During Zachary Taylor's presidency, there was major debate over whether the new western states and territories requesting admission into the union should be slave states. This led to members of congress drafting the Compromise of 1850, proposing, among other things, that the states could be admitted into the union as free states but that they would have the option of becoming slave states if they wanted.Continue Reading
President Taylor was the 12th president of the United States and began his term in 1849. Although a slave owner himself, Taylor was vehemently opposed to forming new slave states in the western territories and wanted to put an end to the debate in congress over it. He urged the settlers in the new territories, particularly California and New Mexico, to draft their own constitutions and request immediate statehood. This would allow the states to essentially skip the territorial phase and choose for themselves to be a free or slave state. Both states, Taylor knew, were inclined to choose to be free states. This angered the southern Democrats who wanted to expand slavery in into the west, as well as members of Congress, who believed Taylor was ignoring their legislative procedures.
President Taylor met with southern leaders who threatened to secede. In turn, he threatened to use the Army to maintain the union and hang anyone who tried secession. Members of Congress drafted the Compromise of 1850, which offered some concessions to both the north and the south. Some of the compromises included allowing California to be a free state and abolishing slavery in Washington, D.C., but they also strengthened the Fugitive Slave Act and left other western territories open to slavery. President Taylor was still opposed and did not want to compromise. He suffered from an attack of acute gastroenteritis and died on July 9, 1850. The Compromise of 1850 was soon approved by his successor, President Millard Fillmore.Learn more about US History