- The session of 1849-50 -- the Compromise measures -- virtual Abrogation of the Missouri Compromise -- the admission of California -- the fugitive slave law-death of Calhoun -- Anecdote of Clay.
The first session of the Thirty-first Congress (1849-50) was a memorable one. The recent acquisition from Mexico of New Mexico and California required legislation by Congress. In the Senate the bills reported by the Committee on Territories were referred to a select committee of which Clay, the distinguished Senator from Kentucky, was chairman. From this committee emanated the bills which, taken together, are known as the compromise measures of 1850. With some others, I advocated the division of the newly acquired territory by an extension to the Pacific Ocean of the Missouri Compromise line of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes north latitude. This was not because of any inherent merit or fitness in that line, but because it had been accepted by the country as a settlement of the sectional question which, thirty years before, had threatened a rupture of the Union, and it had acquired in the public mind a prescriptive respect which it seemed unwise to disregard. A majority, however, decided otherwise, and the line of political conciliation was then obliterated, as far as it lay in the power of Congress to do so. An analysis of the vote will show that this result was effected almost exclusively by the representatives of the North, and that the South was not responsible for an action which proved to be the opening of Pandora's box.1 However objectionable it may have been in 1820 to adopt that political line as expressing a geographical definition of different sectional interests, and however it may be condemned as the assumption by Congress of a function not delegated to it, it is to be remembered that the act had received such recognition and quasi-ratification by the people of the states as to give it a value which it did not originally possess. Pacification had been the fruit borne by the tree, and it should not have been recklessly hewed down and cast into the fire. The frequent assertion then made was that all discrimination was unjust, and that the popular will should be left untrammeled in the formation of new states. This theory 
|J. C. Calhoun|
When our need was the sorest—
” when his intellectual power, his administrative talent, his love of peace, and his devotion to the Constitution might have averted collision; failing in that, he might have been to the South the Palinurus to steer the bark in safety over the perilous sea. Truly did Webster—his personal friend, although his greatest political rival—say of him in his obituary address, “There was nothing groveling, or low, or meanly selfish, that came near the head or the heart of Mr. Calhoun.” His prophetic warnings speak from the grave with the wisdom of inspiration. Would that they could have been appreciated by his countrymen while he yet lived! While the compromise measures of 1850 were pending, and the excitement concerning them was at its highest, I one day overtook Clay of Kentucky and Berrien of Georgia in the Capitol grounds. They were in earnest conversation. It was the 7th of March—the day on which Webster had delivered his great speech. Clay, addressing me in the friendly manner which he had always employed since I was a schoolboy in Lexington, asked me what I thought of the speech. I liked it better than he did. He then suggested that I should “join the compromise  men,” saying that it was a measure which he thought would probably give peace to the country for thirty years—the period that had elapsed since the adoption of the compromise of 1820. Then, turning to Berrien, he said, “You and I will be under ground before that time, but our young friend here may have trouble to meet.” I somewhat impatiently declared my unwillingness to transfer to posterity a trial which they would be relatively less able to meet than we were, and passed on my way.