Congress passed the 13th Amendment on January 31, 1865. It read “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.”. When Lincoln was first elected, the Southern States would secede from the Union, as the Democrats wanted their states to be able to continue the lawful practice. President Abraham Lincoln’s goal was to keep the United States of America intact, but as enslaved people escaped, the Union protected them. Rather than returning them to their owners, slavery essentially ended where the Union Army was victorious. Hundreds of thousands, both black and white gave their lives to win that war.
In September 1862, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all enslaved people in States that were in rebellion against the Union. This measure opened the issue of what to do about slavery in border states that had not seceded or in areas that had been captured by the Union before the proclamation. In 1864, an amendment abolishing slavery passed in the Senate but died in the House as southern Democrats had rallied in the name of states’ rights. In 1864, Lincoln was reelected and it appeared the amendment was headed for passage when the new Congress convened in March 1865, as Lincoln wanted with bipartisan support. The amendment passed 119 to 56 barely above the necessary two-thirds majority. The 13th Amendment was sent to the states for ratification, and with the passage of the amendment, an institution which had shaped America’s history ended.
When Lincoln was assassinated in April of 1865 thousands of the former enslaved rose up to erect a monument to their fallen hero. Raising funds, they dedicated a monument to Lincoln, on the 11th Anniversary of his assassination, the first such monument ever placed in Washington, D.C. as it was totally funded by black Americans. The monument features Lincoln with Archer Alexander, seen rising with his newfound freedom before him. Archer was a former slave born in Rockbridge County, Virginia in 1806. He had been taken to Missouri in 1829, and in 1863 became a fugitive after informing the Union Army of a plot by his Confederate master. The Western Sanitary Commission which had worked diligently with the Freedman’s Bureau and the U.S. Colored Troops during the war, would help the enslaved see their monument erected.
The 13th Amendment was ratified on December 6th, 1865. On October 20, 1940 the U.S. Post Office would commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment with a 3-cent stamp, the second to ever feature an African American.
One response to “The 13th Amendment”
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