Spot Resolutions (1847)

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Congressman abraham lincoln (Whig, Illinois) introduced a series of eight resolutions in the House of Representatives on December 22, 1847. Intended to show the illegality of the Mexican War, the resolutions were in the form of interrogatories, challenging President james k. polk to name the exact spot upon which American blood was first shed in the war and to concede that that spot was on soil rightfully claimed by Mexico. The contention of the northern Whigs, including Lincoln, was that Polk had used his power as commander-in-chief of the Army to provoke the Mexicans into war in order to seize new territory into which slavery could be extended.

In a brilliant speech in January 1848 Lincoln explained that accurate answers to his interrogatories would demonstrate that "the War with Mexico was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President." He claimed that the President had usurped Congress's constitutional power to declare war and disputed Polk's claim that Congress, by appropriating money for the conduct of the war, had sanctioned its commencement.

The Spot Resolutions, like the wilmot proviso, were meant to embarrass the administration by linking the Mexican War with the slave power in the public mind. The House tabled Lincoln's resolutions but passed another resolution condemning Polk's conduct.

Dennis J. Mahoney


Josephy, Alvin M., Jr. 1975 History of the Congress of the United States. Pages 188–193. New York: American Heritage Publishing Co.