Menu
Image 1 of
Zoom In
Zoom Out
Fullscreen

"Admission of California," Remarks of Mr. [Lewis] Cass of Michigan in reply to . . . Mr. Berrien, of Georgia, August 12, 1850

In debating the admission of California to the Union as a free state, Senator Lewis Cass of Michigan argued that Congress did not have unlimited constitutional power over the territories. He believed residents of California had the sovereign right to choose not to allow slavery within its borders.

General Collections, Library of Congress

"Admission of California," Remarks of Mr. [Lewis] Cass of Michigan in reply to . . . Mr. Berrien, of Georgia, August 12, 1850

Conflict Over California

Even before the Mexican War ended in 1848, the question of whether to allow or prohibit slavery in new western territories threatened to rupture the Union. Slavery’s extension to new states could give the slaveholding South a majority in the Senate; its prohibition would favor the North. To balance sectional interests, Congress passed a series of bills known as the Compromise of 1850. California, with a burgeoning migrant population, was admitted to the Union as a free state. Concessions were simultaneously made to slave powers, raising fierce debate.