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 power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Formally abolishing slavery in the United States, the 13th Amendment was passed by the Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the states on December 6, 1865.
The Civil War amendments included the 13th (1865), 14th (1868) and 15th (1870) amendments.
From the Library of Congress:
April 8, 1864 – The Senate passed the 13th Amendment (S.J. Res. 16) by a vote of 38 to 6.
June 15, 1864 – The House of Representatives initially defeated the 13th Amendment (S.J. Res. 16) by a vote of 93 in favor, 65 opposed, and 23 not voting, which is less than the two-thirds majority needed to pass a Constitutional Amendment.
January 31, 1865 – The House of Representatives passed the 13th Amendment (S.J. Res. 16) by a vote of 119 to 56.
February 1, 1865 – President Abraham Lincoln signed a Joint Resolution submitting the proposed 13th Amendment to the states.
December 18, 1865 – Secretary of State William Seward issued a statement verifying the ratification of the 13th Amendment.
Four states ratified post enactment (1865 – 1870), and 27 states were counted as have ratified. Delaware after rejecting ratified on February 12, 1901. Kentucky rejected in 1865 but ratified on, March 18, 1976. Mississippi rejected the amendment, December 4, 1865 and ratified some 148 years later in 1976 although Mississippi failed to notify the US Archivist until 2012, when the ratification finally became official. The territories, not yet granted statehood, eleven in all, could not constitutionally participate in ratification.
The Constitution Center wrote “Lincoln signed 14 copies of the 13th Amendment as a symbol of his enthusiasm and support for the resolution. Soon after, the Senate declared Lincoln’s signature “unnecessary,” rebuking him on the grounds that the president has no constitutional role in proposing or passing constitutional amendments. Article V of the Constitution clearly states that the amendment process belongs jointly to the Congress and the state legislatures. A president lacks the power to propose, vote for, or veto an amendment to the Constitution, which is part of the balance of power established by the Constitution.”
Lincoln, it is true, was known for his disregard of the Constitution during the Civil War.
From the University of Delaware article titled Delaware and the Civil War amendments “There are many topics to investigate in understanding the proposal and ratification of the Civil War amendments. There are questions concerning the constitutionality of the amendments. Questions were raised about the validity of the ratification process, especially for the Fourteenth Amendment, including what states should be counted and can a state withdraw its ratification? There were those who believed the amendments were drafted by secret groups with hidden motives.The nation had endured a devastating war and now had defeated states which had not regained their status in the union and thousands of emancipated people who needed assistance. Also in those years there had been the death of a president, the transition of power to a new president, and an impeachment of that president.
In addition to those widely experienced stresses, Delaware had conditions and situations that set the state apart from the other states. Delaware (just as Maryland, Kentucky, and Tennessee) was a border state, never seceding from the union, yet southern in much of its culture. It was a state where people owned slaves, but the small number of slaves was far exceeded by the number of free blacks (in the 1860 census there were 19, 829 free blacks and 1,798 slaves.) But even with such a small number of slaves, the state did not approve the compensated emancipation plan that Lincoln proposed in 1861. Politics in Delaware in Reconstruction was dominated by the Democratic party and the Democratic party was dominated by two families, the Bayard family in New Castle County (U.S. Senator James Bayard was followed in that office by his son Thomas) and the Saulsbury brothers downstate (Governor Gove Saulsbury, U.S. Senator Willard Saulsbury, brother Eli, who was also Senator.) Racism was powerful motivator for rejecting the amendments and for later situations, such as, preventing blacks from voting. Racism operated on different levels, sometimes subtle and at other times violent. Common themes included inferiority of the black race and a desire for race separation, including colonization/relocation plans for the freedmen. Many opposed the amendments because they feared the centralization of power at the federal level and the diminishment of the powers of the states. These factors and others played a part in Delaware’s rejection of the amendments.”
From Constitution.org they reported “There had been unsuccessful attempts to pass an abolition amendment in Congress before 1865. Representative James Ashley introduced an abolition amendment in 1863. In April 1864 the Senate passed the Thirteenth Amendment, but opposition from Democratic representatives prevented it from receiving the required two-thirds majority in the House. Only after Abraham Lincoln was re-elected in 1864 did Congress approve the amendment.”
The 13th amendment is also, incorrectly, referred to as The Emancipation Amendment and correctly referred to simply the amendment that Abolished of Slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation is quite different than the 13th amendment. The 13th made abolishment of slavery the law of the land.
The Emancipation Proclamation was a proclamation made by Lincoln in 1863. His letter stated “Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit: “That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom. . . .”
Lincoln is credited as “the great emancipator” and rightly so. However at the same time he was an enigma with regards to the issue of slavery. During the times of delivering speeches for President and during debates with his arch rival Steven Douglas. Lincoln left a trail of confusion be it one of expansion of slavery, his support for the Fugitive Slave Act and his general regard for the ‘negro’ and his/her integration in to society of America.
