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Historical Context in Resolution Submitting the Thirteenth Amendment to the States

American Reconstruction: The aftermath of the American Civil War is known as Reconstruction, a period of time (1865–1877) focused on rebuilding and reintegrating the rebel Southern states into the Union. The country saw several notable pieces of legislation enacted during this time, notably the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution, as well as the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill and the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

Three-Fifths Compromise, Emancipation, and the Need for Permanence: President Lincoln and like-minded members of Congress knew that the Emancipation Proclamation was not a permanent solution to ending slavery. Since slavery had been codified in the US Constitution through the “Three-Fifths Compromise,” Lincoln worried that the Emancipation Proclamation would be overturned through the court system. This prompted Republican lawmakers to permanently outlaw slavery through an amendment to the Constitution.

Historical Context Examples in Resolution Submitting the Thirteenth Amendment to the States:

Text of the Resolution and the Thirteenth Amendment

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"ABRAHAM LINCOLN..."   (Text of the Resolution and the Thirteenth Amendment)

Abraham Lincoln had always been against slavery, but when he took office as president, he worried that the federal government could not eliminate it because of its preservation in the Constitution. However, during the Civil War, Lincoln used his executive power to deliver the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves in the rebel states. Lincoln and others knew this act to be temporary and began to work on amending the Constitution. While Lincoln approved this resolution on February 1, 1865, he did not live to see the Thirteenth Amendment become law; he was assassinated on April 15, 1865, eight months before the states would ratify the amendment.

"H. HAMLIN..."   (Text of the Resolution and the Thirteenth Amendment)

Hannibal Hamlin (1809–1891) was an attorney and politician from Maine. He served as vice president, the first Republican to hold that office, under President Lincoln from 1861–1865. He was replaced by Democrat Andrew Johnson as Lincoln’s running mate for a second term, due to Lincoln’s desire to gain broad support for Southern Reconstruction.

"power to enforce..."   (Text of the Resolution and the Thirteenth Amendment)

Section two of the Thirteenth Amendment is known as a Congressional power of enforcement, and it first appeared during Reconstruction for the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. Congress included such sections as necessary measures to protect the newly emancipated African Americans and diminish the power of individual states—notably former Confederate states and their continued efforts to limit the freedoms of African Americans.

"ARTICLE XIII ..."   (Text of the Resolution and the Thirteenth Amendment)

This proposal to amend the Constitution was passed in the Senate on April 8, 1864. However, the House of Representative was unable to secure a two-thirds majority until January 31, 1865, after Republicans had spent months convincing their Democratic colleagues. The resolution passed in the House with a vote of 119 to 56, just several votes over the two-thirds majority required, and with several Democrats abstaining. It wasn’t until December 18, 1865 that the amendment was ratified by the states, becoming law.

"the several States..."   (Text of the Resolution and the Thirteenth Amendment)

In 1865, thirty-six states, including those that had been in rebellion, comprised the United States. Twenty-seven of them provided the necessary three-fourths ratification, allowing Secretary of State William H. Seward to proclaim the country’s adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment on December 18, 1865.

"Thirty-Eighth Congress..."   (Text of the Resolution and the Thirteenth Amendment)

The 38th United States Congress met from March 4, 1863, to March 4, 1865. At the time, the number of congressional seats was based on the eighth census. There were 52 senators, 184 representatives, and 10 non-voting delegates. The Republicans held the majority in both houses. The 38th Congress is notable for several major legislative accomplishments, including the Coinage Act of 1864, the Freedmen’s Bureau Act, and the approval of the Thirteenth Amendment for state ratification.

"SCHUYLER COLFAX..."   (Text of the Resolution and the Thirteenth Amendment)

Schuyler Colfax (1823–1885) was a politician from Indiana. A key figure of the Reconstruction, he made his most significant contributions during his terms as Speaker of the House of Representatives (1863–1869) and as Vice President to Ulysses S. Grant (1869–1873). A progressive Republican, Colfax fought against slavery and inequality throughout his career. Unfortunately, his career ended in scandal when it was revealed that he had accepted numerous bribes by corporate interests.

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