-leading the country toward civil war.
    2. The Fugitive Slave Act was passed as part of the Compromise of 1850. This act forced any federal official who did not arrest a runaway slave liable to pay a fine. This was the most controversial part of the Compromise of 1850 and caused many abolitionists to increase their efforts against slavery. This act increased the Underground Railroad activity as fleeing slaves made their way to Canada. ( Kelly, M. p. 2)
    3. The Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854).

    Created two territories, Kansas and Nebraska, and left the status of slavery in each territory open, to be decided by the popular sovereignty of those who settled there. Many Northerners were discontent with this action but part of the northern democrats agree because they wanted a railroad and southerners agree as well to keep slavery. This act sparkled a race to populate the state because the slave issue would be decided by popular vote. This created a violent conflict.


    1. Kelly M. (2013). Top 9 Events that Led to Civil War. Retrieved from Schultz, Kevin M. The Impending Crisis Ch.14

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