Lincoln and the 13th Amendment

frontrank2

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When the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1789, it did not address the rights of the millions of slaves who lived in America.
During the 1800's slavery became a more and more divisive issue. Virtually the entire South and many Northern Democrats supported it. It was mostly the fledgling Republican Party that opposed it. When Mr. Lincoln won the 1860 election, the South ( most notably South Carolina and the Gulf States ) chose to secede from the Union rather than risk the potential loss of slavery. While Lincoln himself abhorred the institution of slavery, he knew he would have an uphill battle to pass an amendment ending the practice, even in 1861. Even with the loss of the Southern elected representatives, there was a large percentage of Northern Democrats who still supported slavery's existence. Also, a majority of Northern soldiers did not want to risk their lives for the freedom of the slaves, they had enlisted to preserve the Union.
So taking this into consideration, Lincoln made the primary purpose of the war to put down the rebellion and restore the Union. But he would wait for an opportunity to end slavery. After the Battle of Antietam, he saw his chance. He decided to make use of his war powers as president to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which promised freedom to slaves in the southern states. Even though the Emancipation was a big step towards ending slavery, an amendment was still required in order to guarantee it. Unfortunately, the first effort to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, ending slavery, suffered a defeat in the House of Representatives by a vote of 93 to 65. Only four democrats voted in favor of eliminating slavery.
Lincoln made use of his political skills and increased his efforts to get the 13th Amendment passed. He was able to reverse the vote of many reluctant democrats, and managed to sway enough votes that the Thirteenth Amendment succeeded in Congress the second time. It was passed in January, 1865 by a vote of 119-56 and sent to the states for ratification.
Now my friends this is where I'm going to throw you a curveball - Supposed Lincoln didn't intervene as rapidly as he did, or worse, had been assassinated prior to the passage of the 13th amendment, would slavery have remained in place at the war's end? Your thoughts.

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jackt62

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No doubt that Lincoln was a major driving force in the effort to abolish slavery. However, Lincoln alone could not accomplish this task on his own, and was in fact, pushed by the Radical Republicans in Congress who were behind many of the preliminary moves that led to the eventual passage of the 13th amendment. These steps included the passage of the 1st and 2nd Confiscation Acts, the abolishment of slavery in the District of Columbia in 1862, and the enlistment of African Americans in the army and navy. And of course, the gradual occupation of the south by advancing federal armies meant that the enslaved people themselves were able to flee to freedom and become a major stakeholder in advocating for complete emancipation. So the answer to the question is that Lincoln was a critical element in emancipation but an untimely passing would probably not have halted the eventual passage of the 13th amendment.
 

frontrank2

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In my opinion, and my opinion only..............No, slavery would not have remained in place upon the end of the war. We had gone to far to go back.

Respectfully,
William

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I kind of agree with you, but I think slavery would've still existed by war's end. I believe it would've died out eventually, maybe taking another decade or two. But at this point it was doomed for extinction.
 

Carronade

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Even with Lincoln and the Amendment, slavery remained legal until December 6, 1865, when the 27th state, Georgia, ratified it, making the required 3/4 of the states. The Unionist position was that secession had never legally occurred, so the Union had 34-36 states throughout the period; any amendment needed the support of at least some southern states.

So slavery would still exist in some parts of the United States at the end of the war, whatever date we pick for that, say June 2 when Kirby Smith surrendered. The most immediate issue would be enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared free slaves in eight states and most of two others. Lincoln had justified that as a war measure - would it be considered necessary or preferable to confirm it through legislation? Or would that imply that the war measure authority had not in itself been sufficient?

There would still be the question of several states, counties, and parishes not covered by the EP, where slavery would remain legal unless the states abolished it - or unless the federal government stepped in. The belief at the time seems to have been that a constitutional amendment was required, that they could not abolish slavery simply by legislation.

The Emancipation Proclamation does not say anything about abolishing the institution of slavery, just that the specific persons held as slaves in the designated states on the designated date would be free. Let's assume that it was enforced and that a slaveowner lost all the slaves he had had as of January 1, 1863. Now that the war is over, nothing in the EP would preclude him from acquiring new slaves from someone not impacted by the Proclamation who still had them.

So if we want slavery completely abolished, there is still work to be done.
 


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