Spot Resolutions

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The spot resolutions were offered in the United States House of Representatives on 22 December 1847 by future President Abraham Lincoln, then a Whig representative from Illinois. The resolutions requested President James K. Polk to provide Congress with the exact location (the "spot") upon which blood was spilt on American soil, as Polk had claimed in 1846 when asking Congress to declare war on Mexico. So persistent was Lincoln in pushing his "spot resolutions" that some began referring to him as "spotty Lincoln." Lincoln's resolutions were a direct challenge to the validity of the president's words, and representative of an ongoing political power struggle between Whigs and Democrats.[1]

Eight resolutions sought specific information; the first: "whether the spot on which the blood of our citizens was shed, as in his messages declared, was or was not within the territory of Spain, at least after the treaty of 1819, until the Mexican revolution." The second: "whether that spot is or is not within the territory which was wrested from Spain by the revolutionary Government of Mexico." The other six resolutions extended the analysis to determine whether the territory on which the casualties occurred was ever under the government or laws of Texas or of the United States. The House of Representatives never acted on Lincoln's resolutions, but they understood the Whig position that President Polk lacked persuasive grounds to begin the war.[2][3]

Lincoln's handwritten 'Spot' Resolutions submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives on December 22, 1847, RG 233, Entry 362: Thirtieth Congress, National Archives Building, Washington, DC

According to Lincoln biographer David Herbert Donald, "nobody paid much attention to his resolutions, which the House neither debated nor adopted". Many Democrats regarded the resolutions as unpatriotic; some Whigs cautioned that criticism of the war would hurt the Whigs politically. Lincoln, however, was not speaking out against the war itself, but rather against Polk's conduct of it. In fact, the Whigs would later nominate Zachary Taylor (a hero of the war) as their candidate, whom Lincoln supported.

In Polk's report, he said that the American soldiers fell on American soil. But, in point of fact, they had actually fallen on disputed territory, between the Rio Grande and Nueces River.


  1. ^ Gerleman, David J. (Winter 2017). "Representative Lincoln at Work: Reconstructing a Legislative Career from Original Archival Documents". The Capitol Dome; the United States Capitol Historical Society. 54 (2): 33-46.
  2. ^ Fisher, Louis (August 18, 2009). "The Mexican War and Lincoln's "Spot Resolutions"" (PDF). The Law Library of Congress. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  3. ^ Abraham Lincoln, Spot Resolutions in the United States House of Representatives, December 22, 1847, National Archives Building, RG 233, Entry 362: Thirtieth Congress, 1847-1849, Records of Legislative Proceedings, Bills and Resolutions Originating in the House, 1847-1849

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