The Thirteenth Amendment

Lincoln by George H. Story c1915

Lincoln by George H. Story c. 1915

President Abraham Lincoln was concerned that the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation would be nullified after the war. He resolved to abolish slavery, nationally and permanently, by a constitutional amendment, the thirteenth.

On February 10, 1864, the Senate Judiciary Committee presented a proposed amendment to the Senate, and on April 8, 1864, it received a favorable vote by a margin of 38 to 6. But in the House, the vote failed, with 93 in favor and 65 against, 13 short of the necessary two-thirds. The split was chiefly along party lines. Lincoln’s party, the Republicans, voted in support, the Democrats in opposition.

Lincoln directed Secretary of State William H. Seward and Representative John B. Alley, among other allies, to secure votes by any means necessary, including quid pro quo promises and bribes.

On January 31, 1865, the House finally passed the addition to the Constitution by a vote 119 to 56.

The final amendment stated:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Pennsylvania Representative Thadeus Stevens remarked that “the greatest measure in the nineteenth century was passed by corruption, aided and abetted by the purest man in America. “

The amendment was sent to the states on February 1, 1865. Lincoln was assassinated April 14, 1865. Eight months after his death, on December 6, 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment became part of the Constitution when 27 of the 36 states ratified the addition, thereby invalidating the Three-Fifths Compromise, the Fugitive Slave clause, and the Dred Scott Decision. Former slaves were free, but their rights,and their lives, remained in jeopardy.

Posted in Slavery and The Constitution.