Henry Clay and Stephen Douglas Draft Compromise

Congress convened on December 3, 1849.

On January 29, 1850, Whig Senator Henry Clay gave a speech which called for compromise on the issues dividing the Union. However, Clay's specific proposals for achieving a compromise, including his idea for Texas' boundary, were not adopted, although Clay later claimed credit for drafting the entire compromise. Rather, it was Senator Stephen A. Douglas, Democrat of Illinois, who largely guided the Compromise to passage. The Compromise came to coalesce around a plan dividing Texas at its present-day boundaries, creating territorial governments with "popular sovereignty" (without the Wilmot Proviso) for New Mexico and Utah, admitting California as a free state, abolishing the slave auctions in the District of Columbia, and enacting a harsh new fugitive slave law.

The Compromise of 1850 was an intricate package of five bills, passed in September 1850, defusing a four year confrontation between the slave states of the South and the free states of the North that arose from expectation of territorial expansion of the United States with the Texas Annexation (December 29, 1845) and the following Mexican-American War (1846–1848), as well as the 1846 settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute. It avoided secession or civil war at the time and quieted sectional conflict for four years until the divisive Kansas–Nebraska Act.