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Henry Clay’s handwritten resolutions proposing the Compromise of 1850, January 29, 1850

Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky prefaced his compromise resolutions by stating that they were intended as a peaceful and equitable settlement of all existing controversies among the states over the institution of slavery. Though Clay’s initial proposals and subsequent omnibus bill failed, Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois moved Clay’s separate resolutions through both houses of Congress.

"It being desirable, for the peace, concord and harmony of the Union of these States, to settle and adjust amicably all existing questions of controversy between them, arising out of the institution of slavery, upon a fair, equitable and just basis . . ."

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

Henry Clay’s handwritten resolutions proposing the Compromise of 1850, January 29, 1850

Balancing Sectional Interests

In crafting the Compromise of 1850, Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky sought to sustain the Union by balancing sectional interests. Northerners supported the admission of California to the Union as a free state and the end of the slave trade in the District of Columbia. Southerners favored the stricter Fugitive Slave Law, the resolution of the Texas-New Mexico boundary issue, and the possibility of slavery extending into the territories. Different coalitions of senators and representatives supported the key provisions that Congress passed as separate bills.