Wilmot Proviso

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Wilmot Proviso,

1846, amendment to a bill put before the U.S. House of Representatives during the Mexican War; it provided an appropriation of $2 million to enable President Polk to negotiate a territorial settlement with Mexico. David WilmotWilmot, David,
1814–68, American legislator, b. Bethany, Pa. As a Democratic Congressman (1845–51) he became widely known as the author of the famous Wilmot Proviso, which helped build up sectional animosity before the Civil War.
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 introduced an amendment to the bill stipulating that none of the territory acquired in the Mexican War should be open to slavery. The amended bill was passed in the House, but the Senate adjourned without voting on it. In the next session of Congress (1847), a new bill providing for a $3-million appropriation was introduced, and Wilmot again proposed an antislavery amendment to it. The amended bill passed the House, but the Senate drew up its own bill, which excluded the proviso. The Wilmot Proviso created great bitterness between North and South and helped crystallize the conflict over the extension of slavery. In the election of 1848 the terms of the Wilmot Proviso, a definite challenge to proslavery groups, were ignored by the Whig and Democratic parties but were adopted by the Free-Soil partyFree-Soil party,
in U.S. history, political party that came into existence in 1847–48 chiefly because of rising opposition to the extension of slavery into any of the territories newly acquired from Mexico.
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. Later the Republican party also favored excluding slavery from new territories.


See C. W. Morrison, Democratic Politics and Sectionalism (1967).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Wilmot Proviso


an amendment, introduced in the US Congress on Aug. 8,1846, by Representative D. Wilmot, that was attached to an appropriation bill giving President J. Polk $2 million to negotiate peace with Mexico and procure Mexican land. The Wilmot Proviso prohibited the establishment of slavery in any territory acquired from Mexico during the Mexican War (1846–48). Although the proviso was passed twice by the House of Representatives, it was rejected by the Senate, which reflected the deep division in the United States over the issue of slavery.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Most historians date the origins of popular sovereignty to 1847, when it emerged as an alternative to the Wilmot Proviso that moderates in the North and South could embrace.
Calhoun and his allies believed this outcome worse than the Wilmot Proviso itself.
Fehrenbacher provides the most cogent analysis of the Calhoun position, showing how he countered the Wilmot Proviso with his own reinterpretation of constitutional law concerning slavery in the territories.
(28) In sum, the Wilmot Proviso threatened to sunder the Democracy.
Because Dickinson explicitly stated that territorial legislatures could determine the status of slavery, Quaife argues, southerners "concentrated a fire of adverse criticism against him, or rather against the doctrine contained in his speech." (30) Southern Democrats defied the New Yorker because he gave popular sovereignty an antislavery interpretation, but they still affirmed a states' rights version of the doctrine, which they believed would kill the Wilmot Proviso.
Several southern states addressed the issue circumspectly, choosing to pass bland resolutions condemning the Wilmot Proviso and asserting southern rights.
Some southerners considered popular sovereignty an entirely suitable compromise doctrine, while men like Calhoun and Yancey viewed the doctrine as worse than the Wilmot Proviso. Some Whigs had showed measured enthusiasm for popular sovereignty, while others had rallied behind Delaware senator John Clayton's plan to let the Supreme Court adjudicate the issue.
In 1846, the Wilmot Proviso shifted a debate between political parties over war and expansion into a sectional controversy over the extension of slavery.
He was initially a Whig, left the party in 1848 when it refused to affirm the Wilmot Proviso (prohibiting slavery in the areas taken from Mexico) and became one of the founders of the Free Soil Party, organized at an 1848 convention in Buffalo and naming Martin Van Buren as its presidential candidate.
Lincoln surely admired Clay, as Unger tirelessly reminds readers, but they never learn that Clay opposed the Wilmot Proviso and in his last public utterance denounced any attempt to turn his Whigs into a "contemptible Abolition party." The book concludes with the weird assertion that "Henry Clay's Union survived the carnage" of a civil war that killed 650,000 (not 750,000), abolished slavery, and devastated half the country (264).
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).
He supported the Wilmot Proviso and opposed the extension of slavery into the territories.