shrank at the last from an extension which might after a struggle leave them relatively weaker.
The purpose of Polk
's Administration to acquire territory from Mexico
was manifested early in the war, and even before.
The President, in August, 1846, signified to Congress that a cession from Mexico
was a probable mode of concluding peace, and with that purpose in view called for two millions of dollars.
An appropriation bill being reported in the House
moved, August 8, an amendment, known afterwards as the ‘Wilmot Proviso,’ prohibiting slavery forever in the territory to be acquired.
It passed the House
with the general support of both Northern Whigs and Democrats, but a vote was prevented in the Senate by ‘the unseasonable loquacity’ of John Davis
, who was still talking when the session expired.1
The struggle was renewed at the next session, 1846-1847, on appropriation bills providing the means for negotiating a treaty; but though the Proviso at different times passed the House
, in which the Northern
members were largely in a majority, it was as often rejected in the Senate, which was more equally divided between the sections, and less susceptible to popular pressure.
Uniformly the House
receded from its position, and the Proviso was lost.
Thus the question was left open for the national election of 1848.
When the issue of freedom or slavery for the new territory had been sharply drawn, a considerable body of the Whigs
generally, and the Northern
to a large extent—sought to escape it by a declaration against any acquisition from Mexico
This proposition was made in the Senate by Berrien
, a Whig, in February, 1847, expressly, as he said, in the interest of the South
; it was favored by other Southern men as a mode of allaying sectional agitation; and in the North
, Whig politicians accepted it as a, device for keeping the peace within the party.
earnestly advocated it;2 Corwin
gave it later his sanction as a way of avoiding a direct issue on the Wilmot Proviso
in the House
and the Northern Whig
press very generally adopted it as a politic solution of a vexed question.
The proposition, as it came from Berrien
in the Senate and from Winthrop
in the House
, was lost by a vote