13th Amendment to the Constitution

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13th Amendment Facts

13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibits slavery:

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution declared that "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude...shall exist within the United States." 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.

Section 1. 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.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Proposal and Ratification

The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was proposed to the legislatures of the several states by the Thirty-eighth United States Congress, on January 31, 1865. The amendment was ratified by the legislatures of twenty-seven of the thirty-six states on December 6, 1865. (It was ratified by the necessary three-quarters of the states within one year of its proposal.) Mississippi, however, which was the last of the thirty-six states in existence in 1865, ratified it in 1995. The dates of ratification were: 

# State Date
1 Illinois Feb 1, 1865
2 Rhode Island Feb 2, 1865
3 Michigan Feb 3, 1865
4 Maryland Feb 3, 1865
5 New York Feb 3, 1865
6 Pennsylvania Feb 3, 1865
7 West Virginia Feb 3, 1865
8 Missouri Feb 6, 1865
9 Maine Feb 7, 1865
10 Kansas Feb 7, 1865
11 Massachusetts Feb 7, 1865
12 Virginia Feb 9, 1865
13 Ohio Feb 10, 1865
14 Indiana Feb 13, 1865
15 Nevada Feb 16, 1865
16 Louisiana Feb 17, 1865
17 Minnesota Feb 23, 1865
18 Wisconsin Feb 24, 1865
19 Vermont Mar 8, 1865
20 Tennessee Apr 7, 1865
21 Arkansas Apr 14, 1865
22 Connecticut May 4, 1865
23 New Hampshire Jul 1, 1865
24 South Carolina Nov 13, 1865
25 Alabama Dec 2, 1865
26 North Carolina Dec 4, 1865
27 Georgia Dec 6, 1865
28 Oregon Dec 8, 1865
29 California Dec 19, 1865
30 Florida Dec 28, 1865
31 Iowa Jan 15, 1866
32 New Jersey Jan 23, 1866
33 Texas Feb 18, 1870
34 Delaware Feb 12, 1901
35 Kentucky Mar 18, 1976
36 Mississippi Mar 16, 1995

Sources: Library of Congress (Primary Documents in American History); U.S. Constitution Online; National Park Service

Recommended Reading: Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America (Simon & Schuster) (2008) (Hardcover). Description: In 1858, Abraham Lincoln was known as a successful Illinois lawyer who had achieved some prominence in state politics as a leader in the new Republican Party. Two years later, he was elected president and was on his way to becoming the greatest chief executive in American history. What carried this one-term congressman from obscurity to fame was the campaign he mounted for the United States Senate against the country's most formidable politician, Stephen A. Douglas, in the summer and fall of 1858. Lincoln challenged Douglas directly in one of his greatest speeches -- "A house divided against itself cannot stand" -- and confronted Douglas on the questions of slavery and the inviolability of the Union in seven fierce debates. As this brilliant narrative by the prize-winning Lincoln scholar Allen Guelzo dramatizes, Lincoln would emerge a predominant national figure, the leader of his party, the man who would bear the burden of the national confrontation. Continued below... 

Of course, the great issue between Lincoln and Douglas was slavery. Douglas was the champion of "popular sovereignty," of letting states and territories decide for themselves whether to legalize slavery. Lincoln drew a moral line, arguing that slavery was a violation both of natural law and of the principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence. No majority could ever make slavery right, he argued. Lincoln lost that Senate race to Douglas, though he came close to toppling the "Little Giant," whom almost everyone thought was unbeatable. Guelzo's Lincoln and Douglas brings alive their debates and this whole year of campaigns and underscores their centrality in the greatest conflict in American history. The encounters between Lincoln and Douglas engage a key question in American political life: What is democracy's purpose? Is it to satisfy the desires of the majority? Or is it to achieve a just and moral public order? These were the real questions in 1858 that led to the Civil War. They remain questions for Americans today.

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Recommended Reading: The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics. Publishers Weekly: The perennial tension between principle and pragmatism in politics frames this engaging account of two Civil War Era icons. Historian Oakes (Slavery and Freedom) charts the course by which Douglass and Lincoln, initially far apart on the antislavery spectrum, gravitated toward each other. Lincoln began as a moderate who advocated banning slavery in the territories while tolerating it in the South, rejected social equality for blacks and wanted to send freedmen overseas—and wound up abolishing slavery outright and increasingly supporting black voting rights. Conversely, the abolitionist firebrand Douglass moved from an impatient, self-marginalizing moral rectitude to a recognition of compromise, coalition building and incremental goals as necessary steps forward in a democracy. Continued below...

