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Wilmot Proviso of 1846

James Polk

Wilmot Proviso of 1846: James Polk was the 11th American President who served in office from March 4, 1845 to March 4, 1849. One of the important events during his presidency was the Wilmot Proviso.

Definition and Summary of the Wilmot Proviso of 1846
Summary and definition:
The Wilmot Proviso was an amendment to the James Polk appropriations bill to gain funding for the settlement of the Mexican-American War. The Wilmot Proviso was proposed by David Wilmot stating that slavery should be banned in the territories acquired from Mexico, including California.

The Wilmot Proviso opened the issue of slavery to public debate and national politics by avoiding the 1836 "Gag Rule".

What is a Proviso?
Definition of a Proviso: A proviso is an article or clause  by which a condition, amendment, precondition or stipulation is introduced. A conditional stipulation that affects a proposal, agreement, contract, law or grant. A proviso usually begins with the word 'provided'.

What was the Wilmot Proviso of 1846?
The Wilmot Proviso was a proposal by Democratic representative David Wilmot (1814 - 1868) of Pennsylvania in response to President James Polk request to Congress in August 1846 for $2 million to help him negotiate peace and settle the boundary with Mexico. David Wilmot
attached his proposal, known as the Wilmot Proviso, to President James K. Polk's funding measure.

What did the Wilmot Proviso propose?
The original text of Wilmot Proviso is as follows:
"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."

The Wilmot Proviso was attached as an amendment to the $2million appropriations bill and proposed: To ban slavery in the territories acquired from Mexico, including California

When was the Wilmot Proviso introduced?
The amendment known as the Wilmot Proviso was introduced in the US Congress on August 8,1846, just after the start of the
Mexican-American War that began on April 25, 1846.

What was the Purpose of the Wilmot Proviso?
The status of the territories regarding slavery had not been decided by the beginning of the American-Mexican War. The purpose of the Wilmot Proviso was to stipulate that none of the territory acquired in the Mexican War should be open to slavery. David Wilmot and other angry northerners felt that the entire Cabinet of James Polk and its policies were dominated by pro-slavery supporters of the south and the purpose of the Wilmot Proviso was therefore to voice the anti-slavery views of the north.

The First Wilmot Proviso Amendment stalled in the Senate
Many had agreed that Texas should be be a slave state and that Oregon should be free state but the North believed that California and Mexico should be a free state. The amended appropriations bill, with the Wilmot Proviso, was passed in the House of Representatives. The north was more populous and therefore had more Representatives in the House which enabled them to pass the Wilmot Proviso. However, the law required the approval of both houses of Congress before it could be passed. It stalled in the Senate where the South had greater representation.

The Wilmot Proviso Amendment: The Gag Rule
The Wilmot Proviso had been stalled in the Senate but it had managed to inject the controversial slavery issue into the funding debate. Up to this point the subject of slavery had been totally avoided in Congress by the "Gag Rule". The 1836 Gag Rule had stated:

"All petitions, memorials, resolutions, propositions, or papers, relating in any way, or to any extent whatsoever, to the subject of slavery or the abolition of slavery, shall, without being either printed or referred, be laid on the table"

So by attaching the Wilmot Proviso to the Funding Bill David Wilmot had circumnavigated the "Gag Rule".

Defeat of the Second Wilmot Proviso Amendment
When the next Congress convened, a new appropriations bill for $3 million was presented by President James Polk and the Wilmot Proviso was again attached to the bill. The House of Representatives again passed the bill and this time the Senate was forced to consider the proposal. Under the leadership of Senator John C. Calhoun, and other pro-slavery senators, the Senate refused to accept the second Wilmot Proviso, approving the funds for negotiations in the American-Mexican War without the proviso.

The Wilmot Proviso Impact and Effects
The impact and effects of the Wilmot Proviso were:

US American History
1841-1850: Westward Expansion

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