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Happy Birthday California

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On this day on September 9th 1850, California was admitted to the Union as a Free State.

The admission was 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.




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