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John C. Calhoun’s Speech to the Senate, March 4, 1850

Too ill to stand, Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina asked Senator James Murray Mason of Virginia to read his speech. In it, Calhoun accused the North of endangering the Union by forcing the Southern states to abandon their rights in new territories. Calhoun died before the compromise was settled.

The prospect then is, that the two sections in the Senate, should the efforts of some made to exclude the South from the newly conquered territories succeed, will stand before the end of the decade 20 Northern States to 12 Southern . . . [upsetting] the equilibrium which existed when the government commenced

Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

John C. Calhoun’s Speech to the Senate, March 4, 1850 The prospect then is, that the two sections in the Senate, should the efforts of some made to exclude the South from the newly conquered territories succeed, will stand before the end of the decade 20 Northern States to 12 Southern . . . [upsetting] the equilibrium which existed when the government commenced

Union or Disunion?

The Compromise of 1850 provoked one of the Senate’s most famous debates. In his last speech to the Senate, John C. Calhoun of South Carolina protested the admission of California as a free state, claiming that the more powerful North was unfairly excluding the South from new territories and pushing the South to secede. Senator Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, speaking “not as a Massachusetts man, . . . but as an American,” urged Congress to compromise on other slavery-related issues for the sake of preserving the Union.