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“Hon. David Wilmot,” Harper’s Weekly, 1857

David Wilmot represented Pennsylvania in the House (1845–1851) and later in the Senate (1861–1863). His proviso heightened sectionalism in Congress.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

“Hon. David Wilmot,” Harper’s Weekly, 1857

Slavery in the West

Westward expansion stoked tensions in Congress as Northern and Southern factions disputed whether to allow slavery in new territories. In 1846, during the Mexican War, Representative David Wilmot of Pennsylvania attempted to limit slavery in the West through an amendment to a war appropriations bill. His proviso, banning slavery in any territories acquired from Mexico, passed the House but not the Senate. The Wilmot Proviso––included in subsequent House bills but never enacted—kept slavery at the forefront of congressional debate.