Little known, perhaps to many, there was an amendment that pre-dated the 13th known as the Ghost Amendment also known as the Corwin Amendment (Thomas Corwin, Republican from Ohio). The Ghost Amendment would have been the 13th Amendment.
“No Amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any state, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.” –Joint Resolution of Congress, Adopted March 2, 1861”
The amendment was sought by President James Buchanan and others in hopes to avoid the secession of slave states and thus the Civil War. Do note that the amendment did not use the word slaves, slavery, involuntary servitude nor indentured servant.
In an online article, NPR, Boston, the Cognoscenti, Richard Albert wrote, “The Corwin Amendment was an effort to placate the South and contain secessionist sentiment. It proposed to do three things. First, to protect slavery by giving each state the power to regulate the “domestic institutions” within its borders. This was an enticing carrot for the slave states: stay in the Union and you can keep slavery. Second, to dispossess Congress of the power to “abolish or interfere” with slavery. And third, to make itself unamendable by providing that “no amendment shall be made to the Constitution” that would undo the Corwin Amendment.
After Seward proposed the Corwin Amendment, then newly-elected President Lincoln defended the states’ right to adopt it. In his first inaugural address Lincoln declared that he had “no objection” to the Corwin Amendment, nor that it be made forever unamendable.
The Corwin Amendment won two-thirds support in both the House and the Senate in early 1861. Ohio was the first state to ratify the amendment, and Maryland and Illinois followed suit, but the onset of the Civil War interrupted the states’ ratification of the amendment.”
Constitution.org said “When he first became president, Lincoln supported a Thirteenth Amendment that would have protected slavery (Corwin Amendment) in the states where it existed, but over the course of the Civil War his thinking changed and he became committed to immediate abolition.” The true 13th amendment was championed aggressively by Lincoln in the waning years of the war. Lincoln came to realize that unless it was made the law of the land that slavery would continue in many slave states.
It is clear that Lincoln during the Civil War needed troops for his war and the male negro would fill the shortage. The Emancipation Proclamation aided Lincoln in this effort.
Michael Vorenberg, in his book Final Freedom: The Civil War wrote, “The Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment he wrote “The Emancipation Proclamation, issued in its final form on January 1, 1863, applied only to sections of the United States then under rebellion and out of Union control. It was an important military initiative and justified as a “military necessity.” But the duration and scope of its impact was in question. Congressman George Julian (described as a former (Whig, Free Soil and People’s Parties member and a radical Republican), a strong advocate for emancipation, wrote that “even if the proclamation could have given freedom to the slaves according to its scope, their permanent enfranchisement would not have been secured, because the status of slavery, as it existed under the local laws of the States prior to the war, would have remained after the re-establishment of peace. All emancipated slaves found in those States, or returning to them, would have been subject to slavery as before, for the simple reason that no military proclamation could operate to abolish their municipal laws. Nothing short of a Constitutional amendment could at once give freedom to our black millions and make their re-enslavement impossible…”
There was no real plans by Lincoln nor Congress for how emancipation would be accomplished, how the slaves would be integrated. During the reconstruction era the lack of planning for this monumental problem would play out in destructive ways. This lack of attention by Congress during and after reconstruction remains with us to this day.
The passage of the13th was an enormous victory for Lincoln and he worked hard for its passage. The movie Lincoln does an admiral job depicting the methods he employed to secure its passage.
The African American Registry has a summation of how the Court has ruled since the passage of the 13th Amendment they wrote, “The 13th Amendment has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to include prohibition of public or private racial discrimination in the disposal of property, in making and enforcing contracts, and in private employment. Although specifically directed against slavery, the ban against involuntary servitude (“except as a punishment for crime”) has been viewed by the federal courts as applicable to other conditions of forced labor.”
Lost often in conversation today concerns involuntary servitude. This practice was prominent during the 17th and 18th century. Known as “debt bondage” about half of white immigrants. mostly from Britain and Germany, arrived under contractual agreements to work off their debt. There is a rough estimate made by many that the numbers of indentured rose in numbers to over half million. Runaways were hunted and if found returned. Local courts enforced and settle contract disputes. Involuntary servants who were transported to America were purchased directly from a ships captain.
A piece of trivia. Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lighthorse Lee, both signers of the Declaration of Independence and the infamous Robert E. Lee were all descendants of the once indentured servant, Thomas Lee.
It is worth acknowledging that indentured servitude continues today under sex industry servitude. Women, girls and boys of all races are exported and imported across the globe. Yes it is occurring in the USA, Canada, UK and Europe. All of these countries are consumers and exporters. Ownership of the victims can be traced to organized crime.