Wilmot Proviso


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Wilmot Proviso

The 1846 Wilmot Proviso was a bold attempt by opponents of slavery to prevent its introduction in the territories purchased from Mexico following the Mexican War. Named after its sponsor, Democratic representative David Wilmot of Pennsylvania, the proviso never passed both houses of Congress, but it did ignite an intense national debate over slavery that led to the creation of the antislavery Republican Party in 1854.

The Mexican War of 1845–1846 was fueled, in part, by the desire of the United States to annex Texas. President james polk asked Congress in August 1846 for $2 million to help him negotiate peace and settle the boundary with Mexico. Polk sought the acquisition of Texas and other Mexican territories. Wilmot quickly offered his proposal, known as the Wilmot Proviso, which he attached to President Polk's funding measure. The proviso would have prohibited slavery in the new territories acquired from Mexico, including California.

The proviso injected the controversial slavery issue into the funding debate, but the House approved the bill and sent it to the Senate for action. The Senate, however, adjourned before discussing the issue.

When the next Congress convened, a new appropriations bill for $3 million was presented, but the Wilmot Proviso was again attached to the measure. The House passed the bill and the Senate was forced to consider the proposal. Under the leadership of Senator john c. calhoun of South Carolina and other proslavery senators, the Senate refused to accept the Wilmot amendment, approving the funds for negotiations without the proviso.

For several years, the Wilmot Proviso was offered as an amendment to many bills, but it was never approved by the Senate. However, the repeated introduction of the proviso kept the issue of slavery before the Congress and the nation. The Compromise of 1850, which admitted California as a free state but left the issue of slavery up to the citizens of New Mexico and Utah, created dissension within the Democratic and Whig parties. The strengthening of federal enforcement of the fugitive slave act (9 Stat. 462) angered many northerners and led to growing sectional conflict.

The creation of the Republican Party in 1854 was based on an antislavery platform that endorsed the Wilmot Proviso. The prohibition of slavery in any new territories became a party tenet, with Wilmot himself emerging as Republican Party leader. The Wilmot Proviso, while unsuccessful as a congressional amendment, proved to be a battle cry for opponents of slavery.

Further readings

Fehrenbacher, Don Edward. 1995. Sectional Crisis and Southern Constitutionalism. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press.

Morrison, Chaplain W. 1967. Democratic Politics and Sectionalism: The Wilmot Proviso Controversy. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press.

Rayback, Joseph G. 1971. Free Soil: The Election of 1848. Lexington: Univ. Press of Kentucky.

Cross-references

Compromise of 1850;"Wilmot Proviso"(Appendix, Primary Document).


Wilmot Proviso

The Wilmot Proviso was an unsuccessful congressional amendment, offered for the first time in 1846, that sought to ban slavery in the territories acquired from Mexico after the Mexican War. Named after its sponsor, Democratic Representative David Wilmot of Pennsylvania, the proviso never passed both houses of Congress, but it did ignite an intense national debate over slavery that led to the creation of the antislavery Republican party in 1854.

In August 1846 President james k. polk asked Congress for $2 million to help him negotiate peace and settle the boundary with Mexico. Polk sought the acquisition of Texas and other Mexican territories. Wilmot quickly offered his amendment, which he attached to Polk's funding measure. The House approved the bill and sent it to the Senate for action. The Senate, however, adjourned before discussing the issue.

When the next Congress convened, a new appropriations bill for $3 million was presented, but the Wilmot Proviso was again attached to the measure. The House passed the bill, and the Senate was forced to consider the proposal. Under the leadership of Senator john c calhoun of South Carolina and other proslavery senators, the Senate refused to accept the Wilmot amendment and approved the funds for the negotiations without the proviso.

Though the amendment was never enacted, it became a rallying point for opponents of slavery. The creation of the Republican Party in 1854 was based on an antislavery platform that endorsed the Wilmot Proviso. Source: Congressional Globe, 29th Congress, 1st session (August 12, 1846), p. 1217.

Wilmot Proviso

Provided, that, as an express and fundamental condition to the acquisition of any territory from the Republic of Mexico by the United States, by virtue of any treaty which may be negotiated between them, and to the use by the executive of the moneys herein appropriated, neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory, except for crime, whereof the party shall first be duly convicted.

References in periodicals archive ?
The selections in the first section present a picture of the roughand-tumble political world the young Whitman inhabited, the local and national controversies that fueled his journalism and that in some cases, as with the Wilmot Proviso, presaged the Civil War to come.
That this Wilmot Proviso was motivated as much by politics (fear of the power the South might gain from new slave states) as by moral aversion to slavery in no way lessened the incendiary affect the Proviso had among some Southerners, many of whom realized, as some historians have not, that the desire of many Northerners to limit slavery had to be rooted in at least some unease with the Southern labor system (regardless of their own racism).
Antislavery "Barnburner" Democrats in New York, and "Conscience Whigs" in Massachusetts and Ohio, equally alienated by President James Polk's pro-Southern expansionism, fought to write the Wilmot Proviso position on slavery containment into their respective party platforms.
She overemphasizes the 1836-1844 Congressional Gag Rule while slighting its wider anti-abolitionist context, then entirely omits the annexation of Texas, Mexican-American War, and Wilmot Proviso from her discussion of pre-1850 sectional conflict.
Pragmatic politicians looking for a way to neutralize the Wilmot Proviso imbued popular sovereignty with an ambiguity that papered over deep internal discord within the political system.
I use it to explore the Wilmot Proviso and the fate of California.
During the Mexican War, the House of Representatives had repeatedly passed the Wilmot Proviso (named for Pennsylvania congressman David Wilmot), which had declared that in any territory to be acquired from Mexico, slavery should be prohibited.
Issues covered include the Bill of Rights, the Missouri Compromise, Wilmot Proviso, the Homestead Act, the 14th and 19th amendments, the Treaty of Paris and American policy regarding the Philippines, the League of Nations, the Fair Labor Standards Act, McCarthyism, the Civil Rights Acts of 1875 and 1964, the War Powers Resolution of 1973, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the Iraq War Resolution.
The Wilmot Proviso is mentioned only to assert (wrongly) that it was intended to "sustain the integrity of the Missouri Compromise.
His survey is both theoretical and historic and he examines the politics of the 1840s to the 1860s, in particular, the Wilmot Proviso (regarding a prohibition of slavery in the territories) and the election of Lincoln in 1860 (and the role of the Electoral College) because these cases were cited by William Riker, to whose arguments this book is an answer.
The book is organized into three general sections, with equal selections for both the North and South: 1) The "Growing Rivalry" between the sections, from 1846 to 1854, largely covers the Mexican War, the Wilmot Proviso, the 1848 election, the Compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave controversy, and the Election of 1852; 2) The growing sectionalism of the decade in the crucial years of "Southern Successes and Northern Anxieties," between 1854 and 1857 gives attention to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the emergence of the Republican Party, as well as the election of 1856; 3) "The Union Comes Apart" deals with the period from 1857 through 1861, and focuses on the Dred Scott decision, John Brown's raid, and secession.