On April 8, 1864, the United States Senate passed a resolution proposing an amendment that would abolish slavery throughout America. The House of Representatives initially failed to pass its own resolution and did not do so until January 31, 1865, after much lobbying from President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln understood that the Emancipation Proclamation was merely a war-time measure and one that did not grant slaves freedom in the states that remained loyal to the Union. The only guarantee then of eliminating slavery was through a constitutional amendment. This is the joint resolution Lincoln symbolically signed that submitted the proposed 13th Amendment to the states for ratification. On December 18, 1865, by Secretary of State William H. Seward officially recognized its addition to the Constitution.
- What was the expressed purpose of the proposed 13th Amendment?
- President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation two years and one month earlier. Why then was the 13th Amendment necessary?
- According to Article V of the Constitution, the president has no role in the amendment process, yet Lincoln signed Congress' joint resolution anyway. Why might he have felt it was necessary to do this?
Lincoln, Abraham, "Abraham Lincoln papers: Series 3. General Correspondence. 1837-1897: Congress, Wednesday, February 01, 1865 (Joint Resolution Submitting 13th Amendment to the States; signed by Abraham Lincoln and Congress)," 1 February 1865. Courtesy of Library of Congress