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[159] 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, Wilmot of Pennsylvania 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 of Massachusetts, 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—the Southern 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 of Georgia, 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. Webster earnestly advocated it;2 Corwin gave it later his sanction as a way of avoiding a direct issue on the Wilmot Proviso;3 Winthrop in the House supported it;4 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

1 Von Holst, vol. III. pp. 287-289. ‘Davis's long speech was certainly a ridiculous folly as well as a grave mistake.’

2 Speeches of March 1, 1847, and March 23, 1848. Webster's Works, vol. v. pp. 253, 271.

3 At Carthage, Ohio, September, 1847. Boston ‘Whig,’ Oct. 7, 1847.

4 Feb. 22, 1847. ‘Addresses and Speeches,’ vol. i. p. 589.

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