Wilmot Proviso (1846)

AuthorPaul Finkelman

Page 2908

The proviso was introduced by Congressman David Wilmot (Democrat, Pennsylvania) as an amendment to a $2,000,000 appropriations bill requested by President JAMES K. POLK to finance the Mexican War. The proviso prohibited SLAVERY in any territory acquired from Mexico, thus enabling northern Democrats, like Wilmot, to support the war without supporting slave expansion and more slave states. The proviso passed the HOUSE, but the SENATE adjourned without acting on the appropriations bill. In 1847 the proviso was added to a new $3,000,000 war appropriations bill. The Senate refused to accept the proviso, and in a bitterly debated compromise, the House agreed to the appropriation without the proviso. Despite its failure in Congress, the proviso raised serious constitutional and political issues. Southerners argued that they had contributed to the war effort and ought to be allowed to settle in the conquered territories without any special disabilities. Northerners condemned the war, especially after the defeat of the proviso, as aggression by an expansionist "slave power." The proviso led to the formation of the Free Soil Party, which was committed to...

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