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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Taking a page from history is sobering lesson

  • If you haven't read our weekly history column on today's front page, you might want to take a look.
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    If you haven't read our weekly history column on today's front page, you might want to take a look.
    The column is about David Wilmot, a native of Bethany in Wayne County.
    His story is fascinating.
    He was born into a very comfortable lifestyle and then studied law. He ran a successful law practice in Towanda and became involved in local politics.
    Wilmot then became involved in national politics and became a United State representative, serving for six years on the Congress.
    Wilmot then became involved in the very difficult issue of slavery. His name was listed as author of an amendment which proposed a ban on slavery in any land gained from Mexico following the Mexican-American war.
    Interestingly, Wilmot was not against slavery. He felt by allowing more slavery, it would upset the balance between the free states and the slave states.
    However, the "Wilmot Proviso," as his amendment was known, later became the cornerstone for the Free Soil Party, which would nominate Martin Van Buren for president. That party based its platform on having no more slave states and no more slave territories.
    Many historians believe this was the the first of several issues which eventually led to the Civil War.
    And it began with a man from Bethany.
    Wilmot later went on to become one of the founding members of the Republican Party and lost a bid for governor of Pennsylvania.
    He was later appointed to the U.S. Senate by President Abraham Lincoln but gave up that seat to be appointed by Lincoln to the United States Court of Claims.
    He did all of this before dying at the age of 44.
    Page 2 of 3 - It seems almost surreal that a man from the hamlet of Bethany was such a key player in what would eventually become one of the darkest times in American history.
    It's also fascinating to think how far we have come since those times.
    But is it far enough?
    Today, it would be unthinkable for someone to support slavery.
    However, with the recent controversy surrounding the case of George Zimmerman in Florida, race has once again entered the national spotlight.
    There are distinct sides when it comes to the Zimmerman verdict. But that isn't the real issue which is being debated.
    The real issue comes down to race and it remains a major issue on the national stage.
    Some dismiss President Obama's comments about the case as nothing more than racially charged and political.
    It would be hard to argue there's not some politics involved. But there appears to be deeper issues, as well.
    Only someone of color can really know what it's like to deal with their situation. Others simply cannot relate, though they try very hard to say they can.
    They can't.
    In some ways, it's a sad comment on our society that we are still discussing racial issues. But it's a reality these issues will likely be discussed for decades to come.
    We have come a long way since Dr. Martin Luther King brought this issue to the national forefront some 50 years ago. That fact is indisputable.
    But it's also indisputable the issues remain on the minds of many to this day.
    Apparently, some people are always going to believe they have superiority. That can probably not be changed.
    Page 3 of 3 - Most people, though, have come to understand what true equality really means.
    Maybe David Wilmot didn't believe in that at the time, which was the majority opinion. Were he here today, it's likely he would have a different point of view.
     
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