The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, following the Mexican War, ceded vast territories from Mexico to the USA, which swiftly posed conundrums to legislators. Firstly, Texas made claims on large tracts of New Mexico territory. Secondly, California, by virtue of the Gold Rush, was transformed from a sparsely populated semi-wilderness into a candidate for statehood. Matters were complicated by California’s Constitutional Convention in 1849, declaring it would be a ‘free state’, despite its southern half lying within the ‘slave-holding’ latitude defined by the 1820 Missouri Compromise. The new Compromise guided through to enactment by Senators Douglas and Clay, bought off Texan land claims with partial forgiveness of its debts. California was admitted as a ‘free state’ but in return the Fugitive Slave Act allowed pursuit of slaves into ‘free’ territory. In addition, the Utah and New Mexico Territories were established, and allowed popular sovereignty on the issue of slavery.
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