Who is the Author of the Wilmot Proviso?

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Who Wrote the Wilmot Proviso?

Katey Hodges
Roberta Crownover
US History
April 17th 2013

The Wilmot Proviso is a very interesting document. It was written by a congressman in 1847, but the question that stays a mystery, is which congressman? Most see this document as it’s written, and think the obvious, David Wilmot must have written it, due to its name. Although this may seem just, assistant professor of history at Columbia University, Eric Foner, argues much differently. There is theory, that Wilmot was not the author of the Wilmot Proviso, but the spokesperson. The true author of the Wilmot Proviso, is Jacob Brinkerhoff. In his document of The Wilmot Proviso Revised, he hypothesizes that possibly David Wilmot may not be the author of this Proviso, but member of the House of Representatives, Jacob Brinkerhoff of Ohio claims to be the true author of the Proviso. There is also another author, Charles Buxton Going that argues Wilmot is truly the author of the Wilmot Proviso. Both authors have very legitimate arguments to this mystery. Although there are a myriad of reasons why Wilmot is potentially the original author of The Wilmot Proviso including Charles Buxton Going’s ideas to convince historians of Wilmot’s authority over the Wilmot Proviso, Foner presents the many reasons why he may not be. In Foner’s exert from The Wilmot Proviso Revised, he brings up the ideas of congressmen rewriting the Proviso in their own writing in order to be the spokesperson, and Brinkerhoff’s claim of being the true author.

There are many reasons for both sides of who is the true author of the Proviso. Charles Buxton Going seemed to be able to convince many people with the idea that David Wilmot was the true author, even after they decided that it was Brinkerhoff. Going brought up the idea that it had to have been Wilmot because it was written in his own handwriting. He also said that the reason he wrote the Proviso, was because it was a humanitarian act, where the United States decided that slavery needed to end before expanding any further westward, and David Wilmot agreed. This was interesting considering the fact that in the past, Wilmot gave no signs of antislavery thoughts, and then the Proviso was presented. I believe that Going does not have a solid enough claim to this idea that Wilmot is the true author of the Wilmot Proviso, he has many points that may seem just, but with further research they seem very inadequate.

For instance, Going said that it had to have been Wilmot because it was in his own handwriting, but Foner counteracts that claim in saying that at the time the Proviso was presented, many congressmen wrote the Proviso in their own handwriting in case they got to be the spokesperson to announce the readings. So the fact that it is written in his handwriting does account for ideas, the fact that there are multiple “original copies” of the Proviso written in different handwritings makes us second guess on Going’s ideas of Wilmot. Secondly, I don’t believe that the Proviso was written by Wilmot due to Going’s ideas, is that Going’s excuse for the fact of no previous antislavery acts were done by Wilmot before the Proviso. Wilmot was more on the loyal side and did not say much about slavery before the point of the presentation of the Proviso. Going came to the conclusion that it was a humanitarian act, where most should see it as a sign that he is not the true author. One more idea that is brought up by Going as to why Wilmot was the author of the Proviso instead of Brinkerhoff, is the idea that at the time the Wilmot Proviso was presented, was the time that the President requested for funds, so that he could begin a peace treaty with Mexico. Going believed that this was the perfect time for Wilmot to present his information to the House of Representatives. Although this may be a good account, and good reasoning to write the Proviso, it is still questioned due to the fact that Brinkerhoff could have done the...
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