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Wilmot Proviso

From Academic Kids

In the United States, the Wilmot Proviso, first suggested in 1846 and attached to many bills but never passed, would have outlawed slavery in any U.S. territory gained from the Mexican Cession following the recently begun Mexican-American War.

It was assumed that Texas would be the last slave state to enter the Union, leaving California and New Mexico for free labor. The proviso was named for Congressman David Wilmot, a Democrat from Pennsylvania. The Free Soil Party formed in support of the Wilmot Proviso, and their platform of Free Soil was later adopted by the Republican Party.

The proviso pushed the country closer to civil war; it raised questions about slaves that had not been asked previously. Southerners saw slaves as property, and since their rights to property were protected under the Constitution, they believed that they could take slaves where ever they wished. This led to strong opposition to any attempts to bar slavery while the country was expanding. This was one main reason the proviso was never passed.

The amendment was never actually adopted by Congress, and was in fact expressly repudiated in the Compromise of 1850, and its content declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case. Although known as the Wilmot Proviso it really originated with Jacob Brinkerhoff (1810-1880) of Ohio; Wilmot was selected to present it only because his party standing was more regular. The extension of the principle to territory other than that to be acquired from Mexico was probably due to Preston King (1806-1865), a New York senator.

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