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A set of laws, passed in the midst of fierce wrangling between groups favoring slavery and groups opposing it, that attempted to give something to both sides. The compromise admitted California to the United States as a “free” (no slavery) state but allowed some newly acquired territories to decide on slavery for themselves. Part of the Compromise included the Fugitive Slave Act, which proved highly unpopular in the North. Senator Henry Clay was a force behind the passage of the compromise.
Note: The Compromise of 1850 shows how difficult it was to accommodate the two sides of the slavery question. It failed to prevent the Civil War, which broke out just over ten years later.