Description[Slavery: Wilmot Proviso] Associate Justice John McLean Autograph Letter Draft Unsigned. Two pages, two-sided, 8" x 13", Washington, January 5, 1848. In this lengthy draft letter, Associate Justice John McLean discusses the Wilmot proposed legislation with U.S. Congressional Representative John G. Palfrey, one of seven determined anti-slavery advocates in Congress at the time. McLean's letter reads, in part: "The public attention has been directed to the Wilmot Proviso, as the best, if not the only affectual means of preventing the extension of slavery. Can that motion be carried. It may be helped, perhaps by the House of Representatives, but will not the Senate reject it. This is the general impression and I think it is well founded. The administration has, as you know, a decided majority in the Senate; and that majority, with very few exceptions, will vote against the proviso. And those who oppose it may sustain themselves before the people on the ground that congress has no constitutional power to act on the subject."
The 1846 Wilmot Proviso was a bold attempt by opponents of slavery to prevent its introduction in the territories purchased from Mexico following the Mexican-American War. Named after its sponsor, Democratic Representative David Wilmot of Pennsylvania, the proviso never passed both houses of Congress, but it did ignite an intense national debate over slavery that led to the creation of the antislavery Republican Party in 1854. Letter is moderately age toned and bears numerous corrections and strike-outs. Excellent content on an important social issue. Fine condition.
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