Introduction to the Dilemma of the West

What you’ll learn to do: describe how the expansion of slavery into new states and territories led to political divisions and social tensions

A digital map of the USA from March 3rd, 1849 to September 9th, 1850. The map shows where the Oregon territory, Mexican Cession, Unorganized Territory and Minnesota Territory were located during this time. All of the mentioned territories are in orange on the map and are primarily on the left or west side of the country.

The acquisition of lands from Mexico in 1848 reawakened debates regarding slavery in the U.S. The suggestion that slavery should be barred from the lands of the Mexican Cession caused a rancorous debate between North and South and split the Democratic Party when many Northern members left to create the Free-Soil Party. Additionally, the landscape of the formerly Mexican territory changed dramatically, as the California Gold Rush rapidly expanded the population of the new territory and prompted concerns over immigration. Although the Compromise of 1850 resolved the question of whether slavery would be allowed in the new territories, the solution pleased no one. The peace brought by the compromise was short-lived, and the debate over slavery continued, eventually escalating into the American Civil War.