Wilmot, David

David Wilmot was a politician and lawyer known for his commitment to containing slavery, outlined in his influential Wilmot Proviso. Born in 1814, in rural Bethany, Pennsylvania, Wilmot began studying law in the 1830s, when he married Anne Morgan, with whom he raised three children. A Democrat, Wilmot began serving in the U. S. House of Representatives in 1845. During his first term, he proposed an amendment to an appropriations bill calling for the exclusion of slavery from any territory gained from Mexico as a result of the war. Although the amendment passed the House, it failed in the Senate. Despite numerous votes on the Proviso over the next couple of years, the measure did not become law. Wilmot left Congress in 1851. During the 1850s, he served as a judge in Pennsylvania and ran unsuccessfully for governor. Wilmot was a founder of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania and prominent political figure in the years before the Civil War. In 1860, he supported Abraham Lincoln for president. Wilmot returned to Washington and served in the U. S. Senate from 1861-1863, and then received an appointment as a federal judge in the U. S. Court of Claims where he remained until his death in 1868. (By David Gillespie)
Life Span
    Full name
    David Wilmot
    Place of Birth
    Birth Date Certainty
    Death Date Certainty
    Sectional choice
    Free State
    No. of Spouses
    No. of Children
    Randall Wilmot (father), Mary Grant (mother), Anne Morgan (wife, 1836)
    Attorney or Judge
    Relation to Slavery
    White non-slaveholder

    David Wilmot (Congressional Biographical Directory)

    WILMOT, David, a Representative and a Senator from Pennsylvania; born in Bethany, Pa., January 20, 1814; completed preparatory studies in the academy at Aurora, N.Y.; studied law; admitted to the bar of Bradford County, Pa., in 1834 and commenced practice in Towanda, Bradford County, Pa.; elected as a Democrat to the Twenty-ninth, Thirtieth, and Thirty-first Congresses (March 4, 1845-March 3, 1851); was not a candidate for renomination in 1850; was the author of the ‘Wilmot Proviso’ relative to slavery in newly annexed territory; took a leading part in the founding of the Republican Party in 1854; presiding judge of the thirteenth judicial district 1851-1861; unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania in 1857; elected as a Republican to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Simon Cameron and served from March 14, 1861, to March 3, 1863; was not a candidate for reelection in 1862; member of the peace convention of 1861, held in Washington, D.C., in an effort to devise means to prevent the impending war; appointed by President Abraham Lincoln a judge of the United States Court of Claims in 1863 and served until his death in Towanda, Pa., March 16, 1868; interment in Riverside Cemetery.
    "Wilmot, David," Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to Present, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=W000566.

    David Wilmot, Republican Party (American National Biography)

    Helping to organize the initial national Republican meeting in Pittsburgh in February 1856, he chaired the platform committee of the Republican nominating convention in Philadelphia later that year. He vigorously campaigned for the party's nominee, John C. Frémont, and the following year ran unsuccessfully for governor. In both instances Wilmot was closely identified with the Republican position of preventing the expansion of slavery, a stance that, because of the influence of Buchanan, who was now president, was not as popular in Pennsylvania as in many other parts of the North. Wilmot's continued opposition to protective tariffs and the still-nascent state of the Republican party further weakened his candidacy.

    At the Republican convention in Chicago in 1860, Wilmot supported Abraham Lincoln despite the candidacy of fellow Pennsylvanian Simon Cameron. Considered by Lincoln for a cabinet position, he instead was chosen by the legislature for a short Senate term (1861-1863). There his work was undistinguished and was characterized by loyal support of Lincoln's policies. Supportive of the numerous measures weakening slavery, he took special pleasure in the 1862 law that adopted the proviso's principle and banned slavery in all territories. At the conclusion of his Senate term Wilmot was appointed by Lincoln to be a judge on the newly created Court of Claims, on which he served until his death at his home in Towanda.
    Frederick J. Blue, "Wilmot, David," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/04/04-01063.html.
    Chicago Style Entry Link
    Duff, James H. “David Wilmot, the Statesman and Political Leader.” Pennsylvania History 13 (October 1946): 283-289. view record
    Going, Charles Buxton. David Wilmot, Free-Soiler: A Biography of the Great Advocate of the Wilmot Proviso. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1924. view record
    Stenberg, Richard R. "The Motivation of the Wilmot Proviso." Mississippi Valley Historical Review 18, no. 4 (1932): 535-548. view record
    How to Cite This Page: "Wilmot, David," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, https://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/16912.