The Wilmot Proviso

As the end of the War with Mexico neared members of the House and Senate began to prepare to buy territories. Specifically, a bill was introduced in Congress called the War Appropriation Bill of 1846. This bill provided $2 million so that President Polk could buy California and Texas from Mexico. In preparation for the controversy that soon awaited over whether these new territories should be declared slave states or free states David Wilmot proposed an amendment to War Appropriation Bill of 1846. A Democrat representing Pennsylvania in the House of Representatives, Wilmot’s amendment called that slavery in all the newly purchased territory be outlawed. Although the bill passed in the House of Representatives yet failed in the Senate it still managed to have an impact on the Civil War.
One effect the Wilmot Proviso had was that it created much bitterness between the North and South in the Congress. Many Northerners wanted the Wilmot Proviso to pass. Southerners on the other hand thought it was an unconstitutional bill. Many of the Southerners who were against the Wilmot Proviso owned slaves and saw them merely as property. Therefore, these slaveholders argued that the Constitution gave equal property rights to all U.S. citizens.


The Wilmot Proviso also crystallized the overall conflict over slavery. In addition, the Wilmot Proviso split both Whigs and Democrats along sectional lines. The final effect of the Wilmot Proviso is that it motivated many anti-slavery groups to voice their opinions against slavery.