« السابقةمتابعة »
terests of slavery, and the other to guard those interests from national interference." The process of party reorganization with reference to slavery as the main issue becomes easily traceable during the Mexican War, and the first important phase of it was the struggle over what was termed the Wilmot Proviso. This was an attempt to prevent slavery from following the United States flag southwestward. It proceeded not from the party of opposition to the war, the Whigs, to whom the elections of 1846 had given control of the House, but from the Democracy. The man with whom it originated was Jacob Brinkerhoff, a representative from Ohio, who belonged to the ardent group of dissatisfied followers of Van Buren.” He had vigorously opposed the annexation of Texas, and had sought to amend the resolution for its enactment so as to exclude slavery from the western and northwestern half of the territory annexed.” It is interesting to note that he at that time claimed half the territory to be annexed for the North as a matter of equity; the Wilmot Proviso, however, was based on the denial of a similar claim on behalf of the South. During the progress of the Mexican War Brinkerhoff took advantage of a favorable opportunity to raise again the question relative to slavery in the territory whose acquisition was in prospect. Since his attitude towards annexation had weakened his influence with the Democratic majority, he thought it best that some other member of the party whose record could not so easily be used against him should lead in presenting the subject to Congress. The most suitable person was found in David Wilmot, of Pennsylvania, who was in favor with the South because of his support of the annexation of Texas and his vote for the Walker tariff. Brinkerhoff himself simply wrote the proviso, and Wilmot introduced it.1 Chase said of it that its Democratic origin made it distasteful to the Whigs.2 Strong, of New York, represented it in the House as the device of the Barnburners in that state to promote the interests of that division of the Democracy against those of the administration.3 The circumstances of its origin suggest, if no more, that its introduction was simply a manoeuvre for political advantage in a family quarrel among the Democrats. If there were other members of Congress who could have thrown a clearer light on the birth of the proviso, they did not choose to do so.
*Cf. Chadwick, Causes of the Civil War (Am. Nation, XIX.), chap. iv.
*See his speech on the annexation of Texas, in Cong. Globe, 28 Cong., 2 Sess., 131. *Ibid., 132, 192.
The occasion from which the proviso sprang was Polk's scheme for the acquisition of California and New Mexico by a boundary readjustment which was to be a condition of peace. Slidell's letters to Buchanan of January 14 and February 6, 1846, dwelt upon the financial straits of the Paredes government;1 and in the latter Slidell announced that he had contrived to convey the hint that relief might be had if Paredes would make the proper concession as to boundaries.2 When these letters were received at Washington, President Polk brought before his cabinet the question as to how to obtain the money required as a first payment to relieve the immediate necessities of the Mexican government, in case it should agree to the desired boundary. The cabinet seemed to concur in the view that a considerable amount in cash might induce Paredes to conclude a treaty to which he would not otherwise agree; but Buchanan did not think Congress would make the appropriation.3
1 Wilson, Slave Power, II., 16; see Cong. Globe, 29 Cong., 3 Sess., 353.
2 Chase to J. P. Hale, May 12, 1847, in Warden, Chase, 312-315.
3 Cong. Globe, 29 Cong., 2 Sess., App., 360-363.
Polk then called attention to a similar appropriation made in 1806 for the purchase of the Floridas, and it was finally agreed that he should seek the advice of some of the senators. He had interviews with Allen, chairman of the Senate committee on foreign relations, Benton, and Cass; and they concurred as to the desirability of speedy action by Congress.4 The procedure regarded as wisest was to have the matter discussed by the Senate in executive session and acted on in open session without further debate. Allen and Benton advised that, in order to secure unanimity of action, Calhoun be taken into their confidence. On being consulted by Polk, about April 1, 1846, Calhoun agreed as to the object, but feared that it would become public and embarrass the settlement of the Oregon question,1 and this attitude caused Allen to advise the postponement of the matter for a few days. The amount to be asked was placed at one million dollars. Thus it appears that the president wished quietly to obtain the money for the cash payment required to secure the cession of territory at which he was aiming; the details just stated explain the origin of the plan.
1 House Exec. Docs., 30 Cong., 1 Sess., VII., No. 6o, pp. 51, 57.
2 See p. 223, above.
3 Polk, MS. Diary, March 25, 28, 1846. * Ibid., March 28, 29, 30, 1846.
Dropped for the time on the advice of Allen, the project lay for several months in abeyance. Meanwhile war was declared, and the victories of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma were won. The offer to negotiate made at the time of Santa Anna's return to Mexico2 caused the project of the appropriation for boundary readjustment to be revived. Polk consulted Benton, McDuffie, who had become chairman of the Senate committee on foreign relations, Cass, and Archer, a prominent Whig senator from Virginia and a member of the committee on foreign relations.3 The first three concurred in the plan, and Archer spoke favorably of it; and on August 1 it was unanimously agreed in a cabinet meeting that the advice of the Senate in executive session be asked. The Senate indorsed the plan by a vote of 33 to 19.1 Among those in favor of it were several Whigs, including Corwin and Webster. Polk then had Buchanan address letters to the chairmen of the finance committee of the Senate and the ways and means committee of the House, asking the appropriation; but on learning that the Whig senators who had given their votes in favor of the project threatened to oppose the measure enacting it unless he would openly take responsibility, he sent a message to both houses recommending that they appropriate the amount considered necessary, which had now grown to two millions.
1 Polk, MS. Diary, March 30 and April 3, 1846.
* Seep. 243, above. s Polk, MS. Diary, July 26, 30, 31,1846. 1 Senate Exec. Journal, VII., 139.
The president's message went to Congress August 8, 1846, and the same day a bill was introduced in the House by McKay, chairman of the committee on ways and means, making the appropriation. To this bill was offered the amendment known as the Wilmot Proviso, the language of which was as follows: "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