Historical Markers
David Wilmot Historical Marker
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David Wilmot

Poconos / Endless Mountains


Marker Location:
US 6 (York Ave.) above Barstow Ave., Towanda

Dedication Date:
May 12, 1947

Behind the Marker

Head and shoulders, black and white formal photograph.
Senator David Wilmot, 1862.
David Wilmot (1814-1868) of Pennsylvania gained the reputation as a "great Free-Soiler" when as a freshman congressman in 1846 he introduced an amendment that would have prohibited slavery from any of the land acquired during war with Mexico. The House adopted the amendment but the Senate failed to approve it. The Wilmot Proviso was never enacted as a law. It was significant, however, in signaling a change in party alignments.

Wilmot was part of a small group of northern Democrats in the House who opposed slavery and who were willing to defy their national party leadership over the controversial subject. They joined forces with northern Whigs, like Lincoln, to support "free soil" policies aimed at stopping the spread of slavery in western lands.

This coalition in the late 1840s later evolved during the 1850s into the new Republican Party. Wilmot played a key role in the rise of the Republican Party, organizing Pennsylvania's first Republican State Convention and serving on the National Executive Committee.

The Wilmot Proviso was not a statement about racial equality. Wilmot himself described the resolution as the "White Man's Proviso," arguing that he wanted to protect western territories for "my own race and own color."

Wilmot left Congress after three terms and failed in his bid to become governor of Pennsylvania in 1857, losing the election to Democrat William F. Packer. For three years during the Civil War, he represented Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate (1861-1863), filling out the term of markerSimon Cameron, who left to become Secretary of War. Concerned about his family's financial well being, Wilmot then requested and received an appointment from President Lincoln as a federal judge, which offered greater salary and security.

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