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The Meaning and Making of Emancipation

The Meaning and Making of Emancipation

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Published by: Prologue Magazine on Dec 17, 2012
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As southern states began seceding during the winter of 1860–61, several compromises

were suggested to hold the nation together.

A Proposed Thirteenth Amendment to Prevent Federal Abolition of Slavery

One was a proposed constitutional amendment that would have prevented Congress

from passing legislation interfering with a state's ''domestic institutions . . . including that

of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said state.'' Supporters, including

President-elect Lincoln, hoped its approval would keep the border states in the Union

and reassure southerners that Republicans opposed only the extension, not the exis-

tence, of slavery.

Congress approved the resolution for the proposed amendment on March 2, 1861, but

only two state legislatures, those of Ohio and Maryland, ratified it, so it did not become a

part of the Constitution. Illinois passed the amendment in a constitutional convention,

but that was not valid since the congressional resolution proposing the amendment

specified that state legislatures alone could ratify it.


Source: Proposed Thirteenth Amendment Regarding the Abolition of Slavery, 03/02/1861; Enrolled Acts
and Resolutions of Congress, 1789–2008; General Records of the United States Government, 1778–
2006, Record Group 11; National Archives Building, Washington, DC. (National Archives Identifier:


Transcript of the proposed thirteenth amendment:

Congress of the United States,

At the Second Session

Begun and Held at the City of Washington

in the District of Columbia

on Monday the third day of December one thousand eight hundred and sixty.

Join Resolution to amend the Constitution of the United States.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America

in Congress assembled.

That the following article be proposed to the legislatures of the several States as an

amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which, when ratified by three

fourths of said legislation shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as part of the said

Constitution, viz:

Article XIII. 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 institu-

tion thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.

Approved March 2, 1861

James Buchanan

William Pennington

Speaker of the House of Representatives.


John C Breckinridge

Vice President of the United States,

and President of the Senate.

[End of transcript.]

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