Douglass's views on race were essentially modern; the book is really a study through his eyes of the more complex figure of Lincoln. Oakes lucidly explores how political realities and military necessity influenced Lincoln's tortuous path to emancipation, and asks whether his often bigoted pronouncements represented real conviction or strategic concessions to white racism. As Douglass shifts from denouncing Lincoln's foot-dragging to revering his achievements, Oakes vividly conveys both the immense distance America traveled to arrive at a more enlightened place and the fraught politics that brought it there. AWARDED FIVE STARS by americancivilwarhistory.org


Recommended Reading: Lincoln and Freedom: Slavery, Emancipation, and the Thirteenth Amendment (Hardcover). Description: Lincoln’s reelection in 1864 was a pivotal moment in the history of the United States. The Emancipation Proclamation had officially gone into effect on January 1, 1863, and the proposed Thirteenth Amendment had become a campaign issue. Lincoln and Freedom: Slavery, Emancipation, and the Thirteenth Amendment captures these historic times, profiling the individuals, events, and enactments that led to slavery’s abolition. Fifteen leading Lincoln scholars contribute to this collection, covering slavery from its roots in 1619 Jamestown, through the adoption of the Constitution, to Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. Continued below…

This comprehensive volume, edited by Harold Holzer and Sara Vaughn Gabbard, presents Abraham Lincoln’s response to the issue of slavery as politician, president, writer, orator, and commander-in-chief. Topics include the history of slavery in North America, the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision, the evolution of Lincoln’s view of presidential powers, the influence of religion on Lincoln, and the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation. This collection effectively explores slavery as a Constitutional issue, both from the viewpoint of the original intent of the nation’s founders as they failed to deal with slavery, and as a study of the Constitutional authority of the commander-in-chief as Lincoln interpreted it. Addressed are the timing of Lincoln’s decision for emancipation and its effect on the public, the military, and the slaves themselves. Other topics covered include the role of the U.S. Colored Troops, the election campaign of 1864, and the legislative debate over the Thirteenth Amendment. The volume concludes with a heavily illustrated essay on the role that iconography played in forming and informing public opinion about emancipation and the amendments that officially granted freedom and civil rights to African Americans. Lincoln and Freedom provides a comprehensive political history of slavery in America and offers a rare look at how Lincoln’s views, statements, and actions played a vital role in the story of emancipation.


Recommended Reading: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (944 pages) (Simon & Schuster). Description: The life and times of Abraham Lincoln have been analyzed and dissected in countless books. Do we need another Lincoln biography? In Team of Rivals, esteemed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin proves that we do. Though she can't help but cover some familiar territory, her perspective is focused enough to offer fresh insights into Lincoln's leadership style and his deep understanding of human behavior and motivation. Goodwin makes the case for Lincoln's political genius by examining his relationships with three men he selected for his cabinet, all of whom were opponents for the Republican nomination in 1860: William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates. Continued below...

These men, all accomplished, nationally known, and presidential, originally disdained Lincoln for his backwoods upbringing and lack of experience, and were shocked and humiliated at losing to this relatively obscure Illinois lawyer. Yet Lincoln not only convinced them to join his administration--Seward as secretary of state, Chase as secretary of the treasury, and Bates as attorney general--he ultimately gained their admiration and respect as well. How he soothed egos, turned rivals into allies, and dealt with many challenges to his leadership, all for the sake of the greater good, is largely what Goodwin's fine book is about. Had he not possessed the wisdom and confidence to select and work with the best people, she argues, he could not have led the nation through one of its darkest periods. Ten years in the making, this engaging work reveals why "Lincoln's road to success was longer, more tortuous, and far less likely" than the other men, and why, when opportunity beckoned, Lincoln was "the best prepared to answer the call." This multiple biography further provides valuable background and insights into the contributions and talents of Seward, Chase, and Bates. Lincoln may have been "the indispensable ingredient of the Civil War," but these three men were invaluable to Lincoln and they played key roles in keeping the nation intact.


