The Wilmot Proviso was designed eliminate slavery with the land acquired as a result of the Mexican War (1846-48). Soon after the war began James K. Polk tought the appropriation of $2 million as part of a bill to negotiate the terms of a treaty. Fearing the addition of a pro-slave territory, Pennsylvania Congressman David Wilmot proposed his amendment to the bill. Although the measure was blocked in the southern-dominated Senate, it enflamed the growing controversy over slavery, and its underlying principle helped bring about the formation of the Republican Party in 1854.
When delegates to the Constitutional Convention assembled in Philadelphia in 1787, one of the more daunting tasks that they faced was resolving sectional differences between the North and South centered on the issue of slavery. After weeks of debate proved futile, the delegates negotiated a series of compromises that enabled them to proceed with their primary assignment of forming “a more perfect Union” between the separate states. In the short term, the compromises regarding the status of slavery established in the Constitution facilitated the creation of the new republic (at the expense of blacks held in bondage), but they also sowed the seeds of turmoil that began coming to fruition as the nation expanded west in the coming decade.
As the delegates to the Constitutional Convention set about creating a new government, representatives to government under the Articles of Confederation were meeting held in New York.