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Wilmot Proviso

David Wilmot
The text of the Wilmot Proviso, an anti-slavery amendment originally offered to a special appropriations bill on August 8, 1846, was deceptively simple: "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."  Wimot was a freshman Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania.  The language was borrowed in part from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.  The proviso itself was never passed into law during the Mexican War, though it was later adopted by the US Congress and signed into law by President Lincoln during the Civil War.  Lincoln claimed that as a single term congressman himself in 1847 and 1848 that he had voted for the proviso "at least forty times."  The language on slavery was  incorporated into the final text of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which abolished slavery in 1865.  By that point, Wilmot, now a Republican, was a federal judge in Pennsylvania.  (By Matthew Pinsker)


How to Cite This Page: "Wilmot Proviso," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,