Image courtesy of Library of Congress
Serving four, non-consecutive terms in the House, Millard Fillmore of New York was elected Vice President before becoming President after the death of President Zachary Taylor.
On this date, the bill admitting California as a free state into the Union passed the House by a vote of 150 to 56. Every northerner who voted supported the measure. Moreover, a significant number of southerners—27 Members—approved the bill as well. The measure was part of the Compromise of 1850, engineered by Senator Henry Clay
of Kentucky who had also played an instrumental role as Speaker of the House
30 years earlier in winning passage of the Missouri Compromise. Clay’s compromise helped resolve the thorny issue of how to incorporate new territories ceded by Mexico in 1848 in the aftermath of the U.S.’s victory in the war with Mexico—including present day California, New Mexico, and Utah. The compromise also set the western boundary of Texas, provided for the enactment of a rigorous fugitive slave law, and banned the slave trade (though not slavery) in Washington, D.C. Two days after the California vote, on September 9, President Millard Fillmore
, signed the measure into law, making California the 31st state. On September 11, the state’s two new Representatives, Edward Gilbert
and George W. Wright
, were sworn in as Members.