Thursday, December 3, 2009

Amendment XIII

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.

The Thirteenth Amendment was ratified December 6, 1865.

From Nate Segal:

This is the first of the Civil War Amendments. Americans felt then that only an amendment to the Constitution would end slavery. Otherwise, states could assert their rights to enact legislation that reflected the will of the voters within the state. The country would return to its status of before the Civil War began. In fact, states could again entertain the idea of seceding. Americans had been debating the legality of a state seceding from the Presidency of Thomas Jefferson onward. John C. Calhoun was a leading politician of his time who addressed the constitutionality of seceding. He died in 1850, so we can't "blame" him for the Civil War. (Calhoun was vice-president under both John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. He had been a representative in Congress for South Carolina and would become a senator after he had been vice president.)

From Wikipedia,

"Attempts or aspirations of secession from the United States have been a feature of the politics of the country since its birth." (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secession_in_the_United_States, accessed November 29, 2009)

The Embargo Act of 1807 [enacted by President Thomas Jefferson] was seen as a threat to the economy of Massachusetts and in late May 1808 the state legislature debated how the state should respond. Once again these debates generated isolated references to secession, but no clear cut plot ever materialized.

Spurred on by some Federalist party members, the Hartford Convention was convened on December 15, 1814 to address both the opposition to the War of 1812 (which lasted until 1815) and the domination of the federal government by the Virginia political dynasty. Twenty-six delegates attended – Massachusetts sent 12 delegates, Connecticut seven, and Rhode Island four. New Hampshire and Vermont decided not to send delegates although two counties from each state did send delegates.

Historian Donald R. Hickey noted: "Despite pleas in the New England press for secession and a separate peace, most of the delegates taking part in the Hartford Convention were determined to pursue a moderate course. Only Timothy Bigelow of Massachusetts apparently favored extreme measures, and he did not play a major role in the proceedings."

The final report addressed issues related to the war and state defense and recommended seven constitutional amendments dealing with "the overrepresentation of white southerners in Congress, the growing power of the West, the trade restrictions and the war, the influence of foreigners (like Albert Gallatin), and the Virginia dynasty's domination of national politics."

Massachusetts and Connecticut endorsed the report, but the war ended as the states' delegates were on their way to Washington, effectively ending any impact the report might have had. Generally the convention was a "victory for moderation," but the timing led to the convention being identified as "a synonym for disloyalty and treason" and was a major factor in the sharp decline of the Federalist Party.

William L. Barney (2001) wrote:

When Congress met in December 1863, the Republican Party [President Lincoln's party] committed itself to a constitutional amendment that would forever abolish slavery throughout the United States. ... Encouraged by ... public support, the Senate approved the 13th Amendment in April 1864, but in June Democratic opposition in the House prevented the amendment from obtaining the needed two-thirds majority.

Following his reelection in the fall of 1864, President Abraham Lincoln redoubled his efforts on behalf of the 13th Amendment. Although most Democrats continued to hold that the federal government had no constitutional authority to interfere with slavery in the states, enough of them changed their votes to enable the 13th Amendment to pass Congress in January 1865. The necessary three-fourths of the states ratified the amendment by the end of that year.

(The Civil War and Reconstruction: A Student Companion, New York: Oxford University Press, pages 315-16)

Some points from Nate:

  • Democrats generally held that the federal government could not unilaterally wrest property from the slave owners – slaves being property – without recourse to judicial proceedings. After all, the Bill of Rights protects citizens from being deprived of property "without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation" – Amendment V.
  • The Senate approved the 13th Amendment in April 1864 – a Senate of only 21 of the 32 states. While that's about two-thirds of the states, barely two-thirds of the House approved the amendment on January 31, 1865. According to authors Paul Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick, the House vote was 119 to 56 (Douglass and Lincoln: How a Revolutionary Black Leader and a Reluctant Liberator Struggled to End Slavery and Save the Union, New York: Walker & Company, 2008, page 223).
  • President Lincoln signed the amendment although he didn't have to (Krannawitter, Thomas L., Vindicating Lincoln: Defending the Politics of Our Greatest President, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008, page 284).
  • The necessary three-fourths of the states ratified this amendment by the end of 1865. General Robert E. Lee had surrendered to General Ulysses Grant on April 12, 1865. The 11 states of the Confederacy were forced to ratify this amendment as a condition of being readmitted into the Union. On the other hand, these 11 states were forced to rejoin the Union because the North won the war.
  • Concerning the states that bordered the South – Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia (which only became a state during the Civil War by breaking away from Virginia), Kentucky, and Missouri – Barney wrote, "It was here [in the Border South] that he [President Lincoln] was most likely to sanction military arrests and the closing down of pro-secessionist newspapers" (page 43). I've already commented that I believe that President Lincoln was an imperial president and that he violated several tenets of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
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From the United States Mint:

When Lincoln took office on March 4, 1861, the Nation was already on the verge of civil war, and fighting soon broke out at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. Shortly after the Battle of Antietam, in late 1862, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring all slaves in rebel territory free as of January 1, 1863. The Union victory at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1863, marked a crucial turning point in the war in favor of the North.

On April 14, 1865, President Lincoln was mortally wounded by an assassin, John Wilkes Booth, while watching a play at Ford's Theatre in Washington. Army physicians worked to save him throughout the night, but he never regained consciousness and died at 7:22 AM the next morning at the age of 56.

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(from Ford Motors in 2010)

I disavow myself from Libertarianism, but here's an interesting site about "King" Abraham Lincoln:

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