11.3.17 Compromise

The current Chief of Staff in the White House recently blathered that the Civil War started due to “lack of an ability to compromise.”


So to end your week on an educational note, it’s time to play the Compromise Quiz. Are you ready?

Question One: In 1820, as new states were being admitted into the Union, Congress wanted to make sure the balance of power between North and South was preserved. So when Maine was admitted as a free state, a western state was controversially admitted as a slave state (it was the first time slavery had been officially extended into Louisiana Purchase territory). What was the name of this momentous decision?

Question Two: In 1828, a federal tariff designed to protect industry (heavily beneficial to the north) so angered folks in South Carolina that they called it the Abomination Tariff and threatened to secede. This led to what is known as the Nullification Crisis, which was resolved only when a revised tariff more acceptable to the South was passed in 1833. What was the name of this new tariff?

Question Three: Following American victory over Mexico in 1848, the country was coming apart over sectional and regional issues. So a massive series of agreements resulted in Texas being admitted as a slave state (giving up its claims on other territories in the Southwest, and having its war debt paid by the federal government). In return, California came in as a free state. And the trading of slaves in the District of Columbia was abolished in return for a strengthening of the national Fugitive Slave Act. What was the name of this legislation?

The answers to all of the above have two things in common. First, they were all efforts to appease the South, as you can detect in their nomenclature: the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise Tariff of 1833, and the Compromise of 1850.

Second, they were all championed by one man, who is generally regarded as one of the most important legislators in American history, but who today is largely forgotten. Hailing from the conflicted border state of Kentucky, a slaveholder himself, he served as a Representative, a Speaker of the House, Secretary of State, and Senator. He almost single-handedly held the United States together for over 40 years, until his death in 1852.

His name was Henry Clay.

And one final question: for his lifetime of efforts, what nickname has history given this titan of congressional compromise?

That’s obvious: The Great Compromiser.


It’s a little scary that our current administration doesn’t know this stuff. I suggest they take a short refresher course. They can start at the source of all this sectional strife. It is our original sin. It’s a nasty little clause in the Constitution called the 3/5 Compromise.

Go ahead, General Kelly, look it up.

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