Wilmot the Hatchet Man
 
From: bernhard1848@att.net
 
The American South could have dealt with the slavery in its midst in its own time, and perhaps with the sincere help of the North – which eradicated slavery by selling their slaves southward to produce raw cotton for New England mills. No peaceful efforts were forthcoming from the abolitionist fanatics, only hatred, containment and the murderous John Brown.
 
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
www.cfhi.net  
 
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Wilmot the Hatchet Man:
 
“At the time of the Missouri Compromise, anti-slavery Thomas Jefferson, old and dying in his debt-ridden hilltop mansion, had warned the Southerners in Washington that they were making a mistake. Jefferson said that if the South allowed a precedent which admitted the restriction of slavery anywhere, a principle would have been established and the north would use it in gradual encroachments for the restriction of slavery everywhere. Only sixteen years later, his prophesy came true over the admission of Texas and with the rise of an anti-slavery bloc in Washington.
 
The Westerners thought

[President James] Polk had been less aggressively interested in their expansions, in Oregon and California, than in the Southerners’ movements in the Southwest. The Westerners held a long resentment anyway, because the Southerners chronically opposed internal improvements at government expense for the Midwest and free lands to the immigrants. To retaliate, the Westerners made a new issue over slavery in order to create trouble for Southern projects.
 
As their hatchet man the Westerners selected David Wilmot, and you will look in vain for national monuments to this political hack from Pennsylvania. Yet, with one unexplainable gesture, he contributed more to the sectional war than any dedicated patriot. As Wilmot had been an administration wheel horse, his independent act is obscure as to motive, except that he was aware of carrying out the Westerners spitefulness.
 
Specifically (in 1846), to an appropriations bill for the purchase of territory from Mexico, the former wheel horse attached a “proviso” which forbade slavery in any of the new territory to be obtained from Mexico…in the Senate only the aroused Southerners narrowly prevented its becoming law. This Wilmot Proviso alarmed and enraged Southerners of all persuasions. It showed the most Union-loving Nationalists that they were in a fight against containment. The Southern States were to be restricted to their present territory while the North gained new States which would give it majority power.”
 
(The Land They Fought For, Clifford Dowdey, Doubleday & Company, 1955, pp. 31-32)