The Abolition of Slavery 1865 – Amendment
The 13th Amendment is legally accepted into the United States Constitution after being ratified by three-quarters of the states earlier in the month. It ensures that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude… shall exist within the United States, or any area subject to their authority.”
Before the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and other anti-slavery Republican Party leaders wanted to halt slavery from spreading into new territories and states in the American West, not abolish it. Most Southern leaders objected to this program, believing that the emergence of free states would irreversibly tilt the US power structure against them.
The election of Abraham Lincoln as president in November 1860 precipitated the secession of seven Southern states and the foundation of the Confederate States of America. The Civil War broke out shortly after his inauguration in 1861. Four additional slave states in the upper South joined the Confederacy, while four border slave states remained in the Union.
Though he despised slavery, Lincoln reacted warily to abolitionists’ desire for the freedom of all enslaved Americans once the Civil War broke out. However, as the war progressed, the Republican-controlled federal government began to see the strategic benefits of emancipation: the liberation of enslaved people would weaken the Confederacy by depriving it of a large portion of its labor force, while strengthening the Union by bringing in more manpower. With 11 Southern states seceding from the Union, there were few pro-slavery legislators to oppose the move.
In 1862, Congress repealed the fugitive slave laws, outlawed slavery in the United States’ territories, and gave Lincoln permission to hire former slaves in the army. Following the momentous Union victory at Antietam in September, Lincoln warned that on New Year’s Day, he would issue an emancipation proclamation for those states remaining in rebellion.
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on that day, January 1, 1863, ordering the Union army to free all enslaved persons in states remaining in rebellion as “an act of justice, authorized by the Constitution, upon military necessity.” “Then, thenceforward, and permanently free,” these three million enslaved individuals were declared. The border states that stayed in the Union, as well as all or portions of three Confederate states controlled by the Union troops, were exempted from the proclamation.
As Lincoln noted in his Gettysburg Address in 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation changed the Civil Battle from a struggle against secession to a war for “a fresh birth of freedom.” The Union was able to enroll the 180,000 African American soldiers and sailors who volunteered to fight between January 1, 1863, and the war’s end due to this ideological shift, which inhibited France or England from intervening on the Confederacy’s side.
As the Confederacy began to crumble, Lincoln understood that the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued as a war measure, could not have had much constitutional power after the war was ended. The Republican Party then submitted the 13th Amendment to Congress, which was approved by two-thirds of the predominantly Republican Senate in April 1864. The amendment was not passed by a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives, which had a greater number of Democrats, until January 1865, three months before Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox.
Alabama became the 27th state to ratify the 13th Amendment on December 2, 1865, giving it the required three-fourths majority of states’ support to become the law of the land. As a condition of re-admission into the Union, Alabama, a former Confederate state, was required to adopt the amendment. The 13th Amendment was ratified into the Constitution on December 18, 246 years after the first shipload of captured Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, to be bought as enslaved laborers.
The legacy of slavery and efforts to abolish it have remained major problems in American culture and politics, especially throughout the post-Civil War Reconstruction era and the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
The Fourteenth Amendment (1868).
The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law (Sterling Milestones) Hardcover – Illustrated, 22 Oct. 2015, English edition by Michael H. Roffer (Autor)