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.
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.
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