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A Congressman "Pleads the Case of White Men"

In 1847, Representative David Wilmot of Pennsylvania made a speech (excerpted below) to the House of Representatives in which he proposed a legislative amendment that would ban slavery from any territory acquired as a result of the war with Mexico. The amendment came to be known as the Wilmot Proviso.

I make no war upon the South nor upon slavery in the South. I have no squeamish sensitiveness upon the subject of slavery, nor morbid sympathy for the slave. I plead the cause of the rights of white freemen. I would preserve for free white labor a fair country, a rich inheritance, where the sons of toil, of my own race and own color, can live without the disgrace which association with negro slavery brings upon free labor. I stand for the inviolability of free territory. It shall remain free, so far as my voice or vote can aid in the preservation of its character.

. . . O, for the honor of the North for the fair fame of our green hills and valleys, be firm in this crisis be true to your country and your race. The white laborer of the North claims your service; he demands that you stand firm to his interests and his rights; that you preserve the future homes of his children, on the distant shores of the Pacific, from the degradation and dishonor of negro servitude. Where the negro slave labors, the free white man cannot labor by his side without sharing in his degradation and disgrace.

Source | Congressional Globe, 29th Congress, 2d sess., 1847, Appendix, p. 317; reprinted in William E. Gienapp, ed., The Civil War and Reconstruction: A Documentary Collection (W. W. Norton, 2001), 17-18.
Creator | David Wilmot
Item Type | Speech
Cite This document | David Wilmot, “A Congressman "Pleads the Case of White Men",” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed September 22, 2023,

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