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Senator Henry Clay’s Speech to the Senate on the Compromise Report, May 21, 1850

In response to criticism of the committee’s omnibus bill of compromise measures, Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky challenged his fellow senators to offer better proposals to reconcile the conflicting interests of the North and South. Failing to win enough support to overcome Southern opposition, the controversial omnibus bill did not pass.

"[I]t is the duty of all who assail this compromise, to give us their own and a better project; to tell us how they would reconcile the interests of this country, and harmonize its distracted parts."

General Collections, Library of Congress

Senator Henry Clay’s Speech to the Senate on the Compromise Report, May 21, 1850

The Compromise of 1850

Sectional disputes intensified as Congress considered the issue of slavery in the western territories acquired by the Mexican War. Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky attempted to diffuse the controversy by offering resolutions on slavery and western land. The Senate debated Clay’s proposals for seven months. When Clay’s proposal failed, Congress repackaged the proposal into a series of bills known as the Compromise of 1850. Key provisions included California’s admission as a free state, a stricter Fugitive Slave Act, and a ban on slave trading in Washington, D.C.