Why wasn’t slavery an election issue?


The United States Senate, A.D. 1850, by Robert Whitechurch
U.S. Senate Collection

In 1850, slavery almost tore the union apart. A series of bills called the Compromise of 1850 was passed with the leadership of Whig Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. It allowed California to enter the union as a free state, while the Utah and New Mexico territories were allowed to hold a popular vote on whether to allow slavery.

The most controversial component of the compromise was the Fugitive Slave Act, which made it a crime for any federal official to not arrest runaway slaves. While most of the country proclaimed the slavery issue solved, Northern abolitionists were infuriated by the Fugitive Slave Act – which is credited as the first political provocation for a strong anti-slavery party.