Recommended Reading: Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America (Simon & Schuster). Description: One of the nation's foremost Lincoln scholars offers an authoritative consideration of the document that represents the most far-reaching accomplishment of our greatest president. No single official paper in American history changed the lives of as many Americans as Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. But no American document has been held up to greater suspicion. Its bland and lawyerlike language is unfavorably compared to the soaring eloquence of the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural; its effectiveness in freeing the slaves has been dismissed as a legal illusion. And for some African-Americans the Proclamation raises doubts about Lincoln himself. Continued below…

Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation dispels the myths and mistakes surrounding the Emancipation Proclamation and skillfully reconstructs how America's greatest president wrote the greatest American proclamation of freedom. About the Author: Allen C. Guelzo is the Grace Ferguson Kea Professor of American History at Eastern University (St. David's, Pennsylvania), where he also directs the Templeton Honors College. He is the author of five books, most recently the highly acclaimed Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President, which won the Lincoln Prize for 2000.


Recommended Reading: Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment (Cambridge Historical Studies in American Law and Society) (Hardcover). Review From Library Journal: This innovative, well-written work focuses on the emancipation of American slaves subsequent to the Emancipation Proclamation and leading up to the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, which constitutionalized the issue of slavery. Although Vorenberg (Brown Univ.) acknowledges the depth and breadth of scholarship addressing the progress of African Americans after the Civil War, he asserts that comparatively scant attention has been paid to the process by which emancipation was legalized. Personalities, famous and not so well known, on both sides of the emancipation issue are heard. Continued below…

The author's impressive research, which includes an extensive exploration of little-mined archival documents as well as quotations from the press and Congressional Record, gives a rich political, legal, and societal context to the crafting, progress, and implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment. "...Outstanding addition for the individual interested in American history, slavery and abolition, and the U.S. Constitution and 13th Amendment."


Recommended Reading: The Thirteenth Amendment and American Freedom: A Legal History (Constitutional Amendments) (Hardcover). Description: In this narrative history and contextual analysis of the Thirteenth Amendment, slavery and freedom take center stage. Alexander Tsesis demonstrates how entrenched slavery was in pre-Civil War America, how central it was to the political events that resulted in the Civil War, and how it was the driving force that led to the adoption of an amendment that ultimately provided a substantive assurance of freedom for all American citizens. The story of how Supreme Court justices have interpreted the Thirteenth Amendment, first through racist lenses after Reconstruction and later influenced by the modern civil rights movement, provides insight into the tremendous impact the Thirteenth Amendment has had on the Constitution and American culture. Importantly, Tsesis also explains why the Thirteenth Amendment is essential to contemporary America, offering fresh analysis on the role the Amendment has played regarding civil rights legislation and personal liberty case decisions, and an original explanation of the substantive guarantees of freedom for today's society that the Reconstruction Congress envisioned over a century ago. See reviews below...

"[A] comprehensive and brilliant book from both a historical and analytical perspective. Drawing from the lessons of history, Alexander Tsesis shows persuasively the relevance of the Thirteenth Amendment to a wide range of the social and economic issues currently facing America, and he offers highly creative arguments that support the use of congressional power under the Thirteenth Amendment as a potent and effective means of meeting and resolving these issues."
—G. Sidney Buchanan, Baker & Botts Chaired Professor of Law, University of Houston Law Center
"Tsesis vigorously presents a set of arguments that are rarely found in the conventional legal literature. . . . an interesting and challenging book."
—Sanford Levinson, University of Texas Law School
"For those looking for arguments to revitalize and expand the use of the Thirteenth Amendment, this is an interesting piece of advocacy."
—Journal of American History
"...audacious and original. He (Tsesis) offers a blueprint as to how desperately needed reforms...can come about."
—Richard Delgado in Michigan Law Review
"Alexander Tsesis's invigorating reevaluation of the Thirteenth Amendment agrees with many Lincoln Republicans that it embraced the Declaration of Independence."
—Harold Hyman, Rice University
"This book deserves applause because it illuminates in a new and stimulating way methods for repairing the harm done by racist rhetoric, hate crimes, and the newest forms of slavery."
—The American Historical Review
"...a challenging and nicely written book that will teach well."
"In this interesting study, Alexander Tsesis argues for an expansive view of the Thirteenth Amendment, presenting it as an effort to permanently abolish all the incidents and badges of slavery in America, including both governmentally and privately sponsored forms of oppression against former slaves and others."
—The Law and Politics Review

13th Amendment Constitution History, Purpose, Results, Details, Ratification, Emancipation Proclamation, Abolish Slavery, Jim Crow Laws, Black Codes, Abolitionist Facts, List of US Abolitionists

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